The Secret of Sequencing

This weekend was deeper practice, aka teacher training, at the studio.  People ask such good questions.  They have such good hearts.  To wit: 'how do we translate this to a class?'  How do we take all of this philosophy, all of this anatomical knowing of what's happening in people's bodies, all of our own wild experience and confusion into a neatly packaged, hopefully articulate, and we'd-like-to-think-enjoyable 45 minute 'yoga class'?IMG_3353 That is: how do we teach?

They have such good hearts.

I said, you teach love.  I shrugged (probably no end of aggravatingly), and said on Monday, I teach Monday.  

I left, as I always do, both exhausted and jacked up.  I leave bleary tired and gutted out, having given everything I had to give.  Simultaneously, restless with enthusiasm.  I leave so tired thoughts don't congeal or make anything but nonsense, and words out of my mouth are just plain stupid.

And yet, I leave so touched, so hopeful, so excited I can't sleep.  How do you take care of yourself, someone asked, when you have big classes and lots of people taking your energy?  I said, it takes me a week to recover from these weekends.  I meant: it takes me a week to recover, and it feeds me more than any food, any travel, any information.  It's the most meaningful thing I know.  It is the best thing, I do.  The best things often cost.  They ask more of us, than normal.

I once said to my teacher: I don't know that I'm particularly good at teaching.  But I also know that the best things I've ever done, I've done while teaching.  I'm not, necessarily, a great teacher.  But teaching is the greatest thing I've ever done, as a person.  It is the most humane I've ever been.

After training, I laid under a tree and put my legs up.  The wind, softly, moved the young leaves.  I hadn't laid under a tree yet, this spring summer.  It took all of thirty seconds for me to slide into marveling, hearing bird, feeling time slow down to the lift of the breeze.

Huh.  I thought.  It takes 30 seconds.

Which I knew, already.  But re-discover, every single time.

With my exhausted restlessness, I decided I didn't in fact want to be alone but wanted to make the drive to see my boyfriend, spend the night with him, drive back to teach Monday morning's class.  This morning's, class.

On pulling into the coffee store early this morning, I realized I didn't have a wallet.  I had no money, no driver's liscense. I didn't know where my wallet was, but it wasn't with me.  I realized I'd lost it on the way down.  Had stopped for gas.  Had set the wallet on the car while I pulled back my hair.  All that exhaustion.  All those questions.  All that restlessness.

Starting Monday morning with a voluntary commute, while realizing you've lost your wallet, is not the best of ways to start the week.

Three minutes before class, only one woman was there.  She and I chatted.  I drank coffee from the studio's Kuerig, since walletless I'd been unable to caffienate, prior.  We talked about teacher training.  The exhaustion.  The open hearted vulnerable, ripped open thing.  The tears.  The knowing that, even as it is a realization of how little we know, how our answers have to be dropped, we also know that it's a good thing.  This crying that is unlike the crying we've done in the months or years before is both hard, and probably a very good thing.

Two other women came in, right as the hour struck.  Three women who I know very well, students who aren't strangers but hearts, personalities, folks who've worked with me for a long time.

Now, I felt all sorts of things, had all sorts of thoughts.  Not least: fucking wallet.  Driver's license.  More cash than I ever carry (post training weekend) and really the bulk of the month's income.  Also: three students does not the rent pay.  Also: fucking wallet.

But, also, this: I know these women.  So well.  I know what yoga has meant to them, what they have learned, where they can go, what they are living.  I quick fire said grab every prop, all the things, two chairs and blankets and all of the toys.  Today, we go deep.

The last, also, was the humming and loudest.  Was on the tip of my tongue and in my eyes.  This last, also one was spicy and reverent and ready.  My heart - all of the ways in which I love this practice, have been changed by it, lean on it, fall back into it, have been made more stable and less reactive - was able to speak directly to their souls.  I repeat: I spoke with my heart, to their souls.

As in: I invoked reverence.  I invoked Monday morning.  I talked to their shoulders.  I referenced their personalities.  I reminded them of bodies.  I said, first, now we do yoga.  Yoga is not the world out there.  Stop, first.  Then, we moved and breathed, tried to move and breath in co-ordination for awhile, to see and to be with whatever came up.  Then, we stopped again.  For long minutes.  Before the day started.  They lay, and I put away the room full of props while they lay.

Sirsasana.  Sarvangasana.  Hold.  

The secret of teaching is this.  It isn't about which postures you do, or how you describe and instruct them.  It isn't about the anatomy or theory you know.  It's only that you, yourself, have fallen in love with this practice over the years.  Your cumulative knowledge is like a soggy, dense, inarticulate mass in your brain.  It runs the fibers of your muscles, curves with the aorta.  You've done this, a long time.  You have changed, and are changing.

When human beings come to you, you offer your soggy mass to their wide open experience.

We all, together, stop.  Move and breath in co-ordination, seeing what chitta bubbles up.  Then, we stop again.

It takes 30 seconds.  You become.  Everything changes.

Inhale: puraka.  Exhale: rechaka.  Now shoulder, now throat, now eyes.  Inhale, are you here? Exhale, lay it down.  Anjayneasana.  Trikonasana.  Extended side angle.  Words aren't words.  Poses aren't poses.  It's this: breath, and know you're doing it.  Inhale and see: what crazy, and what gratitude, what love, comes up.

I am not trying to downplay the art of vinyasa krama. It is an art.  There are vast stores of information.  You can't possibly take in all of the information.   There is sport's medicine, kinesthetics, anatomy, psychology.  All of this is changing, constantly.  All of it has specialties, variant hypothosis, big characters and incoming studies.  Let alone the vast tradition.  It goes both deep and broad, across so much time.  You can't cram, that.  You can't memorize it.  The fact is, you'll never even know the half of it.  And, the fact is, within a 'class', you can't teach, that.  You have thirty seconds.

You're here because something in the practice, a book, or a posture made you feel.  Made you want, more; feel, wild; understand, it's all messy, and yet there's something beautiful.  You're here because something in the practice made you feel.  The answer to the question isn't yoga.  The answer is you, your own self.

I asked: who is it you think would most benefit from this?  who is it you think you want to teach, or what questions are you yourself asking?  Then: from that, what is it you need to develop in yourself?

You go deeper and deeper into having your own experience.  You must go on, letting this work you over, being uncomfortable, falling apart and then realizing the falling apart made you more clear.  You must maintain your love, and fall more deeply into it.  You have to allow this path to change who you are.

And then, you stand in front of others.

The best teachers are deeply knowledgeable.  Some, of bodies.  Medical, anatomical, pathological.  Some teachers are like walking wiki pedias of sayings, teachings, stories, sanskrit.  Some seem to have truth laced into their breath, and others have such a calm and awake presence that you see serenity in the way they blink.  Some seem to have an intuitiveness that is neither 'anatomy' nor 'philosophy', but reads bodies, knows what students are thinking, anticipates and acknowledges.  The best teachers have teachers, a lot of time along the way, and incredibly funny stories about the dead ends and false starts and things they have had to work through.

When you stand up to teach, as a knock kneed neophyte, as someone who is scared shitless and mostly knows that you don't know all the answers, you don't teach yoga.  You offer, yourself.

Then people find, themselves.

If you want to do this - and I don't mean if you want to become certified or if you want to open a studio or you think you might want to teach kids, I mean: if you want to understand, yoga - you have to be willing to have your own experience.  That means you learn now this, now that.  You learn what you can learn, right now.  You say yes.  You teach, Monday.

If you want to understand yoga you have to become yourself.

This takes 30 seconds.  And, it takes years.

I'm offering, both.  Sometimes, I doubt myself, and slide back into trying to be someone else. Falling into pessimism, delay, thinking I'll do it later when I'm better or when there is more time.  Thinking either I can't or what's the point or the whole 'business' is trash, anyway.    Usually, all these at once.

But at this point, all these at once happen within the context of an abiding, soggy knowing.  This is the best I can possibly give.  I lost my wallet.  I'm going to have a lot of crappy and inconvenient things to do today.  It's probably okay.  I once lost my passport the night before I flew to Guatemala. I used to lose things all the time.  I sometimes loose them, now. And, also, more than this: yoga.