Practise, practise, practise is the message I’m getting from my teacher right now. Not my own practice, my teaching practice. He encourages me to get used to verbalising instructions so the words aren’t a foreign language in my mouth. This is surely right and I’m happily muttering instructions to myself as I wander to and from the office … and sometimes when I can’t sleep at night. But this isn’t quite the same as being confronted by an expectant face and body on the mat in front of you.
I don’t have that many yoga-friendly bodies to choose from to help me with this. Friends are not interested, unavailable, or carry too many special physical needs. But that’s OK. I’m fortunate in having a fellow student-teacher at work, so we’re sneaking in a few quick lunchtime sessions in my office. There is just enough room to roll out a mat.
And then there’s Hubby. Usually my staunchest supporter, but a little overwhelmed right now by my training commitments coupled with his own anxieties about his practice and his physical wellbeing. I understand this, and we had A Serious Talk about how we might meet the needs we both have.
So this evening I guided him through a gentle warm-up. I talked through what I wanted to practise teaching, but I also tried to offered variations that I knew would suit him better. It made for a clunky commentary — directed at once to a hypothetical student as well as to my real flesh and blood student. But that’s OK. It worked well enough. And because I know he’s really physically tired I left it at that. Even though I’m crazy keen to run through a strong standing sequence with him, I held back. Quit while you’re ahead! Instead I settled him down comfortably and I asked if he’d mind if I chanted (not his thing at all) and then we sat in silence for a short while. It was a profound silence, it had a quality about it — not simply an absence of noise. The thing it reminded me of — the feeling you get in a very minor earthquake, when you don’t feel the earth move but you feel something… I think he felt it to, despite being uncomfortable with these aspects of the practice.
I asked him afterwards how it was. He said it was fine. Fine? FINE? Where’s the encouragement and the gentle suggestions for improvement? He’s a trained educator after all. Why wasn’t he offering me the ‘feedback sandwich- (= two positive things with a hard-to-swallow filling of criticism)? At least he told me his headache felt better!
Later we went for a postprandial stroll and I dared to ask him again more explicitly for some comment. He was really surprised! “Oh, you actually really wanted me to say something about your teaching? Well… there’s nothing to say. It was just fine. You’re a natural. Just keep doing it like that. And when you’ve stopped doubting yourself, you’ll be a great teacher. And I’ll be really interested to see how that looks.”
Oh! Well, I almost fell off the path and into the river, I did such a double-take. No earthquake required to thrown me completely off balance. “But you had such a skeptical frowny face the whole time!?! Just his concentration face apparently. Of course, it’s not about me as a teacher, it’s about him as a student. A difficult lesson to learn at this stage of practising to teach.
He said he’s on for more at the weekend. He won’t ‘perform’ surya namaskar or any flowing standing sequence, but he’s said he’ll gesticulate on the mat for me, doing an imitation of the sequence. That’ll certainly help and I’m grateful for him offering this. Better than my rather static furry companion, that’s for sure! I need more practice at talking through poses. But I also need a bit of a seismic shift in my vision of myself. Maybe that’s just practice too!?