I sent out a little survey to my workplace yogis recently, asking them for feedback on my teaching and anything more they’d like me to offer — suggesting possibilities of some longer classes, one to ones, or workshops on particular themes…. I got an overwhelming response. About three quarters were ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ for wanting to explore yoga outside the workplace 45 minute class slots. How exciting! They were equally interested in longer classes and workshops. And for the themes of workshops, again there was interest focussed on a few topics. So there’s a lot of potential teaching I could offer. I’m so excited I can’t sleep these past few days as my brain keeps going into overdrive planning what I could offer, teaching methodologies, potential schedules, how much marketing I’d need to do….
My fantastic well-trained Problem-Solving Brain is running smoothly through the operational challenges and providing me with wonderful solutions and inspiration.
But the Doubting Brain is also running hot. It’s telling me I don’t know enough, I haven’t been practising long enough, I’m not flexible enough (obviously!!), and that I should just humbly pass my own teacher’s details on to them and tell them to learn from him, not me. Because he’s a proper teacher and I’m just faking it.
But clearly I’ve been faking it sufficiently well that they put their trust in me and show up week after week! 🙂 Even the Doubting Brain can’t deny this.
Today I was really underprepared for class. I have a bit too much on my plate at the moment and I have a lingering viral-thingy that’s sapping energy and making work-days difficult enough, never mind the yoga extras! Except that yoga isn’t ‘extra’ in my life now, it’s integral, it’s turning into a way of being. So as the class gathered instead of greeting them individually, I sat quietly for a few minutes just asking myself what I wanted to teach. I was surprised that the answer was pranayama! I’d tried teaching ujjayi breathing to them once previously and I don’t think they got it at all. But I’m feeling a bit of urgency to my sharing at the moment. I think it’s my busyness and the fact that I’ll be away travelling soon. Work life is all about finishing up as much as I can before I disappear; yoga teaching feels like I need to share my biggest message before I leave them for a few weeks.
So I gathered them in a circle. A discussion prompt: what does it mean to ‘listen to the breath’? It got the conversation going — and all the comments were anxieties and challenges and difficulties. So I reassured them. Yes, yoga is hard, keeping focus is hard, breathing and moving at the same time is hard; but that’s OK, we just practise. We practise breathing as much as the postures. The one supports the other. Maybe at some point the breathing creates a more meditative experience, maybe it allows deeper postures to emerge injury-free, maybe it connects us with something spiritually, maybe the possibilities are endless and unique for all of us. So we breathed together and explored our ‘oceanic breath’. They gathered closer to me, listened more intently to my breathing pattern. And then they returned to their mats and I guided them through a really simple sequence, encouraging the breath focus throughout. I felt like a real yoga teacher….
And how do you tell if your students ‘get’ it? I thought I could hear some gentle but measured breathing as I padded around the room; I convinced myself I could see some greater focus, some eyes closed, some smoother rhythm through surya namaskar maybe. And four or five came up for a quick chat at the end, giving me a sentence or two about what they found in this breath-centred practice. So interesting to hear their experiences, hesitantly shared, as they look to me for reassurance. I am their teacher; it’s my responsibility to meet their anxieties and support them in their discoveries.
But honestly I feel a bit overwhelmed by this whole teaching thing. It’s suddenly got a bit big. It makes me feel like hyperventilating with anxiety. I too need reassurance on my journey. But I can’t go running to my teacher every time things get a bit intense in my classroom. I know he’d just give me the ‘less doubting, more doing’ message. I have to ‘man-up’ or whatever the yoga equivalent expression is….? Follow my own teaching, roll out my mat, listen to my breath, and do my practice. And by the time I’ve done that, of course I find Doubting Brain has quietened down a little.