Virtually enough

I was having a bit of a teaching wobble earlier this week. One of those periodic crises of confidence. I’ve been teaching long enough now that I expect it and am usually content to allow the waves of uncertainty to wash over me a while, knowing it’ll pass. But this episode was magnified by the lens of Zoom and the distance of my regular support network. Plus reading a few intelligent but rather doom laden blogs speculating about the future of yoga and the group-teaching model.

I wonder what I am offering as I lead a simple flow from my mat, peering periodically at the screen to ascertain my muted students are with me. Is my cuing simple enough for them to follow? Is it explicit enough to keep them safe? Is it rich enough to keep them attentive? Without their physical presence and all the information that conveys, how I can tell if I’m meeting their needs? Is my experience broad enough to support me in teaching through such troubling times?

I watch my own teachers begin to evolve their online teaching. Subtle changes in how they conduct themselves and interact with students, the balance they find between demonstrating and observing, the technological improvements they make as they explore what’s possible and what’s needed. Because I know them well and have spent years listening intently to them speaking, I think I hear in their voices something of how they too are struggling and uncertain. It is both comforting and disorientating to perceive their vulnerability. I’m sure they doubt themselves less than I do, but they are still needing to adapt to circumstances they’d never have chosen.

I write to my students every week, sending them out links for the following week’s classes. I take the opportunity to share a simple thought with them, a reflection from my own experience which I try to generalise enough for them to bring their own meaning to it. This week I observed that we’d been meeting virtually for a whole month now, and I wondered a little at how precious these times are and the closeness I feel despite — and because of — the technology we must use.

Some of them, acute students themselves and used to my modes, perhaps heard something of my vulnerability here. I received some touching affirmations of how much they value what I offer to them. It really seems as though it gets them through their week. Perceiving this, I have started offering an additional morning class, before the working day begins. My teacher cautioned me this week about the need to look after myself, and I resist the temptation to offer more, more, more as though teaching yoga was some popularity competition and the number of student sign-ups a direct measure of my ability or my worth. Whilst I take care not to need validation from my students, their messages over the last few weeks have helped me see more clearly what they get from me, from my experience and my ability to communicate that.

I find my steadiness again and prepare for another week of teaching.

I am beginning to recognise that I am enough, returning naturally to a theme of inadequacy that has permeated so many conversations with my teacher over recent months. These days I dare to believe, these days I do in fact genuinely feel: I am enough.

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