Monday, March 31, 2014

Letting it all Go

Happy Spring! Mmm. I know - real happy. Today on my way to yoga class, ice pellets were hitting my face and covering my car!  Oh well. I guess it's a good lesson to be in the moment and not get too excited over warm weather just yet - because it all may change.

That brings me to the topic at hand - letting go of what you think the outcome might be or of what may happen at any moment.  From the teacher perspective, this lesson has presented it's way differently than when I was just a student of yoga.

That's right.  After over a decade of practice, I now am itching to teach - a lot.  I've completed almost 300 hours of teacher training over the past 3 years, not including the many workshops I've completed with some of the greatest teachers of our time.  Over the past year, I've been teaching a weekly class of private students who graciously allow me to try out different sequences on them and who have noticed improvement in my tone, pace and assistance in postures. This particular 200-hour training will be finished in May.  And as part of our requirements, we must observe 16 hours of classes at the studio, making notes on these very characteristics in the teacher.

Today I went to observe an intermediate class that one of my teacher-training instructors was leading.  I ended up walking in the class with him and proceeded to the back of the room.  I set up my yoga mat length-wise but folded it in half trying not to take up so much room.  I always bring my iPad when I observe: I turn the sound off, fade the light until it's almost off, and the keypad is also silent.  I really don't make a peep.  I was way back in the corner but there's another group who like the back corner too: Beginner yogis.

Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, I begin typing and observing the class.  After about 5 minutes of cat/cow pose and then downward dog, a student near me dropped to her knees, turned to me and said, "Are you going to be doing that the whole class?"
"I'm observing the class," I said without much emotion.
"Would you mind doing that somewhere else? It's really distracting." I looked up to find my teacher's eyes which were gazing inquisitively in our direction and I motioned to him with shrugged shoulders, "Where do I go?"
He pointed to the front of the room and shrugged as well, as if to say, "I guess there?!"

I settled in as quietly as possible and continued observing but had wanted to write my feelings down.  For a little while I felt bothered - not so much in the "I can't believe she told me to move" sense, but my mind raced around a bit: "I wonder if I'm bothering anybody else? I wonder if my iPad is really distracting.  The pad of paper I had last week sounded so noisy - I thought this was better!  I wonder if I'll ever be a great teacher.  I hope she doesn't know I'm going to start teaching here next week." And this went on and on in my head for a few moments! I noticed a "breathe" cue from the teacher and started to relax.  I came back to the present.

I began noticing this woman's practice.  Since I was at the front of the room, I tried not to look up when the class was facing the front - there were enough down-dogs and side-of-the-mat poses for me to do that. This was an intermediate class and the woman who told me to move was far from intermediate.  I started to breathe with an even deeper, relaxed breath and thought back to my beginning practices.  All beginners want to stay at the back of the room.  No beginner wants an advanced practitioner to notice or look at them.  She must have felt unconfident and conscientious about her practice.

Later I spoke with my instructor who explained that it was fine to sit at the front, and like I had guessed, just better that I not stare into the class when they were trying to focus their drishti (focal point or gaze) at the front of the room.

I was feeling fine about the whole thing when I left and then noticed more ice had fallen all over the back window of my car.  I turned the car on and started brushing away the blanket of sleet.  The woman in the back of the room was walking out of the studio in her hospital scrubs after a shower and came over to me.  "I'm so sorry I asked you to move - I just didn't want anyone to look at me!" I thanked her for telling me to do so, apologized that I was so close to her and said that I didn't mind at all - that I was happy to move to the front.

This small, kind gesture put a smile on my face and just reinforced that even though she communicated directly to me and it seemed that I was a real bother, her asking me to move actually had nothing to do with me at all.  It was all about her feeling comfortable in her own body and in her own space.

So even though I was observing from a teacher perspective, I was a student once again - humbled by another student and by the lesson of letting it all go.

Om namah.