Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shifting Gears

I just finished my 3rd weekend of teacher training--4 if you count the anatomy training weekend.  This was also our training group's last weekend of training with Natasha.  The next 3 sessions will be with Jennie Cohen (from the YogaWorks in NYC) and none of us have ever practiced with her before!  So, everyone kind of felt a little weird when Sunday finished.  We all knew that Jennie would be taking over, but it still felt kind of unexpected, lol.  My guess is that because Natasha was with us through the beginning half of the training, we've all gotten close to her.  But, that means we get to start again with someone new!  That's always exciting to me, getting to do new things, meeting new people...the beginnings are always the most exciting part for me.

This weekend also felt like a shift for me too:  I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable during the practicing teaching sessions.  I stumble my words a lot less, there's no nervous laughter at my first attempt to speak and I feel like I'm actually starting to "teach to what I see," meaning the instructions I give change depending on what I see someone doing.  There is still a brief moment at the beginning when I can literally feel my mind try to blank out, but it doesn't last as long.  Same goes for my reaction to hearing her say that we're going to practice teach.  Prior to this weekend, whenever she would just say that we would be practice teaching, I could feel my heart rate pick up, my breathing get short and shallow, and then my mind start to shut down.  Now, I still feel it, but I'm getting better at catching it before my mind goes into "shut-down" mode, where I can't remember what to say.  I've read and heard that the breath out is supposed to be the calming breath, because, on average, when people panic, they hold their breath.  But for me, when I panic, I forget to breathe in.  So taking a deep breath in is much more relaxing to me (probably because, as someone who used to have asthma pretty bad, getting a full breath in is where the struggle is).  So, whenever I would feel the panic/"flight" mode switch start to flip: deep slow breath in, feel the panic start to break up, slow breath out of the mouth, nerves settle down.  By our last practice teaching session on Sunday, there was almost (almost) no reaction to her telling us that we were going to practice teach.  Yay for steps forward :)

What encouraged this shift?  Who knows, probably a mixture of things.  The group meet-up for a practice teaching session outside of the training; explaining yoga to various people that I run into at work or wherever it ends up happening.  It could have been the 3 full days of energizing inversion practice (woohoo!!!).  But, I think a big help was the informal teaching I did to my friend's 11 year-old nephew.  I was at my friend's baby shower and her dad and I were talking about yoga, running and rock climbing and then her nephew (over-hearing the conversation) said, "can you put your leg behind your head?!"  lol...gotta love kids, lol.  He then proceeded to show me that he could (ouch!).  And then he said, "what about this one, do you do this one?"  It was a very twisted and off-balance version of Vasisthasana--a.k.a "side plank" (that's my teacher, Natasha, in the picture by the way).  Anyways, what he was trying to do looked more like a version of a one-legged, one-armed downward facing dog.  So, I tried to walk him through what it looked like.  I was laying on my side in front of him talking him through exactly what to do and when he couldn't figure it out just through my words, I went over to him, supported the side of his body on my knee so that I could move him into the position and then it hit me...."wait a second, this is teaching!"  It was completely unplanned, unscripted, informal and it just felt so...natural, and easy.  Not even a hint of panic.  I was definitely trying to remember that feeling during this past weekend.  I was talking with one of the teachers at my studio that I used to practice with a lot, though not as much anymore, and she asked how the training is going.  I said it was going well.  She said, "It's a lot of information, right?"  I said, "Yes...but no, at the same time.  It feels like a lot because the words and the cueing are different, but it feels like...somewhere inside my head, I know this."  She just smiled knowingly and said, "Of course you do!"

Although teaching one pose is very different than teaching a whole class (I think I still have a long way to go before I'm ready for something like that), this weekend, when Natasha went over the homework that's due for the next month, there was no panicking at the sight of having to write a class sequence or having to write the teaching script.  It just felt like, "ok, I can do that."  And that is a good feeling :)

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