Monday, August 22, 2011

Last day of Yoga Teacher training (part 1 of 3): the practicum

Fini.  Yesterday, I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training.

Today feels kind of surreal--a little bit like it did after I graduated from college; with a "what now?" kind of feeling.  Especially after the day I had yesterday.

Yesterday was the practicum--where we have 5 minutes to teach one pose to the whole group, with our 2 teachers and the teaching assistant watching and critiquing.  Contrary to my usual response to having to teach, I actually felt really confident the day before--when we had to practice teaching it to each other.  I was quite surprised.  It felt natural and easy, I felt calm and oddly confident.  On Sunday morning, that feeling remained.  I even practiced teaching it to a friend of mine who took the same type of training last year and I said something about the pose that she said she never thought of before.  So, I was feeling really good, like I really understood it and had something I wanted to share about it.  The practicum started and I still felt fine.  One by one everyone went up to teach their pose in the sequence.  And little by little, I could feel my nerves rising.  I thought, "No, no, no!  We got this, we're fine!  Breathe, relax the shoulders, we're fine!!" 

Unfortunately, that strategy did not work.  I got up there and I felt like I was a shaking bundle of nerves speaking in a robot voice.  There was an odd sort of calmness too, but only in the sense that it felt "out-of-body," like I wasn't really present.  I walked around, gave the instructions that I had been giving, gave some random adjustments without really "seeing" what I was doing--but I did not feel like I was there, like I wasn't in control of what I was doing.  I believe the technical term for it is "disassociating," which is not an uncommon "escape route" for me.  I finished and Natasha (the primary trainer and the one I had for the first 3 weekends of the training) looked at me and said, "you were nervous, right?"  Yes, I was nervous.  She said, "you love yoga, we all know that.  And you have a 'sweetness' about it.  But you have to find a way to calm your nerves so that can come out when you teach."  There was so much that I didn't say that I should have.  I understood the pose, but I couldn't teach it.  Basically, I was telling people what to do, but not how to do it--and that is what "teaching" means, telling people "how" to do something.  Jennie (the teacher I've had for the last 3 weekends and the one who has seen me do the most practice-teaching) gave her feedback next.  She said that it may not seem like a lot, but she remembered how I was when she first came.  She said that I've gone from inarticulate and barely able to get words out of my mouth, to a robot voice--that's improvement.  The teaching assistant, Tamara, empathized, as an Ashtangi, because our practice is silent, we don't regularly hear "how to do" something.

I appreciated all of it, but I was disappointed in myself.  I had told myself the week or so before hand, that if I just managed to get words out of my mouth that made sense, I would be satisfied.  That was before this past Saturday, when I felt so confident and clear going in.  And yes, I practice a lot of Ashtanga, but I didn't start out that way and I still take other classes where they do tell you what to do.  Although, now that I think about it, maybe that's part of the issue, that all the non-Ashtanga classes that I take tell me "what" to do but not very often "how" to do something--or at least not as specific as they do in the YogaWorks world.  Either way, I was disappointed in myself.  My pose was a little less than halfway through the sequence and it felt like so much work to stay there and keep practicing with the rest of the group through the practicum.  I could feel the tears brimming behind my eyes and it was so hard to hold it all in.  But I did, somehow I managed to get through the rest of the practicum to support my fellow trainees.  I finally let some of it go during our brief savasana after the practicum, but a lot of the remaining day felt like a struggle to stay present and to keep my emotions in check.

I passed the practicum, but it didn't feel earned.  The purpose of the practicum is to see if you are capable of teaching.  I clearly showed that I wasn't.  Passing this portion of the program does not feel like an accomplishment, it doesn't feel like I deserve it.


  1. Tara, don't beat yourself up. Like the yoga, teaching is also a practice. You don't just show up and do kapotasana. You don't just show up and flawlessly teach either. The more you teach, the more comfortable the words will be. You'll learn what works for you and how to improve, just like you do in the practice. The important thing is that you opened yourself up to the experience and that's a tremendous first step. Practice and all is coming!