Yesterday I started to write a post about my feelings while preparing for teaching a class. Yesterday I was really stressed out about it. I know it sounds contradictory to be stressed out about a yoga class, but it happens and I know it happens to more folks than just me.
One of the things that goes along with being a new yoga teacher is that you get a lot of experience teaching by subbing for other yoga teachers. At least that’s how it’s been for me. I’ve mentioned before that I’m lucky to work in a fabulous location and there are many different teachers with just as many different styles of teaching and styles of yoga. I have subbed for just about every single yoga teacher we have in our multiple locations but the class I taught today was the one to make me nearly bite my nails. Why? Because this class is known for being the most intense Ashtanga class offered where I work. I have taken the class once or twice and, let me tell you, it’s not for sissies. Taking it, however, is an entirely different thing from teaching it.
There are things that happen when you sub for a regular teacher. Some times you get nervous. Some times people will take one look at you and walk out. Some times it goes brilliantly. But the one thing that will always happen is that several folks will give you the side eye, the hairy eyeball, and do just about everything short of coming right out and saying, “I don’t know you, I don’t like you, you’re not my regular teacher. Go ahead, make my day.” Yeah. No pressure or anything. Needless to say, I was having to do lots of breathing as I prepared for this class.
And so, I showed up at the right time, the music worked out brilliantly. YES, I did get some skeptical looks and there were some whispers. No one got up to leave, I noticed. I also noticed that the room was packed (I later counted 32 people!) Lamps burning, heater blazing, I brought my hands to Anjali mudra, said a silent prayer to my buddy, Ganesha, and started to breathe.
Over the next hour I was swept up in a vortex of energy that was like someone had put sparklers right into my heart and lit it up. We bent, we stretched, we reached, we balanced, we sweated a lot, we breathed we breathed we breathed, and then we rested and received what we all came there for – a little peace, a little hope, a little grounding, a little faith.
Following class, I was surrounded by students asking questions, telling me how much they loved the class. I must have repeated my name and where all I teach 12 times. I saw the faces of the nay sayers light up and say, “Thank you -I LOVED THAT CLASS!” And the feeling was … intimate. Caring. These folks have been taking this class together for a long time, I guess, and they have become a family. Their response to me was as much of a “Welcome to the family” as I have ever felt – and I soaked it in like a parched sponge.
All while this was happening, a quiet, beautiful, mature woman (I’m guessing around 60, give or take) was standing very quietly waiting. She had dark hair, a prominent nose, and deep olive skin and I have never been in the presence of anyone who radiated as much calm peace as she did. Eventually, she approached me with a young girl and told me her name: Jasmin. Her daughter had talked her into coming to class. She held my hand, looked deep into my eyes and said,” I’m so glad my daughter convinced me to come to this class. I am from India. I was so moved to hear you incorporating Indian mythology and lore into class. You represented so clearly what Yoga is about. I would follow you to class anywhere. Where can I find you again?”
My heart just about stopped.
I am not sure that I have ever had an experience quite like that. I was humbled. I was grateful. I was honored. I was grateful. I was grateful. I was grateful. And I still am. I still am all of those things.
One of the things I tell my students is that we never know how truly amazing we are until we go beyond our comfort zone. We will never reach our full potential if we stop where the light ends – we must push through the darkness, through the doubt, through the fear to find our best selves. I breathed, I prayed, and I took a leap of faith. And just like Hanuman, whose leap spanned the gap between India and Sri Lanka, my leap changed my world.
I am a yoga teacher. I AM a yoga teacher. I am a YOGA teacher. I am a yoga TEACHER.
I AM YOGA.
And so are you.