With the knowledge that I will one day be teaching and leading a class of individuals comes a tightly-wrapped bundle of anxiety. I don’t know why: teaching is in my blood, quite literally. My mother is a teacher. My dad’s parents were both teachers. Now…I am going to be a teacher, albeit in a slightly different capacity.
I know that life is one scary and thrilling opportunity to learn, continually, with an undetermined time limit on when this “class” has to come to an end. However, getting up in front of a bunch of individuals who want to do yoga and guiding them through the time they have with me has a definite beginning, middle and end. So I have to structure that. I have to be present. And I have to act like I know what I’m doing better than they do without showing off my superior knowledge.
Oh, and I have to not F things up midway through the class and forget what I’m doing because I actually want these people to get something from my teaching and to decide to come back for more. This is not in a narcissistic sense, rather it means that I am doing my job and passing on that which initially inspired me to start this whole thing in the first place.
Then, there’s a whole other category of anxiety which, fortunately for me, I have eliminated from my thoughts and from any brain vocabulary: the fear of not “being” a “yoga teacher. I’m not rail-thin. I don’t have Madonna arms. My forearm stands do not…stand because I don’t think my body bends that way. And I’m not blonde, beachy and beatific – sometimes, I yell at buisnessmen on the street when they walk in front of me like I don’t exist. Sometimes, latent anger at past relationships surfaces; other times, I get furious at Facebook for only posting the cheery things and, it seems, everything that I do not have in my life. Not to mention the curious and sometimes lewd commentary that comes along with my excited “I’m going to be a yoga teacher!” announcements when it comes up in conversation.
See figure i:
Truth. Except #2 because my parents, brilliant ex-hippies that they are, know exactly what yoga looks like.
But anyway. More than anything I’m scared of not being able to go through a sequence and making a whole pig’s ear of the proceedings and the ensuing judgement from my jury of yogis, in checkerboard fashion on the studio floor.
Fortunately, this quote from Yo Yo Ma, who was recently on NPR’s OnBeing, provided both reassurance and a feeling of grounding for me, such that this whole “I’m not good enough” could go back in its little box, at least for now.
“If something bad happens [onstage], I often think of Julia Child…’oh the chicken has fallen on the floor’…and you know what? Everybody is with you. So no matter what you practice…if that fails, that’s all right. Because we have a greater purpose. And that greater purpose is that we are coming together and we want this moment to be really special for all of us, because otherwise, why bother to have come at all? It’s not about proving anything, it’s about sharing something.”
And that, my friends, is yoga. The very word means “union” and in a class, everyone is united in the purpose, which is, at that moment, to practice. Together. Intentions may be different, but everyone who joins is there to share the time together, to share the experience of the class and to share the imperfect guidance of the teacher. Some people are natural leaders and teachers, others are not, but this can be learned. At the end of the day, as Mr. Ma says, yoga and a performance are not about proving something; both are about bringing something together for a greater purpose. In his case, the reason is to share something beautiful, something he can give to people. And you know what, it’s the same in my case, even as the greenest of the green yoga teachers.
So when I finally get up in front of one, two or 12 people, I will remember this, and probably open a class one day with similar insight. And what the world thinks and what Yoga Journal says can, well, unyogically shove it. I will adhere to the guidelines of my training and the wisdom of those that have done this before me, like any good teacher does, but I am going to do it with my own flair. And I will rock it. Mistakes and memory lapses and all.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”