Gratitude Redux

I hurt my elbow doing something really stupid a few weeks ago.  As a middle-aged yoga teacher, I’m used to modifying my practice to accommodate my injuries (which include two overextended hamstring origins, an old rotator cuff tweak, and the intermittent low back pain that most of my generation seems to have).  I can even let go of my ego sufficiently not to feel obliged to move into–or even attempt–every arm balance, inversion or bind that comes my way.  But when my elbow was out of commission, I couldn’t move into any pose where my weight was supported on bent arms.  Sun Salutations were out of the question.  I couldn’t demo chatturanga for my students.  Bakasana, the easiest of all arm balances, was inaccessible.  Worst of all, I had a hard time practicing with teachers who inspired me.  In a word, it sucked.

At times like these, when someone comes along and talks about how injuries can be our best teachers, I feel more like throttling them than thanking them.   Continue reading

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Something to remember…

Without too many words, I just wanted to record something here so I can remember it when I’m beginning to doubt myself.

I just started teaching a yoga class at 6 am.  It’s only an hour long, and it’s difficult to design a satisfying practice for such a short period of time.  In addition, my students are all over the board in terms of ability–some have been practicing for years, while others are quite new to yoga.  Because the class is so early, I like it to be energizing and uplifting, and it’s often hard for me to hold things together so early in the morning with so many different needs that need to be met.

Yesterday, I had sequenced a heart-opening practice, but 67% of my class (2 out of the three people who were there) mentioned that they had tight hamstrings and would like to work on them.  So I shifted gears and taught off the top of my head.  Under normal circumstances, this usually isn’t a problem, but first thing in the morning, especially after a night of fitful sleep, isn’t normal for me.  I did the best I could and tried to compensate by giving lots of stretchy assists.

As my students were leaving, one mentioned that she was training for an Ironman in the spring.  We started talking about how she needed to be careful and balance out her physical training, and I jokingly suggested that she teach yoga to find her balance.  She said to me, in all seriousness, “If I ever taught yoga, I’d want to teach just like you.”

I was touched.  Although I’ve been teaching for four years, I’ve only recently gotten to the point where I don’t feel like a total fuck-up or imposter.  And although I have some semi-regular students, I don’t have a following like the more popular yoga teachers in my area.  My student explained why she liked my style of teaching–my voice, my attention to detail, my obvious passion for the practice, and the fact that I didn’t rush through things like other teachers who take a boot camp approach to the class.

Sometimes I feel like my life is so chaotic and messed up that I have very little to offer my students in the way of guidance.  This woman made me feel like I might have something to contribute after all.