And no, I do not mean those small tasty Mexican appetizers.
Tapas is defined as “heat”, “fire”, “austerity” – basically, disciplining oneself to overcome frustration and angst, and to accept that which we may not necessarily “like”, in order to rid ourselves of impurities and simultaneously build character.
Today’s core session was full of tapas.
We started out the day with a study of two poses: “Standing Big Toe Pose” (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana), and “Reclined Big Toe Pose” (Supta Padangustasana). Both of these poses are pretty darn challenging, and require balance, strength, and flexibility. I’m golden on the flexibility, getting better at the strength, but still craptastic at the balance. But, I had plenty of opportunity to practice – I even received some one-on-one time with the teacher. (She asked for a volunteer who was “very flexible” to come to the front of the room so she could show us how to do an adjustment, and no one stepped forward – so I did. Our teacher stood to face me, then crouched down and had me put my extended leg on her shoulder. She then slowly started to return to standing, thereby lifting my leg higher and higher. It was pretty cool.) However, after about 40 minutes of practicing this pose, my body was ready to be done.
Fortunately, at just about that time, we transitioned into our niyama discussion, where we broke into small groups and discussed examples of when we have used physical, verbal, or mental tapas in our daily lives. My immediate response: meditation, baby. I really don’t know of a more challenging activity then sitting silent and motionless, watching my wild mind. But I also don’t know of a more rewarding experience than witnessing my mind slow, focus, and access wisdom in me I never knew was there. Amazingly difficult, but amazingly cool – and pretty much *the* definition of tapas.
After our group sharing of individual “tapas” experiences, we spent the next two hours “Finding Our Teaching Voice”. I was quite excited for this session; after five months of lectures, study, and practice, we now get to learn how to effectively share with others the knowledge we have been individually gathering and internalizing. Awesome – teach me!
Unfortunately, today’s teacher didn’t really teach us.
Today’s teacher did bring a handout (which I always appreciate). And while the items included on the handout were pretty common-sense (i.e., “speak loud enough so everyone can hear”; “practice”; “stand in front of the students”, etc.) at least they were documented for us. Thank you; this is a great start.
Sadly, this was the only “instruction” we got. When we received the handout, the teacher said, “Please read.” So we did. The teacher then asked each of us to state our name, and our favorite yoga pose; and we did that, too. The teacher then said, “Okay, who wants to teach first?” Umm…. Shouldn’t you teach us how to teach before asking us to do it? I mean, the handout is fine and all, but it’s hardly enough…. This is like showing someone a picture of a yoga pose, then saying, “Okay, so do it.” That’s not exactly teaching. But apparently, the handout will have to be enough; because the teacher then just waited for one of us to step forward.
The teacher then proceeded to do several things I personally think should be avoided when teaching adults if at all possible (this is me speaking from my professional experience in a corporate training setting):
- The teacher arbitrarily selected people to go, instead of allowing people to volunteer as they felt ready. To me, this is not only discourteous, but also potentially emotionally damaging to the individual “chosen”. (Much like children, adults have emotional vulnerabilities, too – we are just better at hiding them.) I personally don’t know each individual’s level of comfort, feeling of readiness, etc. to assess who might truly feel like they can go next; and an adult who feels like they “failed” (or who may have succeeded externally, but felt embarrassed inside) may never return to the experience, or to that teacher.
- Today’s teacher assigned poses to each of us, instead of allowing us to select the pose we felt comfortable with (or perhaps even physically able to teach). What’s more, the teacher offered the Sanskrit name, not the English one. In fact, when my “turn” (time) came, the teacher said, “Okay, how about you do blah-blah-blah-sana” – and I had zero idea what pose the instructor wanted me to do. So I calmly-yet-firmly said, “I don’t know Sanskrit. Please tell me the English name.” And it was offered, but I didn’t know how to do that pose. Now, I have enough self-confidence and self-awareness that I didn’t feel “dumb”; but I did feel plenty irritated. And I could have easily felt “dumb” in this situation and setting. Not cool.
- The teacher changed the “rules” midstream. Initially, after each of us taught our two minutes or so, the teacher asked for volunteers to state something good about what was just taught. Well, when my turn (time) came, I had little idea what the heck I was doing; so I muddled through as best I could, laughed out loud when I completely flubbed one part of the pose, and returned to the relative safety of my mat as soon as it was over. But instead of being “off the hook”, the teacher looked at me and said, “So tell us one thing you liked about that.” Seriously?! We all know my “performance” was poor, but you now feel the need to put me on the spot even more?! Oh, come on. I looked directly at the teacher, and replied, “That it’s over.”
Indeed, I was ready for this experience to be over for us all.
All that being said, I did have one positive awareness occur during this part of today’s session: I realized that teaching yoga doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing for me. I.e., I don’t have to teach a class full of people in a studio/fitness center/business setting; I can do individual consults, or even just teach a small group of friends from time to time. I don’t have to teach “a class” to teach yoga; and coming to this realization was actually a brand new idea for me. Suddenly, I had more options. It was very freeing.
So. That was a lot. This class felt like a lot. I guess that’s tapas.
Impurities, be gone! Make room for chocolate. : )