Tonight I attended a tech session with a new teacher. I’m learning more and more that at this studio, every teacher has their own very distinctive style; so far none of the instructors have been “just average”. (Which I think is a strength of the studio, and of the teachers.) Every instructor I’ve taken a class with has had a very clear point of view about what yoga is and isn’t for them – and has conducted him/herself and his/her class accordingly.
Tonight’s teacher entered the studio with a very focused, direct, sharp tone. She brought a white board to the front of the room, and began the class by asking questions, demanding precise answers, and documenting the comments she heard on the board. No centering practice in this yoga class; tonight was all business. Okay…I guess…
A few people offered a few tentative responses to the questions the teacher was asking, but to me it felt like she was very impatient and frustrated with each answer given. After a few minutes, the teacher did say, “It’s okay if you don’t know,” – but it certainly didn’t feel okay to not know. I read the teacher’s tone as tough, her stance as aggressive, her attitude as impatient, and her language as critical. Four minutes into the class she launched into a lightening-fast yet also incredibly detailed anatomy review – and I felt myself starting to shut down. Twelve minutes into the class, I literally heard my mind say, “Blah, blah, blah – I no longer care.”
And that’s a problem.
I did my best to stay with the session, and to stay as mentally open as I could; after the anatomy lesson concluded, the teacher had us stand up and move through a few poses. When we finished the quick warm-up series, we all remained standing. I took the opportunity to stand tall, and deliberately placed my arms by my sides. I breathed in and out once, slowly and deeply; then focused on standing open, undefended, and calm – but also stable and strong. And in that moment of literally standing my ground, something inside me shifted. I became aware that any issue I had with any other person – this teacher or others – was my issue. If I felt intimidated, it was because I was allowing myself to feel intimidated. If I felt insecure, it was because I had insecurity somewhere inside of me. This teacher wasn’t “making” me do/feel/think anything; it was all coming from within me. In that moment in class, I woke up.
The feeling of insecurity dissolved; and a sense of calm replaced it. The anxious energy of intimidation evaporated; and quiet certainty appeared. I didn’t shift from one side of a pendulum to the other, trying to over-compensate for the “deficient” feelings; rather, “I” (and by “I”, I mean something much bigger and deeper and wiser somewhere inside of “me”) simply let go of the things that were causing me harm – and the thoughts/emotions/stress/anxiety/nervousness/intimidation/fear all just kind of fizzled away. And more subtle, skillful states appeared.
As the session continued, I was able to “see through” all of the context of the teacher, and the students, and the studio, any my own ego; and I was able to focus on the content of the class – namely, yoga. Freedom from avidya. Union.
It was pretty wild.
By the end of the class, I felt content with the information shared via the teacher’s instruction. (For her part, I think maybe she was stressed or on-edge about something at the beginning of the class – and I feel like she might have sensed the vibe many of us were picking up from her, and tried to soften her language and tone and approach just a titch as the session progressed; I feel like by the end of the evening, she had tried to meet us in the middle of the teacher/student experience.) I know I received several really good information “nuggets” from this instructor that I will absolutely be infusing into my home practice, as well as into any classes I might teach in the future. From the academic point of view, I got what I needed out of this tech session.
But more importantly, tonight I received amazing knowledge about myself. And I didn’t just learn that information from an academic or intellectual point of view; I got to experience it, to live it.
And hopefully, “I” will be able to truly internalize it, and integrate it into my “self” fully.
Perhaps I am one tiny step closer to yoga…