When I arrived for the Level 1 and 2 class on Monday morning, Colin asked me to put everyone through a few Legs Up the Wall poses while he met with the electrician. The pose is exactly as it sounds; you lie on your mat with your legs straight up, supported by the wall, and then move through a series of asanas designed to stretch out your legs, relieve tension from standing and reduce the higher blood pressure your legs have naturally. We use this pose in Relax and Renew for Cancer frequently, because it helps bring chemotherapy medications to your core, where they're needed. It's also effective in reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. I was confident that I could lead people through this pose safely, so I was happy to help.
Fifteen minutes or so into the class, Colin popped his head into the room to tell me that he had to stay with the electrician and Surprise!, I was now the instructor for the rest of the class. I now had an hour and a half with 22 experienced yogis/yoginis, 6 of them teacher trainees. No class plan. No pressure. None at all.
I muddled through the first half hour, running through the asanas I knew in my head and wondering what on earth I could teach that would meet class expectations. Colin is an impressive teacher, my teacher. What to do? Then, it occurred to me: I was Not Colin, so why would I try to teach a class like his? I decided to go with what I know, which is Relax and Renew.
For many people, Relax and Renew is a very different approach to yoga. We move slowly through asanas, explaining why we are doing the poses and what specific benefits they may have for those who practise them. Props, lots of them, are often involved. To some people, it seems as though you are doing very little; however, they are often surprised at how intense a stretch you can get from raising and opening your arms slowly or standing supported by a wall.
We all got through the class in one piece. Everyone was very kind and understanding. I was a bit concerned that some people didn't get enough of a stretch. Colin's response was, "Do you need to feel a stretch in order to practise yoga?" It was an important question.
Yoga doesn't require any particular action or effect. Yoga is a process, a union of body and mind. There are no particular goals, nowhere to go, nowhere to be, except Here and Now. We "stretch" in many ways. The students in yesterday's class stretched by participating in an unexpected approach to yoga which may have tested their ideas of what a yoga class is or should be. They certainly stretched their patience by the kindness they showed while working with an inexperienced, unprepared teacher. I stretched by taking a leap of faith that I could walk through what felt like fire.
In some ways, it was a good thing that I didn't have a class plan: I was forced to Act, not Think. Although I was unprepared for that class, past teaching experience and yoga practice gave me the grounding I needed to follow my heart. For those 90 minutes, I was in the moment, in my body and fully in the experience. In hindsight, it was lovely. When we are grounded, when we have the "bones" to steady us, we are able to release our perspectives and seize opportunities for new experience.
On Saturday, I helped a new set of beginning knitters start down a path which, I hope, will help them to enjoy a new way of working with their hands. Some of them may not make it through all the sessions; others will get through but never knit again. A few will move on to greater things and discover the fire that builds when we find passion. All of us will stretch. Some of us will leap. We will all grow.
|Public Domain Photograph from WikiCommons|
(P.S. The electrical issues have been resolved.)