Today J made me teach a pose in yoga class! Before class, as everyone was coming in and getting settled, I was waiting on my mat and J looked at me and said, “Want to teach today?” I said, “No,” but J told me to be ready to teach a balance pose.
The whole first half of class was a struggle for me then, thinking about what balance pose I wanted to teach, trying not to overthink it (I’ve done balance poses hundreds of times, heard balance poses taught hundreds of times, I know this), and trying to actually pay attention to class and be in the moment. Really difficult. Plus (and I know everyone must think this sometimes) it felt like J was making the class extra-challenging on purpose. And then I was scoping out the other students in the class (there were 12 of us) to see if anyone looked likely to have difficulty doing a balance pose, and which of my TT classmates were there (Sarah and Trish were there), and then I reminded myself that I trust all my classmates and we’re doing this together and it’s fine. And then, oh wait, I’m supposed to be paying attention to Warrior 2 right now.
I was torn on which pose to teach. My first thought was Tree Pose, because it’s my favorite and because I know it well and my group practiced teaching it in training a few weeks ago. Then I thought I should challenge myself and do Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose, because that one is challenging for me just by itself before I even think about anyone else. I started running through the steps of Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose in my head, but then I wasn’t sure if I could do it well, and I couldn’t remember if I’d done that pose at this studio and then I worried that they don’t teach that one here or if they do they call it something else, and then I couldn’t think of any other balance poses except Dancer which I know I don’t want to try to teach. So I ended up doing Tree, and it went okay. J said I did well, and I checked with Sarah after class to see if she could hear me in the back of the room and she said she could. It was still hard, though, even though it’s the easiest balance pose for me to teach – I’ve heard it taught so many times before and yet, doing it myself, I didn’t know where to work in that your gaze should find an unmoving spot to rest, and I didn’t mention the neat little trick I learned at the anusara studio last summer because I figured I should keep it simple. Here is basically what I said:
Bring your hands to a prayer, and start shifting your weight over to your left foot. When you feel good and grounded, you can begin to lift your right foot off the floor. You can press your right foot against your left leg at the ankle, or at the calf, or you can bring the foot all the way up to your thigh. Start to press your right knee out to the side. Now when you feel good and steady, you can bring your hands up into the branches of your tree.
And that’s pretty much the basic instructions. I’m fine with that. I also remembered to breathe, myself, and to count my breaths so that I didn’t leave everybody hanging for too long or take them out too soon. And I did not remember to worry about my hair or about straightening my clothing, which I take to be a good thing.
J had me come up to the front of the room and teach from his mat, and he stood by my mat like a regular student. While I taught the right side, I did the pose myself while talking through it; then J whispered to me that for the left side I should just talk and not do the pose myself, which is harder, but which gives you more of a chance to look around and see how everyone’s doing. Everyone was doing pretty well. And then I was done and J and I switched back and he told me I did a good job, and I spent the rest of the class alternately analyzing how I’d done and trying to stop analyzing.
how scary! congrats on teaching – i’ve talked with some other teacher friends, and it seems like the consensus is that it takes a while to balance out the student brain & the teacher brain while practicing. this is just an extreme example!
I think I just need to reframe my mind a little bit. I knew that as teacher trainees we’re required to go to yoga classes at least once a week; I hadn’t realized that the point wasn’t just to do yoga, that it will also be part of our training. There’s a difference in mindset between “showing up for yoga class, ready to work out or relax, following someone else’s instructions” and “showing up for yoga class knowing that I might be called upon to think”. N or J could call on me to teach at any time, and so I need to approach class knowing that and ready to go. I think that having that awareness will ultimately help my practice, because I’ll be paying more attention to each pose as I do it, thinking about the steps rather than just following instructions on autopilot.
But yeah, I definitely get the difference between student brain and teacher brain. Very different ways of approaching practice!