Well, it finally happened. I taught a real yoga class in the studio. This of course, the day before my birthday; I planned it that way. Like a pre-birthday birthday treat for myself.
I had the class all planned out. Back bending 101.
I’m sitting in the beautiful new yoga lounge at the studio. Laura, my teacher, and I are talking about Halloween flyers (more on this in another post, folks) when two men walk in. Two guys! In one yoga class. Huh? They go in the studio and I help them find mats and blankets and whatever accessories they might need.
I go back out into the lobby as another man walks through the door. Really? Another one? Alright, then, come on, dude sir dude, and allow me to show you to your mat. And then another guy shows up. This one is older and has his own mat, I think. He regulars the free Sunday community class taught by the teacher trainers.
I haven’t been in a yoga class with more than a couple of men, ever. But all the men are in there on their mats. They are splayed out in variations of repose when a couple comes in. The lady is beautiful with one of those strong profiles that makes me think of old Hollywood, but she doesn’t have on a bit of make-up and her hair is not colored (at all) which somehow makes her even prettier. Her gentleman is one of the blackest men I have ever seen. His eyes are the color of sunshine sifting through a half full brandy snifter, which only serves to compliment his long thick dreadlocks.
He walks in behind “natural beauty yoga lady” and hugs Laura and then me, even though I have never met him before. With those dreadlocks half covering his face, his presence is almost like an up-close and personal nod and a wink from Shiva’s third eye, as though the Lord of Yoga and Love dropped in for a community class. It’s all very exciting.
My sweet friend, from whom I did not receive express permission to use in this blog (though she probably wouldn’t mind and half ya’ll reading this already know who she is) has her place in the back near the wall. When I walk to the front of the class, yes, the front where the “teacher’s” mat is, her dark eyes watch me with sparkling love and support. When I take a seat I look at her just long enough to take a little support from her very solid presence.
We all just sit there for a minute. Everyone naturally closes their eyes. I see Laura come in, her skirts swishing around her ankles as she takes a last look at one of her little ducklings starting out on the teacher’s mat. She smiles at me as she closes the double doors on us, the hem of her feathery dress the last thing I see before the gentle click sings us into a closed space.
I wonder for a second, as these people wait for me to do something, what it must be like for Laura. To see someone, many would-be teachers over the years, move into a place of action. It must be a very special experience to share so must knowledge with someone and then be able to watch them do something with it in your presence.
I culled all of my teacher trainer notes which I wrote while Laura was sharing some of that knowledge. And with these notes I made a class outline. Okay, I admit it. Because there are several men in this class with whom I have no idea how to work I am grateful for my outline. But even before the class even moves into the first stages of warming up I see my highlighted and underlined Sanskrit peppered outline gently float right out the unopened window. The Universe wants an improve show.
Men and women have different challenges in yoga for obvious reasons. Typically, men have strong upper bodies and are great at the hand standing arm balances, push-up tough guy stuff. Women, on the other hand, are usually more flexible and able to contort into a broader spectrum of shapes in relation to their yoga practice. Of course, ultimately, students are students and should be treated equally, at least at first.
But running a back bending class with all these men unhinges me. But I’m committed. The Universe is just gonna have to go to Showtime at the Apollo for that improve comedy hour. Oh, how naïve I can be.
Things are going smoothly. I feel secure, if for no other reason than that I have already run this class twice in my car while driving around town. I look at my sweet strong friend there in the back and don’t feel alone in this, even though I’m the only person walking around in a room full of people starting to sweat and look at me from the corners of their eyes. It’s like they ask, “Are you sure about this? Are you doing this right, I mean, come on now, is this right?”
I take a moment to remind myself that they DID come in and sign up for a trainer to practice teaching a class. If they’d paid ninety-five dollars for this class I might have been more nervous.
Of course, then I start to see it.
The breakdown of class.
The older man on the front row who is going to do everything I suggest to the letter. Even though he is sweating profusely. And breathing heavily.
The young man in the back whose hamstrings are tighter than my tummy after a big to-fu dinner. He is laboring over folding over his legs. I’m awed that in spite of this, he stays with it, folding over his tight legs and closing his eyes, perhaps hoping this pose won’t last too long, or maybe longing to stay just there for hours.
The strange and wild looking man on the front row, he bows deeply into resting poses. The lady to his right who expands into these postures as though she has been practicing for years and greets every new pose like meeting a long lost friend.
There is an extremely tall and thin man on the front row who struggles with some seated poses and I have to quickly click through my memory bank for ideas on how to make him more comfortable and help him modify poses if he needs to.
This is not going to be a back bending class.
There is a picture of Swami on the back wall. I look up at her for a second as I try to re-group, kissing my class outline goodbye. And this is when it becomes exhilarating.
My mind is free from the worry of trying to recall what comes next. It feels more like an organic experience, but the profound security of having had something planned I think helped lay the foundation for being able to move into improvisation. Maybe it’s all in my mind that the entire tone of the class seemed to relax when I began teaching from the moment. Trust built in the space. I stepped in to adjust a little more. I stepped back to just watch these people, in there on their mats for all their reasons they recognize and don’t, letting me lead the class. Just by being there these strangers are supporting my studies.
It occurs to me later that this is how some of the best things come into being. The painting that was supposed to be a race car ends up looking more like a dolphin swimming with Michael Jackson and sells for one million dollars and elevating the collective consciousness. That song that was supposed to recapture new love that ends up hitting the top 100 countdown as the best break-up song of the year. That chilly winter inspired blog that was supposed to help me wallow in my own sense of frigidity and bitterness that ended up thawing my heart and facilitating the expansion of inspiration.
When our outline flies right out the unopened window, that’s when real creation takes place.
These flowers are a gift from my dear friend, as though I won Miss America or graduated from college. But better. Because they commemorated the first yoga class I ever lead. They sat on the studio’s altar before coming home with me. Thank you.