Well, it has taken me a while to get to my 100th post. And I am fortunate that I don’t have to wring my hands about what to write about because I recently I had a teaching epiphany while I was being a student.
I have written about my yoga class before. Our teacher helps us focus on the internal, the external, and the subtle and profound ways that we can connect our practice to our lives. I had my first yoga epiphany when Bob, my teacher, talked about the two wings of a maturing yoga practice – rigor and surrender. That made so much sense for my teaching. The second epiphany I wrote about in-depth, and it reminded me that there is a certain amount of “crazy, random happenstance” that is the basis of magic moments: the confluence of effort, place, and time.
The third was in a recent Saturday morning beginning yoga class. I have been catching up on some missed Wednesday classes by attending two classes a week. The Saturday class has been together for a while, and they are advanced beginners like me for certain, and I feel very comfortable with these folks. I often feel out of my ability zone in the Wednesday class, but hey, a girl’s gotta reach sometimes. When I started in his class, Bob told us that the big difference between his Beginning and Continuing classes is that in the Beginning classes he doesn’t teach shirshasana, head balance pose. This group of students has progressed to a point where Bob wanted to begin teaching them this asana.
As I wrote in the post Light, when I started yoga, my biggest fear was shoulder stand pose (sarvangasana) until I began the continuing class where I had something new to fear. Head balance pose still intimidates me, but when I was first beginning to learn this (I still use the wall for support, so I am still really beginning to learn it) I was one of two, maybe three students who needed Bob’s guidance to get upside down. Because in this class he was teaching head balance pose to a group, his instruction was different – it broke the pose into a number of component understandings and parts, both physical and mental. This was incredibly useful for me as a student because I am still so tentative getting into and staying in shirshasana.
Then came the Saturday when the whole class was going to go upside down. Bob talked us through each preparatory step, reminding us of the props that we had used before in preparation, and up we were to go. Looking around the room I saw a lot of skepticism. “Yeah, right,” I could almost hear from this group of about 18 students. I set up my mat, interlaced my fingers, pushed my thumbs together, put my hands on the floor, and rolled my head into the cup of my hands. Now, I’ve done this before, so when Bob gave us the instruction to go halfway up and then all the way up, I did.
When we are upside down, balanced on our heads or our shoulders, Bob reminds us we are NOT to look around the room and see how the other folks are faring. We should look straight ahead and focus on our own challenges. So that’s what I do. In the continuing class, head balance pose is a very quiet time in class, usually with just the sound of Bob’s voice. This time I heard something that I recognized.
The room sounded just like my classroom when we are working on something that the students are just learning. It sounded like the day that we began crafting analytic essays. There is a sound of effort, but the voices have an edge of fear. In yoga it was fear of hurting ourselves or falling down or embarrassing ourselves. Fear of looking stupid. Or klutzy. Or out of shape. Or stiff. In my seventh grade English class, it might be fear of failure, of not getting a good grade, of not meeting their own expectations, of not looking cool for enjoying the work, of not having an idea, of not knowing where to start, of not being perfect.
Some of my students are afraid of the work. Now I need to figure out how to help them be less afraid, how to really make peace with imperfection. Because a thing well attempted is a thing of beauty.
And I have let fear keep me from writing. I should take my own advice.
Tangled Web Weaved by Randy Son of Bob