My worst class as a Yoga teacher was also the best experience in the world.
Here’s what happened. Spoiler alert: it was also my first.
After doing the formal Yoga Teacher Training you know a lot, but you don’t have any experience. While this is true for everyone, I just thought, what the heck. I have a lot of experience, giving presentations for large groups of financial experts, CEO’s and other bozo’s while I was working as a lawyer in the financial district.
How could a simple yoga class for a bunch of well dressed cosmopolitan yogi’s be challenging for someone with the background I had?
Let’s just take a step back and see what I (this is experienced me thinking) needed to do to prepare for my first class:
Write down all the poses on a piece of paper.
Set up the music for each of the sections in the class.
Leave early to be in time for the class.
Dress well, but not too well – you don’t want to look like a pro but be a beginner, but also not like a beginner being a pro. There’s a difference.
Check, check, check and check.
I even prepped the sequence in front of the mirror many times before, to the annoyance of my boyfriend who had to jump around me every time I was trying to explain something to my mirror self.
This was going to be a walk in the park.
The day of my first class arrived and, dressed well and precisely on time, I entered the studio and suddenly found myself in a packed room filled with super-experienced yogi’s ready for their usual Saturday morning class.
I take place on my mat. I lay out my 4-page script including hand-drawn stick figures for each pose which looked like this:
I FREAK OUT.
Because I get so nervous, I completely forget to introduce myself, I realize my head is red as a lobster and sweat starts appearing on my forehead. Before I know it I already started my first class. To make it worse, my so well-practiced script with beautiful sentences to get people in the relaxed state of mind now sounds like:
“TAKE A COMFORTABLE SEAT”
“WE’RE GOING TO MEDITA…”
I look up and see people thinking ‘What the hell..”
Gosh and we didn’t even start yet. Sweat is running on my back right now and my heart is pumping fast. Yet I know that I just can’t walk out of the room so I continue.
“Come to the front of your mat for your Sun Salutation B’
“Lift your arms, I mean bend your knees…”
The stick figures become blurred right now. Nervousness really kicks in. How on (loving mother) earth can I correct this?
“Let’s do a forward fold and squad”
Now I’m even more fucked because I’ve never thought about ways of talking people into a squat. So I’m hoping they are fine with my suggestion. Until I see that everyone has a different opinion about what a squad looks like.
“I MEAN I YOGI SQUAT”
and this paralyzes me, at least for the part that wasn’t paralyzed already.
With a room full of yogi’s with all different kinds of squads in front of me and no experience what to do about it, I ask them to come back up and lift their arms up, and look up.
And I am looking up myself.
I look up from my scribble figure who looks more like a circle with a line, I stop hearing the music, the voice in my head and suddenly my mind calms down. The sweat on my forehead is gone and when I see that the whole crowd is fanatically lifting their arms up, I realize that for the next 75 minutes they are going to do exactly what I tell them to do.
At this moment I am not thinking anymore.
I just feel and believe in myself. I decided to leave my well prepared yoga class for what it is and start to intuitively guide the class. I am teaching yoga, a dream coming true.
My voice softens, my body softens, my mind softens. I feel one with the group and the group trusts me. I say things I have never thought about. I talk about philosophy and how yoga can be beneficial in daily life.
At first it scares me, where are all these things coming from? But then I start to trust that this is all coming from me who is trying to live more consciously. It’s just my path I’m sharing with the group, my struggles, my fears, my victories.
A yoga class is definitely not something you prepare like a presentation on how to structure debt. It’s something that requires feeling rather than thinking and that is new to me.
But I also realize that there is no other way. At that moment I set the tone for all my future classes.
The day I taught my first yoga class I learned this by experience. Not by thinking my way through it, but by doing the exact opposite:
Letting go of control (willingly or not) brings you in a state of presence in which all that you are living as your authentic self will just make sense. No preparation in the world can help you think your way into clarity – you must do it. Today, I know the things you learn on the mat are lessons to bring into your daily life. And I know you can do it too, all you have to do is let go a little bit and you will find the rest is already there.