She glides into our yoga class like Hanuman on his epic leap (perhaps she walks in on her hands).
She arranges her enlightened mat for a pre-class demonstration of what she’s got going on. Maybe she tells you, beforehand, that she is also a “ yoga teacher.” Or, she waits until later. No matter. It will be obvious once she starts practicing.
At best she’ll humor you as you guide her through poses and alignment, but don’t kid yourself. She knows what the bandhas are and she’s not afraid to use them. Oh, and heaven help you if you start talking yoga philosophy. Come on, can’t you just tell that she is a recently ordained graduate of a singularly spectacular 200-hour teacher training that changed her life?
Her perky eyes have danced over the yoga sutras.
She has written the Sanskrit alphabet out 108 times. She knows at least two really good quotes from the Bhagavad Gita by heart. She can meditate, like, the way you are supposed to, so please, I don’t care who you think you are—
—but she is not likely to swallow whatever hollow horseshit version of the aforementioned that you are hawking.
She’ll take your class, but not really. She hates it, and you, from the very beginning. Everything you are doing is wrong by the way. Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed, she is keeping track, even if the mental review she is dutifully composing remains invisible to you. (In a word: it’s disastrous.)
You can try to teach her—you notice, despite her pretty practice, that there are a few places you might be able to add something even in your handicapped state (her words, not yours)—but don’t hold your breath.
At worst, she’ll interject to reverently pass judgment, or show you her middle finger in a metaphoric way—that is, ignore you. At best, a trickle of some of your currently inaudible worthy offerings will find a place in her brain where they shall lay dormant until she is ready to hear them. Odd are, most of it will go over her yoga-full head, because she is kind of busy knowing way more, way better than you (and by the way, in her mental audit she’s knee-deep in noting as much). Stop interrupting. She has to get back to the hard work of not being present in the moment.
She is unreachable. She is unteachable.
She is “taking” your class because, wait—why is she taking your class? She’s not a student obviously; that would imply someone here to learn. That’s right, she’s a teacher. You don’t ask why, because that would only kill the small inclination she might have had to grant you a slice of mercy in her incredibly detailed screed about your yoga teaching.
Her entire practice is a nothing but a euphemism for “I don’t know why people think you are such a great teacher”! An hour later, her carefully chosen words, “Thank you for the class” are obviously nothing but a euphemism for “Thank you for wasting my time, I hated every minute.” (She is trying to honor those yamas and niyamas, okay?)
After class, she’ll ask a question—about an asana, perhaps, or maybe your training. Make no mistake, this is a test. You’ll wonder if you should have tried harder. You’ll think,
I could have helped her.
A little “microbend” here,
a slight move there,
more legs in the backbends—maybe I could have made that pretty practice fly.
Then again, could she be right? I f—ed up. I wish I’d had the guts to teach her something. After all, if she doesn’t care what you are doing, what do you have to lose? Save your second-guessing but hold onto that lesson. Hopefully you are still learning, after all.
She’ll depart to teach her own class. And she’ll wonder why she’s having trouble, why she feels “off,” why people aren’t showing up or coming back. As for you, if you are lucky, you will remember that when you stop being a student, you simply stop. When we erect a wall against learning, what can we possibly be teaching?
That’s right! You remember it now. A wave of profound oneness with the author of your unwritten horrific review washes over you as you concede.
“I erected the greatest obstacle I faced in my first year of teaching. It was a wall. I thought I knew everything and so I was impermeable to learning anything new. Because I stopped learning, I stopped truly teaching. Man, did I ever lose out.”
Forget it. She’s already gone. Still, you keep talking to yourself. “But you can’t know anything well, or teach it, if you don’t believe in it! You can’t release all boundaries when you walk into the shala. So you’ll work on finding a balance. You tell yourself:
Perhaps I’ll leave a door open,
A space with some permeability.
If I don’t leave room for growth how can I expect anyone else to?
Oh, wait, I’m so sorry— I didn’t notice we had company. Allow me to introduce you to the stars of this play. Actually, there’s only one.
“She” is me.
No, “was.” Well, maybe I wasn’t that bad; this is a caricature, obviously (I cannot walk on my hands). Maybe sometimes she still overtakes me, and the “teacher”—well, that’s me too.
Maybe somewhere—the past, the future—a smidge of she and me are also in you. My sincerest wish is: I hope you learn something.
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Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: elephant archives