October 31, 2014

Next Time We’re Annoyed with a New Yoga Teacher, Remember This.

Photo: Barry Silver

“Consider that your courageous heart opened theirs. That they mirrored you” ~ Baron Baptiste

Recently, I watched a client, clearly annoyed, roll up her mat and walk out of class on a new teacher.

Under my guidance, the brand new teacher was leading the room through two rounds of Surya Namaskar A.

Yes, she was nervous. Yes, it was maybe a bit too fast, and a teeny tiny bit messy. But so what?

The client in question took child’s pose when the new teacher stepped to the front. I can’t say what was happening on her mat, but by the time she rolled it up and exited the room, exactly eight minutes of class had passed.

Maybe I’m biased. It’s my humble honor to facilitate yoga teacher training. Personally, I get a little excited when a newly graduated teacher stands up. I love it when he or she finds their voice and steps into their power. I already know what to expect when my favorite teachers teach. But a new teacher? I get a mix of nervousness and an “Ooh, what’s going to happen” feeling. I expect a miracle every time.

Clearly we don’t all feel this way.

When I stepped behind the curtain to ask the client if she was okay, she snapped, “I didn’t come here for this. I came here for you.” It was a compliment. And a slap. I’m so very grateful that she likes my teaching. Yet I am keenly aware that others have held the space for me to be new, and nervous, and too fast, and messy. I’m more grateful for that.

I get being annoyed while someone is trying on a new skill. When my second child was 13 days old, he spiked an angry fever that landed us right back in the hospital—a teaching hospital.

I stood helpless while a new resident performed a spinal tap on my newborn. I could hear him screaming. I wasn’t allowed in the room. In anger and frustration I let everyone know my baby was not a practice toy. I was ugly. And embarrassing. Our pediatrician assured me she would lead and guide the new doctor while keeping her patient, my son, her first priority. She told me with admiration that the resident was going to be an amazing doctor and that a spinal tap is painful even when performed by the lead physician.

The truth was, I was scared. I could not predict the outcome nor did I have control. I was behaving badly.

So I get it. I really do. We show up to practice because we need to practice. We want an excellent workout and our favorite teacher and we want what we came for, because let’s be honest —our mat is sacred space and often sacred time.

Then again, there’s also something sacred about holding the space for another’s growth. If we hold the intention to allow another their power, don’t we get that for ourselves as well? If I am a stand for someone else, aren’t I stand for myself as well?

Something my mat has taught me clearly is Staying. Even when (especially when!) I’m working through something or when I’m annoyed, just staying in my body, with my breath, has been the place of greatest breakthroughs.

Just before those moments of staying I was annoyed as hell. Inquiry tells me to Why, asking the question then staying quietly and listening for the answer. Why am I mad, sad, annoyed and impatient? Answering the question is often remarkably freeing.

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says to honor the hook. Whatever it is that gets us—the traffic, the delay, the noise, the new teacher. The hook has the clarity to show us where we are stuck.

Biting the hook keeps us stuck; but noticing the hook and not biting? That’s yoga.

So how ‘bout you? Do new teachers annoy you? Has anyone ever walked out on your learning process? Has anyone ever held the space for you? Tell me what you think.




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Author: Linda Fenelon

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Barry Silver/Flickr

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