by Kara-Leah Grant
On Saturday I taught my first yoga class in five weeks, as it’s summer holidays here and I’ve been doing just that – holidaying. Possibly it wasn’t prudent to take so much time off teaching when I’ve got a major festival within a week – i.e. Wanderlust.
Although as I’ve been on a Forty Day Practice, my asana practice is stronger than it’s ever been.
However it turns out a strong asana practice doesn’t necessarily make me a stronger teacher.
I turned up on Saturday morning and taught the worst yoga class I’ve ever taught.
It started well, as I noted in the beginning invocation how clear and steady I felt. But as we moved on into the asana sequencing, everything fell apart.
Usually I teach intuitively, responding to what’s needed on the day. This has always served me well, and the more I tune into this energy, the better the class meets the needs of the students. However this class I was focused on practicing one of the classes I intend to teach at Wanderlust.
This meant I went in to class with a fixed idea of what I was doing, and I didn’t (couldn’t?) tap into my usual intuitive flow at all.
But it wasn’t just that which made it the worst class ever – it was my inability to cohesively string a sequence together. And that’s a sequence I’ve been practicing and teaching for six months now. I left bits out, put bits in the wrong order, forgot pieces on one side, and generally made a complete hash of it.
Horrifying right? And I’m meant to be teaching at Wanderlust. My mind almost started to do a number on me, right in the middle of class – ‘You’re a terrible teacher, you don’t have what it takes to teach at Wanderlust, you’re going to lose it…’ but I caught it, and didn’t let those half-formed thoughts birth their way into the world.
That didn’t help me any with my teaching though, I continued to stumble my way through the rest of class and was relieved when the experience was over.
As I left, I shuddered to think what kind of feedback I would have received if anyone had been evaluating my class.
And here I was thinking I would be a much stronger teacher because my practice had been so physically strong the past six weeks.
Yet that Forty Day practice I’ve just finished? It was a fixed linear style of practicing. My anchor was five sun salutation A and five sun salutation B every day, and then as time allowed, more of the Ashtanga Primary Series.
The way I teach and (usually) practice is creative, intuitive, multi-faceted and layered.
This is why the class I taught was so bad on Saturday – yes, I’d had a daily home yoga practice, but not one that was informing my teaching in anyway.
Today (Tuesday), before I taught my class, I did my own practice first, using the playlist and theme I intended to teach from and moving intuitively.
The difference was staggering.
When I practice like this, I never know what sequencing is going to arise and I often find myself in interesting combinations of movements. Yet it works. There is a natural flow and a deeper understanding that arises.
I often don’t know why I’m doing something, and it’s only in reflection later that the physical, mental, emotional and energetic nuances of that movement become clear. This is how my understanding of asana, pranayama, meditation, mudra and bandha deepens.
First it arises in me. Then I observe the results of the practice.
Teaching the class following my own practice was a joy. I had new insights and vision to share, and I was able to bring that into the room while feeling what the students required.
This is when I am the strongest as a teacher – when I’m simply excited to share from my own experiential journeying into the mind/body space.
It was such a relief to feel myself step back into my power as a teacher again.
Yes, I’m still as nervous as all hell and freaking out about teaching at Wanderlust (who the hell am I to be a WL teacher? I don’t even teach full time!).
But that’s life right?
When we take a risk and dare to step up our game and reveal ourselves to the world, damn right it’s going to be scary. Otherwise everyone would be doing it.
I’ve spent the last ten years immersed in my yoga practice, and I’m stoked to have the opportunity to share my perspective with other people. Really, it’s a co-creative journey as the energy of the students informs the teaching just as much as my perspective does.
My prep work now is to do my own intuitive practice every day before I teach. Then I need the courage to sit in the unknown, tapping into the intuitive flow that’s right for the moment and the class. (There’s a certain irony in that – I’m going to be at a yoga festival with amazing teachers and yet it’s my own self-practice I’m going to be focusing on… I’m might not be able to make it to any classes!)
This is the most difficult step of all.
After you do the prep…
After you do the hard work…
Then you have to let it all go…
And be comfortable sitting in the not-knowing.
In doing this, I have to trust in a power beyond me. I have to become an instrument of consciousness, at play, with no attachment to results and no investment in achievement.
That I can do.