1.18.2011

Stupid Things I Say Sometimes


As regular readers will know, I teach Vinyasa yoga.  I love it and hope to do more of it as the opportunities arise.  But sometimes when I teach, I say stupid things.  Stupid, ridiculous, cheese-ridden, nonsensical things.  It's a consequence of the sheer amount of verbalization required of me to lead a Vinyasa flow class.  Often, it simply sounds better in my head.

I admit it.  Cut me some slack.  My classes are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.  While the sequences may be planned for, the words are off the cuff.  Most of the time, this makes for an engaging class.  Once in a while, it means that I end up with my foot wedged securely in my mouth.  Not often, but it happens.   

For example, at one point during my class last night,  I instructed my students to "enjoy the expansion of your heart."  As soon as I heard myself, I cringed.  What the hell does that mean?  My very sensible intention was to direct their attention to the particularly satisfying sensation of the intercostals and pectoralis stretching as the students deepened into Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose).  Instead, I rambled about enlarged hearts.  Nobody seemed to notice the meaninglessness of my instruction, or maybe they conceived of their own interpretations, so I simply let it go and carried on.

It was only later, while in the midst of a good nap, falling in and out of that fuzzy space where sleep is just around the corner and the mind makes particularly nimble twists and leaps, that I remembered what I had said.  I began to giggle.  I laughed as I thought about some of the other, better blunders I've made while teaching.  I remembered an incident teaching the opening meditation of one of my very first classes in which I got stuck in an endless loop of metaphors for the "ebb and flow, the rise and fall, the expansion and contraction, the blahbiddy blah and the blahblah" of the breath.  I don't know how it happened -- I got nervous and just couldn't stop.  One of my students giggled aloud at the absurdity.  Remembering her expression, eyes closed, sitting tall, face all scrunched in suppressed amusement, made me laugh even harder.

And then I thought of the Shatner-eqsue pauses to which I am prone from time to time.  Occasionally, I drop off mid-sentence, sometimes until the more antsy of my students start to look around before picking up where I left off.  At first, these pauses were nerves wiping my brain completely blank at the idea that I was responsible for delivering a yogic experience to a group of 30 strangers, until I regained my bearings a few awkward seconds later.   I still use the Shatner pauses, but not due to nervousness; I appreciate the silence, and I'm much more comfortable taking my time to choose the right word, the most appropriate language, the most illustrative idea to direct the class. 

Then the significance of my ability to forgive myself for these blunders struck me.  This would not have been the case a few months ago.  I would have tortured myself writing pages of notes about what went wrong and how to fix it, transcribed things I already knew, and doubted my abilities for not delivering the perfect class every time.  It seems, happily enough, that at some point in the recent past I have come to terms with my role as teacher.  My voice is taking on a distinctive tone and message.  I am confident sharing my own interpretation of the practice, yoga babble, dramatic pauses, and all.

8 comments:

  1. You have to talk the whole time? That's a tall order and it doesn't sound like you blunder all that badly! Silence is lovely, even when it's Shatneresque :)

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  2. Ever attended a Bikram class? I found the dialogue pretty amusing and full of little amusing nonsenses. But yes, silence is lovely :)
    By the way, how are you doing with the music thing? Most classes I have attended didn't use any at all.

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  3. Loo - Fortunately, I don't talk the whole time, but I do lead by breath, so for a generally quiet person like myself, it really feels like a lot of talking. I do make of point of leaving plenty of space for silence in every class.

    Mixandmatch - I have not attended a Bikram class (heat gives me headaches), but I know they talk a lot and use scripts. I've heard it's intense.

    Thanks for asking about the music situation. Ultimately, I went with my gut and decided to stop wasting so much time on it: I use the same eclectic instrumental playlist pretty much every time for my class at the pro-music studio, and I use no music at all for my other class at the do-what-you-please studio. It's working well for me, so far.

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  4. I LOVE it when my regular teachers accidentally say things they wouldn't normally say, or even tell us to put our ankle to our forehead when they mean knee to forehead - whatever! It breaks up the seriousness of the class a little, as yoga classes can be a little, you know, not fun at times. It's great that you are relaxed about not being perfect - that's a little lesson for your students right there.

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  5. Brigid - Good point. It is nice for everyone to have a little chuckle during a class, softens the edges a bit. You know, as a student, I never noticed teachers' slip ups until I started teaching. Now, when I attend classes I do notice it, but I never find it terribly distracting or disruptive. Hopefully, my students feel the same way.

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  6. Oh, the dangers of flowery yoga speak. I throw up a little when I think of some of the dumb shit I have said in a class...this post totally made me laugh!

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  7. i don't know--i think this is pretty wonderful!! i'm alittle flowery at times anyhow:)) thanks for sharing and making me smile!

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  8. ha! the shatner pauses. what a wonderful description of the wierd silences i find myself in while teaching! and i agree with brigid's enjoyment of the levity mistakes bring. lovely post!

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