May 18, 2008

Being Seen

An interesting experience last evening at yoga teacher training.

We trainees taught a yoga class yesterday; 15 of us each taking a few minutes of teaching, with our instructors watching and taking notes, and a video camera running. Afterwards, we all sat down to watch the videotape together, and the instructors gave feedback on the details (cuing, technical stuff, projection, moving through the room) as our segment unfolded. Then, the tape was stopped, and with love but with honesty, the instructors (mostly, Barbara the studio owner and chief instructor) told us about ourselves.

Pretty freaking powerful - she's quite intuitive and on the mark; and has a way of saying, with compassion but holding nothing back, "This is what I see" - and more than a few people ended up in tears; ironically because her biggest feedback was that they were holding something back, not letting themselves be seen or connected to.

Anyway, when it got to my turn, I was, of course, squirming. My voice. My physical size. I avoid cameras and video for a reason. And though the logical part of me saw pounds added to even the lithest yogis by the camera, it was really hard to see myself.

But my feedback was interesting. Barbara started off apologetically; she had something to say that she had been thinking of for a while. That I was an expert at "blending in" - that she'd be teaching a class and about 1/2 way through realize that I was in the class. That I was not physically or personality wise the sort of person who one would tend to miss, but I seemed to have a chameleon-like ability to not be seen. Sounds like my survival skill - first as a bullied little kid, and later as a transwoman looking to become invisible - she pretty much nailed it.

Her apology came because she had noticed that I was becoming less and less that way in recent months and was very present and visible teaching, but that ironically, I was completely lost in the videotape. Unlike most of the trainees who glued themselves to the front of the room, I was moving through the class during my segment, and so was hard to spot (among all the students and the other trainees, doing adjustments) and hard to hear on the tape (I was both visible and audible in the room, just not picked up on tape)

It was really good, really powerful. Yeah, the whole watching myself teach a yoga class on video tape scared the shit out of me, in a sort of "wanting to wrap myself in baggy sweats and tee shirt and hide out in the back of the room from here on". But the feedback was wonderful - that I taught from my heart and my passion for the practice. That I connected with the students.

As I went to sit down at the front of the room after class, one of the other instructors whispered in my ear "Do you want to sub my Friday night class?" - she was joking (I think) but it was nice to hear. The same instructor said, during feedback, "Every studio has that girl, the one who always seems to be there, who is passionate about the practice and the people, who everybody loves to see, who is gonna be a great teacher just because how can she not be? You're that girl...."

Lot to chew on. There is a small part of me wanting to just crawl into a hole and disappear. Hopefully, the part of me that is brave and passionate and funny and wise will win out....and I'll stay the course.

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