June 21, 2009

Stepping Up

It's Sunday morning, and I am embarking upon the first week of what could be a challenging summer.

I take on two new yoga classes this week. Monday night, I am teaching the Core/Ab class, a 10 week series, that has been heretofore taught by Barbara, the studio owner and my own teacher. Needless to say, big shoes to fill. (not that we actually wear shoes around the studio but you get the idea). I don't teach as much power yoga as I do other styles (Gentle, Hot, All Levels), and when I do teach, it's somewhat less structured and more intuitive (checking out the energy and bodies in the room, even if I have a bit of a class plan it is rarely more than a particular body area (say, shoulders or lower back), a handful of postures I want to get in or work up to, and my instincts.

A series demands some discipline. Core-Ab will focus, of course, on the core, and on abdominals - so I will be tasked with building up the students from the start through the finish through an increasingly strenuous set of core strengthening postures. I will be working with a more or less fixed group throughout the series. And I will be working within the structure of WHY Power, the studio's signature practice.

At the very least, I'm putting together lesson plans, an outline for the series, and an outline for each class - and I suspect I might spend Sunday afternoons working through some of the postures and sequencing. Prep work for yoga - definitely something I have not spent a lot of time on since my early days of teaching.

On Wednesday mornings, I take on an All Levels class that has been taught for many years by Shankara, one of the more beloved, experienced, and charismatic teachers down at the studio. He's embarking upon a grad school program that will take him out of town a few days each week, and so I got the call to what is a pretty sweet opportunity (to step into his successful class, to work with some experienced students). I've been taking this class the past month or so, and it is different on two levels.

First, this class has developed into a more spiritual space - with silence beforehand, with some yoga teaching woven into the asana practice, with music and chanting. While I have a pretty strong spiritual core that supports and guides my practice, it is mostly under the surface. The skeleton and muscles of my practice - you know they are there but not really on the surface, and talking about this, teaching, is not something that comes naturally. So, in the Jude personal growth department of "being seen" - this class is going to be a challenge.

Second, the class as it has been taught, has been less of a flowing practice, and more a practice of sequential asana - postures stacked atop each other working toward a goal or pinnacle, or strung together in a discrete but coherent chain. My teaching is a lot less structured - my sequencing less about what postures connect theoretically and more about how the postures resonate in the body, feed the spirit. At my best, students feel connected to a flowing, natural feeling practice without a lot of start/stop. So either teaching from a different place (like Shankara has been teaching this class, with his many years of knowledge) or guiding these students into a practice style that is more authentically mine - will be interesting.

And finally, well, Shankara is a beloved teacher for good reason. He's incredible wise, experienced, charismatic, and intuitive. His students love him and woe to the teacher who steps in to sub - there is a palpable disappoitment, resentment, anger even directed at the poor schlub at the front of the room who is, above eveything, NOT SHANKARA. So I've got that going for me.....

I'm really not sure which way it will go right now - being true to my own style is important and trying to be someone else is a recipe for failure, but this is not about me, it's about my students - it's their yoga class. Time will tell how well I do with this. Right now I plan to expand and revisit my yogic reading - seeking inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, Iyengar's Light on Yoga and Light on Life to start. If I can find a theme for each class, do some reading and meditation about that, and build an asana practice from there, it just might work.

It's a temporary thing, these classes. Barb will be back at the helm of the Core-Ab class in the fall, most likely. Shankara will finish grad school or his class schedule will change next semester. Nevertheless, as the summer of 2009 commences, I am feeling a mixture of yogic emotion - happiness at being called to teach, pride at having come to this point in my own teaching, awe at being permitted to step into these important classes and experienced shoes, and a little bit of fear about not being good enough.

Wish me luck!

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