Teach the Teacher Lesson 8/26/2013: “Who, Me? I’m not flexible enough!”

yoga-bs-300x300“Who, me??” Yes YOU, dear student. It’s interesting. I have been noticing lately that some of my strongest, most committed yoga students sometimes fail to recognize their own power. These are a handful of students who come to every class, move with intention, explore new poses without fear, and, simply put, do the work.

So naturally every now and then I ask them whether they’ve considered teaching. Not just yoga, but any activity they’re involved in with the same passion and focus I witness on the mat in class. Just when I’m expecting a “yes”, or even a “hmmm, maybe”, or even an “interesting, hadn’t considered that…” the response I get is, “who, me? Are you kidding? No way,” and, wait for it…”I’m not flexible enough!”

Sigh. I expect to hear this from folks who’ve never taken a yoga class before, as understandably old myths die hard. In Yogaland, the non-practitioners all somehow seem to believe this discipline is reserved for human Gumbies. But these are students who have practiced enough yoga to know that physical flexibility is just one component of a strong practice. Or so I thought.

When I hear the response, “I’m not flexible enough,” I try to emphasize that physical flexibility is not a requirement to practice, or even teach, yoga. In fact, newer students who are overly mobile in the joints are, in some ways, at a distinct disadvantage as it can be difficult to integrate into proper alignment when it is so easy to collapse into the joints. Might feel good, but over time this lack of muscular integration can lead to injuries, especially in the shoulder and hip joints.

What is required to enjoy teaching, and even practicing yoga, is a flexible mind. A mind that recognizes yoga offers so much possibility and opportunity to become powerful, confident, balanced, grateful, the list goes on. And it has nothing to do with whether you can touch your toes.

So, dear students, if you have any desire at all to teach, please, go do it. The inflexible-minded need you!

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Possibility Over Limitations. You CAN Choose

Baptiste_Menla_055It’s been three days since returning from Baptiste Level One Teacher Training. One week of training. That’s all. And yet I am completely reinvigorated. Inspired. Ripe with possibility. And most of my perceived limitations I brought into training have quickly dissolved into possibility.

This is thanks to Baron Baptiste, founder of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, who lovingly kicked me, and 160 other yogis, in the booty for 5 straight days. He made it clear from the beginning: participate fully or go home. Fortunately, all 161 of us chose to stay put, but not without serious work. For one week we sweated, grunted, cried, high-fived, danced and shouted to the top of the Catskill Mountain tops to see ourselves through the grueling week. But holy asana, we made it. And it feels extraordinary.

I like to think I’m a highly motivated, passionate person who goes full board (and then some, to the irritation of those around me) into anything I’m interested in. Going into training, I thought no one could amp my yoga up another notch. I practice daily, teach almost daily, read about, talk about, watch YouTube clips about, chatter on FB about, yoga, yoga, yoga. But this training pushed me farther. Here’s how:

  • My typical 60-75 minute daily practices became 4-5 hour asana sessions with tons of partner work, demonstrations and adjustments for refining my practice woven in. Water alone would not sustain me. I was gulping down 2-3 bottles of Gatorade during practice by week’s end.
  • My ordinary hand stands (sometimes they land, sometimes they flop) turned into wild ass variations with the help of my supportive partners. Crow to hand stand. Spring up with a block between the thighs to hand stand. My yoga room started to feel like a giant jungle gym filled with human jelly beans.
  • My teaching, which I thought was rock solid based on compliments from students and fellow teachers, I discovered was marginal at best compared to the powerful, dynamic teaching assistants working directly with us. I realized I was relying on my voice and alignment cues alone to guide my students along. I learned the power of using my body, animation, and hands on adjustments to truly give my students an experience in my classroom.
  • My perceived friendly nature and ability to connect with others shot to a whole new level during my week at training. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I truly looked into another person’s eyes, shared my truth without any self-censoring, or let go of my iPhone and iPad for more than a few hours.

Possibility is my buzz word this week. One fellow in our program said the following to me after we shared our visions for the future: “Shannon, I just see so much more out there for you. Why are you holding back?”

Why indeed. Time to let go of the false limitations standing in my way. What’s holding YOU back?