Thursday, July 31, 2008

begin (almost) at the beginning

12 students today. I'm no longer on my 13'er roll. No straight-up newbies, but one woman who hadn't been in a while. I feel far more courageous these days with making definite corrections and adjustments, but I toe the line at being a touch overbearing. Often I want to demonstrate postures to give students an opportunity to see the form, hoping that if they see it will help them in their own practice. But just as often I stop myself, because frequently I am one of the youngest people in the room. As much as I want my students to experience the whole practice as deeply as possible, I certainly don't want to intimidate anyone. I know I should let go of assuming I know what's in people's heads, but I do know that some students look at me and think, "Of course you can do that!" I only wish they could have seen me when I started practicing.

Once upon a time I was a hater of yoga. For reals. My arrogant punk brain couldn't even fathom trying something that reeked so terribly of hippie bullshit, and my speed-fed, sleep-is-for-the-weak type A personality had no interest in anything that involved holding still for more than a second. I recall my little-kid self watching Lilias! Yoga and You on channel 13 and being a touch intrigued, but even then I couldn't sit still long enough to try it. After wasting my more formidable years on fast living, fast skating and faster cycling, I found my mind and soul housed in a completely wrecked body. Shattered ankles, a loose right kneecap, one royally damaged shoulder and a slight spinal curvature left me in constant pain. Not to mention the damage I'd done to my own heart. (I mean that literally, not in the "oh woe is me!" figurative blog sense.)

I remember moving to Boston to live with my (then) new boyfriend and work as a messenger. We found a completely lousy (literally) hovel of a studio apartment in Allston. I'd ride all day, then come home to pass out on our secondhand futon... only to wake up without the ability to move my legs. It took a few years (it sometimes takes that long for a messenger to get health insurance, if it ever happens at all) to learn that I had pinched nerves and several really misaligned vertebrae. By then I learned to live with the pain, and took it as a consequence of my job and my lifestyle. I met an amazing chiropractor who actually gave me a few free adjustments in hopes that he could help me (and I'd want to become his patient, of course). Finally I'd discovered that I didn't have to live with all that pain. He recommended I add yoga to my daily activities.

Yoga? Seriously? But I felt compelled to give his suggestion a shot, since he'd already helped me so much.

A friend invited me to join her at her yoga class... and it took every ounce of strength in my body to keep from running from the room. At the same time, my colossal ego insisted that I could do all those wacky postures better than anyone else in the room. Crazy, right?

I have a student who I wish could understand where I began with all of this. I see him struggle so terribly, in ways that are so unnecessary. No... they are necessary. I suffered and struggled just as he did, and managed to come out on the other side so peacefully and strong. As a teacher, though... oh how I wish I could help him bypass all the challenges I faced when I started. But then again, it wouldn't be his journey, would it? Sometimes it is all that drama and all that struggle that defines us. Perhaps my place as a teacher is to reassure my students that the journey really is the destination.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the "all twisted" moniker fits

15 students. For whatever reason I haven't had new students in my class for a while. I had a few new-to-me people; folks who have recently started practicing at our studio. Today I taught one such fellow, but he had such a strong practice I didn't feel I needed to worry about or focus too much on him. I did have one student with major physical challenges due to some serious birth defects. She is so resilient and dedicated. She amazes me. She asked for a few hands-on adjustments, and I actually looked forward to them. I wish I could find words to express how it felt to adjust her, but it seems today's theme is "I am Anna's twisted brain."

The entire class I tripped over dialogue. I told the class to relax their ears away from their heads. I caught that one at least, corrected myself, and joked that separating the ears from the head was an advanced posture. I don't know why I kept messing up my words. It just happened. Maybe my messed-up vision (which has improved immensely) had something to do with it, or maybe the uncertainty of my own place at/in the studio. Who knows? Somehow today I couldn't speak straight. At least I can salvage such days with humor, and the class seems to appreciate that.

I opted to make a lot of corrections, and get a little more fearless with adjustments. The risk worked, since all the students I adjusted thanked me. I spent some time after class working with someone on Locust. My next challenge: how to explain subtle details without talking too much. Again, I don't know if I verbalized that as well as I could have, but I hope it makes sense.

I feel a need to divulge the story of my own path to yoga. So far I've been a bit hesitant, for a myriad of reasons. Namely: I'm not the same person I used to be, so why dwell on that? But then again, technically I'm not the same person I was when I started writing this entry. Sometimes it does make sense to retrace one's steps and see how far one has come. And if someone new stumbles upon this blog, perhaps the backstory will help explain why I write what I write.

Is tonight that night... the night to share the early years? Not so much. Tonight I'll explain the origin of the blog's address.

Kraut were one of the early New York hardcore bands. Like me, Kraut was from Queens. (Yes, I have loads of Queens pride.) For shits and giggles when I toyed with the idea of starting this blog I googled "all twisted" to see what would come up. I always had this song in mind, but I was curious to see if anyone else had used the phrase in a web address.

I like the play on words. All twisted... geddit?!

Monday, July 28, 2008

a short entry about today's class

Another 13'er. Perhaps that's my lucky number. Three teachers in attendance; one new-to-me student, a traveler who disagreed with our hardwood floor. It was a good Monday morning class. When I started I let the class know I felt some discomfort in my left eye, so if they caught me winking they shouldn't take it as flirtation. Everyone got a good chuckle. Always a great way to start.

Except I later learned that the discomfort was something far more serious. Since it persisted during and after class, I removed my contact lens in hoped I'd feel some relief. No luck. I called my eye doctor just in case, and learned I have a corneal laceration. (I strongly suggest you avoid any urge to google that, especially if you have a delicate stomach.) Overall I feel pretty all right, though my left-eye vision is blurry. So I'll quit this entry early and rest my eyeballs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

today's class

13 students. No newbies. Actually, I had five other teachers in attendance. I can't decide which is harder: teaching new students or teaching teachers.

Today challenged me for a myriad of reasons. I never teach well during my period, and today was day one. (Pardon the TMI, but it's my frickin' blog.) I frequently complain about the meager socializing I do in my new small-town home, but once a month I just don't want to deal with other people. Sundays can be especially difficult, because having to teach means tearing myself away from the Sunday Times. (I read the New York Times/You're not gonna change my fucking mind/It's the paper of record/Until you do better/Don't waste my fucking time thank you Men's Recovery Project) I also got some not-so-pleasant news from my parents shortly before class. Having to teach to a couple of people who may change the course of your working life became a touch more difficult under those circumstances. Sorry for writing in cipher there, but that's the best I'm willing to do right now.

Oh, and I couldn't log into our computer when I got to the studio. I actually recall saying, "I really hope this isn't an omen for my class."

All of that said, it still felt like a strong class. In the end I want students to enjoy themselves, and I think they did. I think students respect me and trust me. That means a lot. I don't want anyone going through the motions. I sincerely want our students, even though it's the same 26 postures every class, to experience something different each time they visit our studio. Perhaps one day they merely carry that slow, steady breath for the whole 90 minutes, or perhaps they feel another millimeter of expansion in a particularly challenging posture. It's all something.

I stopped for a short spell to encourage the class to find themselves in the mirror and not shy away from their own reflections. Some people genuinely fear or dislike looking at themselves so directly. I gently reminded the class that looking forward means their practices have the chance to move forward. Perhaps those in the back could use a student in front as a focal point, if the reflection still scared them. It's times like these that I wish I could share, directly, with students how much progress I've made in my own practice. But it's not about me.

So I'll say I rose to my own challenge. Next challenge: how to manage said studio without losing my mind, or my temper. That deserves its own entry, I think.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

just like dancing about architecture

I can only imagine that somewhere on this expansive planet of ours, a dictionary exists defining irony as "blogging about yoga." Take a centuries-old spiritual/physical practice, and combine it with the internet, and... well, who knows what could happen? At the very least I show a touch of respect for the ages by using a second-hand PC that still runs Windows 98. (I also imagine that somewhere in Washington Bill Gates has just fainted.)

Once I crossed the threshold between practitioner and teacher, I felt a still-unsatisfied need to discuss my journey as a teacher and all the crazy, mixed-up things that come up while on that journey. I plan on sussing those things out here, in hopes of maybe seeing some progress in/with my teaching, and maybe with my own practice.

There's also the very real (to me) fact that I am unlike most yoga practitioners and teachers I know. I come from an immigrant/working class background. I'd be nothing if not for Riot Grrrl, NY hardcore and the entirety of the DIY scene of the 1990's. (To be fair I should throw in a nod towards growing up with hip hop in New York, which definitely influenced a lot of where I went and what I became.) All these pieces together create a completed puzzle of a total gadfly - a definite bullshit detector. It would seem, on the surface, that it makes perfect sense for someone always seeking truth to pursue yoga. To me, though, it seems the way many of us actually engage in that pursuit strays far from the truth.

So this will be a blog about a scumbag who does yoga. Trust me: "scumbag" is hardly a pejorative in my lexicon. (And if you haven't already noticed, I have little fear of using more colorful language.) Perhaps someone else will find it entertaining.