Here’s a brief little production disclaimer: The writer in me normally has to maniacally polish any and everything I write, whether it’s a book or a blog post. I realized today, though, that I’m going to have to ease up on that if I’m actually going to document this training in real time. Today made it abundantly clear that I’m going to be too busy, too brain dead, and too tired to do my normal Type A thang. So please excuse the general lack of eloquence that is about to ensue.
So my plan to be well-rested for the first day of class didn’t exactly pan out how I’d hoped. I finally fell asleep just before 1 a.m. and then was jolted awake at 5 a.m. by an at-first-unidentifiable sound. After a few seconds I realized it was the emergency bell going off in my building’s elevator and that someone was stuck in there (sidebar: can you imagine a worse way to start the day than trapped in a claustrophobic closet-sized elevator at 5:00 in the morning?!). I called the property manager, then laid in bed with my eyes wide open until my alarm went off 45 minutes later.
Today really did feel like the first day of school. Everything was meticulously laid out and prepared and ready to go–definitely not par for the course around here. Also like the first day of school was the nerves. I actually didn’t expect to be as nervous as I was. My stomach was churning as I rode the T from my apartment to the yoga studio, wondering what the hell I’d been thinking signing up for this thing. I became convinced that every other person in the class except for me was going to be a master yogi.
Despite the fact that I got to class almost 20 minutes early, the room was packed. I had no choice but to put my mat directly in front of the door and was ducking and dodging as people came in and out. The class was jam-packed with 31 students and 3 teachers, including the studio’s owner.
After a brief chat, we began with yoga practice and meditation. I have no idea how long anything lasted because there are no clocks in the room whatsoever, and I certainly didn’t have my cell phone. It was weird, having no idea what time it was all day long. Then the fun began: Just like I knew would happen, we all moved into a circle to introduce ourselves and explain why we were in class (which was quite interesting, actually–people’s reasons definitely ran the gamut). We were given the books we’ll be reading for coursework and a syllabus. Not surprising, but this class is intense–lots of homework on top of long days.
Before we broke for lunch, the head teacher warned us not to “give into our compulsions.” In other words, she said, no coffee, no heavy foods, no smoking, no tweeting, or Facebooking. So I took my sack lunch across the street to the Common and did something that I never really do: I just sat there and ate. I didn’t check Facebook; I didn’t look at my email. I just ate (and made a couple of quick phone calls, after). The disconnect for 9 hours straight made today a novel experience in and of itself. In a good way.
Back in class, my stomach lurched: We were told that each of us was going to teach the class Downward Dog. Around the class we went, all 31 of us leading the class through a Downward Dog sequence. Now, listen, I know that this is a teacher training class, but I am nonetheless terrified of public speaking and it hadn’t even entered my mind that we might actually be doing any sort of teaching in the imminent future, let alone the first day. I was close to the end, which gave me a whole lot of time to fret before it was my turn to lead the class. Hoping no one else could hear my voice shake, I managed to crack a joke to begin, then led the class through a very clunky sun salutation into Downward Dog. It was like my entire decade’s worth of yoga knowledge flitted right out of my brain as soon as I had to teach.
After the dread teaching session, we spent a long time dissecting Downward Dog, then did the same with Sun Salutation A, which we were warned we would have to teach in class tomorrow. We were broken down into groups of three, with each of us switching off to lead/”teach” the other two. My two groupmates and I concurred that it’s so strange how, normally, we could probably rattle off Sun Salutation directions without even thinking, just from attending so many classes: “inhale flat back, plant your hands, jump back to chaturanga, etc.”. But when you’re on the spot and not doing the moves yourself, it’s amazing how much concentration it takes. Finally, we practiced adjusting our partners in Downward Dog.
Somewhere during this final portion of the class, one of our teachers mentioned how the public speaking part of teacher training had been the most difficult for her. My ears perked up because that is not what I would’ve expected from this girl–you know the type, striking and well put together with a great air of assurance about her. As everyone packed up at the end of class a few minutes later, I approached her and asked how she’d overcome her fear. She told me she’d always hated public speaking–used to break out into a sweat and have heart palpitations at the thought of it (which, unfortunately, sounds all too familiar to me). She told me it took a while for her to get over it, about four months’ of teaching.
“What finally happened?” I asked.
“I just powered through it. It was really hard,” she told me.
Although I appreciated the solidarity, this wasn’t necessarily the best news. But then, she went on to tell me about how transformational the experience and breaking through that fear had been. That once she broke through that public speaking wall, she also transformed socially. She was no longer shy and afraid to speak to people as she had once been. It was pretty inspiring to hear, actually. If I could walk away with even just that, this session would be money well spent.
I expected today to be tough physically. But, I have to say, I actually feel okay on that level (though I’m sure that will change as the days continue). Mentally and emotionally, though, today was extremely difficult and, at times, terrifying. Definitely the most intimidating situation I’ve been in in a long time. Despite this, I walked home with a bit of a spring in my step because I’m actually doing this. Even if it is scary. Finally!