Or: "There and Back Again: A Yogi's Tale by Juliana"
At this moment, I am hanging out at my favorite coffee shop, just up the road from my house. Just finished eating a nice avocado and tomato open-faced sandwich - very California. They have great music here. I used to come here to study all the time. Eight months ago (really??), I was sitting in almost exactly this spot, staring blankly at research papers, realizing that I was totally done with that path, trying to figure out how I was going to get out of the grad school gig and make my way to teacher training. And now here I am. Back. Done. Made it.
And now, of course... everything starts.
Monday was Day Zero. I taught my first class at 7am. It was weird and surreal. I went into the studio early so that I could get myself situated. That turned out to be a very good plan, because when I stepped up on the podium (or rather box) for the first time, I just started crying. I don't know why. There are a million reasons why. So I cried on the box for a little bit, then I just started saying the pranayama dialogue, and by the time I got to the 6th or 7th breath, I felt more normal again. Kept going through the end of the first posture. Dialogue was intact. Then I went back to the desk, opened up the studio, signed people in, and taught the class! There were a couple familiar faces, which was nice. I remembered to say most of the dialogue, I think. It just felt weird. Where am I?! What is happening?! Still reeling from that last week in Vegas. I'd been back home for maybe 12 hours at that point and had spent most of that time asleep! Hah.
So that was number one. I felt so lonely after! ("I am lonely... I feel so lonely... baby come soon..." - Bikram Love CD, track 2.) I mean, it was 7am - the few people in the class who knew me just had time to say "good job!" before they ran off to get ready for work. I don't know what I expected. Trumpets?! Confetti?!? Bells and whistles?!? Maybe a HUG would have been nice? Oh well... I got a nice phone call from one of my friends after class, and once I stopped crying (again), she convinced me that the class had been really good...
I loved the yoga bubble. It's strange to be outside it again. I'm having this weird kind of Stockholm syndrome where I just want to eat shitty Pizza Hut food and watch Bollywood movies all night. I feel like I've just emerged from a parallel universe. I had to remember how to drive my car again. I'm still trying to remember what I used to eat every day, how often I should go to the grocery store, when should I do my laundry. It's coming back to me. Mostly. I just keep thinking of the kids in the first Narnia book. They disappear into the wardrobe and find themselves in a completely different country, and they have whole new lives there. They have adventures, they have struggles, they have victories. They grow up. They become kings and queens. Then one day, quite by accident, they go back home. And no time has passed at all, since they left. Everything is the same there, and they are expected to be the same kids as before. But they're not, of course. They've just lived a whole lifetime, in the space of half a second.
It's kinda like that.
But let's talk about teaching!! Oh. My. God. I'm a teacher!! It's great!!
So class number one was weird and freaky, which I guess is pretty normal. But class number two was kind of FUN!! There were more familiar faces, I felt a little more confident, I got through more smoothly, and I started thinking "heyyyy.... I kinda know what I'm doing up here!" Woo hoo!
I've been lucky enough to teach 7 classes in the past four days, since a couple of teachers have been out of town or sick, and it's been GREAT. It's a fast learning curve! I've got the dialogue in my back pocket (metaphorically speaking), and I'm SO glad I learned the pranayama dialogue a few weeks ago, because it's nice to feel solid and confident from the very beginning of the class. I had trouble with timing for most of the week, because I kept on trying to say ALL the dialogue for EVERY set. After a few classes, I realized that some parts don't need to be said EVERY single time. Like for standing bow, there's a whole paragraph that describes how to pick up the foot. By the time you've been through this once or twice, you can just say "pick up your right foot, same position" for the third and fourth sets. Aha! Nobody ever told me about this! So dialogue-wise, my big challenge so far has been figuring which bits I only need to say once, or which bits I can move to the second set, so that the pacing works better and the whole thing is more streamlined. I finally got it right last night: finished the final breathing right at 88 minutes, leaving 2 minutes for final savasana. Hooray.
So um, that was boring, unless you're a dialogue geek like me. So here's the fun part: I have students!!! And they are so great!! My teachers always warned me that I would be freaked out when I saw a normal room of people doing yoga for the first time. Bikram warned us about this, too (complete with some awesome demonstrations). And they weren't wrong - people do some crazy shit in there. But they're not hurting themselves, and they're trying so hard, so it's all good. :) At this point, I pretty much just tell them exactly what to do and hope that they'll figure it out for themselves eventually. I've had a total of 12 first-time students so far, and they rock. Some of them were really good listeners. It's the craziest thing to just stand there, saying verbatim dialogue, and watch them do the postures right! The dialogue works! OH GOOD!! I was kinda counting on that, but it's a whole different ballgame to finally see it in action. And hey teachers... if you actually say "mama give me money" in standing bow, they actually get the grip right!! Omigod, I couldn't believe it.
There have been some great unexpected moments this week. Like in one morning class, a new girl piped up (very innocently) and asked "can you bend the leg that you're standing on?" after the first set of balancing stick. (Normally no one talks in class, but she didn't know that!) It was so great! I had to pause for a second, and then I said ".... No. Good question. .... Second set!!" In fixed firm pose, the same girl asked, "Can you open your knees?" As it happened, the very next line in my dialogue was "As a beginner, or if your knees or feet hurt, you can open your knees." So I said, "Yes! Actually, I was just about to tell you! As a beginner, you can open your knees." Man... these moments are priceless. You could never invent this kind of stuff.
I started teaching the evening classes in the second half of the week, which are hotter and more crowded. In one of them I had 6 new people at once. One of them bailed and went out to sit on the porch, but the rest made it!! That was a class where I worked on my multi-tasking skills - had to open the doors to let in some air! And we have two doors, so I'm going podium -> back door -> podium -> front door -> podium, while keeping the dialogue moving. Sweet. Again, I'm so glad I practiced saying the dialogue so many times, because when I need to think about something else, like "where's that guy going?" or "should I crack the door?", I just go to the dialogue recording in my head and press PLAY, and it comes right out of my mouth. Hooray.
This week has been quite the experiment. Yesterday, I decided that I needed to ease off the gas pedal a little bit and let the dialogue do this work. This actually... worked. I mean, I still worked my ass off, but I didn't have to strain as much. It was like the difference between riding a horse bareback or driving a chariot. The chariot driver is still totally in control, holding the reins, but he also goes along for the ride and lets the horses do the work. Does this make sense? It felt right.
I got in touch with one of my favorite teachers yesterday, and she reminded me to BREATHE. Good call. I've been figuring that out myself, too.
Anyway. It's all about the students. Sometimes in the savasanas on the floor, I just stay totally quiet, and then I can hear and see the whole room breathe. It's the most amazing thing. The other amazing this is seeing people's faces when they leave. They get the yoga glow!! It works!! I had a couple of brand new students last night, young college girls, who were not really "into it" at first, but they kept plugging through. One of them was really uncomfortable at the end and wanted to bail. I got her some extra water, but she still ended up leaving the room about 15 minutes from the end of class. I told her that it was ok, and she could still come back when she felt better! Then at the end, instead of announcing to the class that we were on the last posture, I opened up the door, saw her sitting on the patio, and called out, "Hey, wanna come back for the last posture??" She said "yeah" and came back in, finished the class with us, made it to the end, had a success. I had everyone clap for the new people at the end. When she and her friend left, they were glowing, shiny. Smiling happy faces. They wanted to know how long their intro packages were good for. I told them "see you tomorrow" and they said "yeah!!" They floated out the door. I floated home.
This is a great job...
Random extra photo - this goes with the Week 8 post, I think. Bikram's expression is hilarious.