Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Invisible Dartboard

First things first: Huge congrats to all the folks who started their teacher training journey this week!  Today is the third day of Week 1, and I'm quietly counting down until Week 5 when I get to go visit.  I'm having fun stalking you all on Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs.  Guys, stop blogging so much!  I'm never gonna get anything done here!!

When I was nearing the end of my teacher training, I started to get a tiny bit worried about teaching.  I wasn't worried about saying the dialogue.  I had that part down cold.  But like many trainees, I was kinda baffled about the parts in between the dialogue.  Bikram gives us all the words that we need to teach the postures.  He even gives us some bits and pieces to say in between the postures.  (I am very faithful about using some part of his "instructions during savasana" in every class I teach.)  But still there are... let's see... 21 short (twenty-second) savasanas in the class, along with a 2-minute long one in the middle and another long one at the end, where we can say whatever we want.  It's improvisation, and you do it for the first time when you teach your first class.  Yikes!

Well, it turns out that I had nothing to worry about.  (Trust the ____... )  After obsessing over yoga for ages and being totally immersed in it for over two months, I found that I have plenty to say.  (If you've read my blog, this is not exactly a news flash.)  I actually got a lot of compliments on this when I had first started teaching, from students and from other teachers.  I thought it was hilarious when I taught these classes that were nearly 100% verbatim dialogue and nothing else (like seriously, saying the exact same thing 4 times in a row) and students would come out saying "I loved how you used your own words!"  How I did what?!?  That is, like, the opposite of what I did!  But they meant that they liked the stuff that I said in between poses.

So where do I get that stuff?

Number one, I steal it.  Hello, this is not news.  Any Bikram teacher who claims not to do this is lying through her teeth.  We steal from each other liberally and enthusiastically.  I took class with a friend a while back who had tons of great stuff that she said in her class.  When I asked her after class if I could "steal" a certain line from her, she said, "Yeah, I didn't come up with that either, I stole it from so-and-so!"  We love to copy each other.  (In some cases this leads to trouble, which is why we have to keep checking the dialogue...)

Number two, I have been brainwashed by Bikram.  No lie.  It's totally awesome.  I've read every book from cover to cover, multiple times, and I stayed awake for every one of those damn lectures, except for that one time when I closed my eyes for 3 seconds and he caught me.  But this makes my life really easy, because I have Bikram's words in my ear all the time.  It's like having a mini-Bikram riding on my shoulder.  And if there's one thing that Bikram knows how to do, it's talk.  I try to keep listening to my mini-Bikram.

Number three, I just come up with stuff.  I guess this is the "personal practice" aspect.  This is the part that I really can't explain or describe very well, because it just happens.  I think of something that I think the students might need to hear - something that I'd want to hear if I were in the class - and I say it.

So here's the giant question.  How do I know if I'm saying the right thing?

Well... I don't.  Not usually.

At first I thought it was like fishing for invisible fish, but tonight I came up with a better analogy.  It's like throwing darts at an invisible dart board.  The darts are my words, these little pieces of information that I know are right and true.  And the students are all holding up invisible targets.  No two targets are alike, and I can't really see where they are.  Sometimes one dart might graze several targets at once, and sometimes it will fly right past them all without leaving a mark.  Sometimes a dart will fall short of the mark completely, and sometimes it will fly straight and true to pierce the very heart, the bulls-eye.  But of course, once the darts leave my hand, they're not mine anymore.  I don't get to see where any of them end up.  I just keep sending them out, with all the energy and honesty that I have.

There's a fine line between intuition and guesswork.  I know a lot of amazing teachers who never plan their classes ahead of time.  They say that they just know what to say.  It comes to them.  They'll say something in class, without knowing why, and then a student will come up to them after and say, "How did you know?  That was exactly what I needed to hear!"  I've had a few of those moments, here and there.  But it is intuition (vibrational energies align) or just dumb luck (the law of averages)?  Hard to say.  It's probably both.

Earlier this week, I was sitting at the desk after class and chatting with one of the regular students.  We struck up a conversation about the meditation that happens through yoga practice.  I didn't say anything that struck me as particularly new or radical, but my explanation stopped him in his tracks.  He said, "I've been practicing for 6 years and I've never heard anyone put it that way.  That really makes sense."  It was the proverbial "light-bulb" moment for him.  It was a perfect bulls-eye for me.  But... I wasn't even aiming!  I just said something that I knew was true, and it connected to another person.  Fate, skill, or luck?

I just keep practicing.  I have a good supply of darts, and I collect more of them every chance I get.  I send them flying every day, and I doubt that I'll ever really see those targets, but that's no reason to stop.  Because when I do hit those bulls-eyes, when I pierce the heart of the invisible target, I do - sometimes - get to see the result.  The result is yoga glow.  And it's awesome.

No comments: