Fear and Loathing in YTT

Carnival of Souls

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Last night I attended my weekly teacher training class. It’s three hours of learning, questioning, bliss, rapture, correction, asana, fear, terror, and everything in between. Last night it was mostly fear, self-loathing, and a complete lesson in humility. All day long I was gearing up for the fact that I would most likely have to teach. I knew from last week’s class that we would dedicate a chunk of time to teaching three poses with ‘linking’ actions. Meaning we had to choose an instruction that we could teach in all three poses that would link the three poses together, a common thread between them.  Not everyone would take a turn, but something told me I had a good chance of getting picked to teach and I’d better prepare myself, at least emotionally. So after finishing my homework assignment, an essay on the four aims of life, I checked out the teaching syllabus of postures and practiced teaching a few of them. Everything seemed to be in order. I thought about the foundation of the pose, working my way up from the feet to the legs, to the hips, and chest. I practiced how I would mirror the students, going left when they go right, etc. I was in a good place.

So class time comes and lo and behold I’m chosen to teach the first three poses for the evening. I’m given Gomukhasana (cow-faced pose, arms only) in Tadasana, Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose), and Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch pose). Sweet, I practiced two of those before class and spent an hour over the weekend doing Ardha Chandrasana with a senior teacher in a workshop. I’m told by my teacher that in assessment you are given 40 minutes to teach six poses, so I should be able to teach these three poses in 20 minutes. Er, ok then. She gives me a few moments to skim over my notes and come up with a linking action that I can use to teach these poses. My heart is racing, my eyes are scanning the pages but not really SEEING anything, and I’m looking to my classmates for some sense of encouragement. One of them leans over and says ‘You’ll do great, break a leg.’ ‘I probably will’, I thought. Here goes! I step up to the front of the class and instantly my mouth goes dry as a bone. It should be pretty obvious to you but I’ll say it anyway, I don’t regularly teach. I keep thinking that I need to get it together, find a few friends or neighbors or total strangers for that matter, and begin a weekly class!! But it hasn’t happened yet, hence the dry-mouthed, fearful, intense class experience!

So, I dive in. I ask everyone to come watch and then I announce the pose, define the sanskrit name, and demonstrate the pose with as little instruction as possible, defining the shape of the pose instead. At least I thought that’s what I was doing. I was interrupted by my teacher every 30 seconds or so, so she could tell me how I wasn’t doing these things. I asked the class to go back to their mats so that I could lead them through the pose. More interruptions, more dry-mouth, more feeling like everything I had learned about these poses was slipping out of my brain the longer I stood in front of the class. Uh-boy. After getting through both sides of pose #1, and feeling like ‘hurray, one down and two to go,’ I was asked by my teacher, ‘Isn’t there anything else you could teach them about this pose?’ Uummmm, YES, of course there is (brain struggling to think of WHAT that is). Let’s do it again. Another demonstration, another round of teaching the pose on the right side, then the left. Look at the students, who is struggling, who needs a belt in this pose, can they see you properly, can you see THEM,  your right is their left, use direction words not abstract ones. Wow, this could take all night. And it practically did. What was supposed to take me 20 minutes took me 37!!! Not good. If this were assessment I’d get a big fat F.

Ok, I’m not going to rake myself over the coals through this entire thing. I did do a FEW things right and more importantly, I got through it!!! When my turn was over this huge wave of relief swept over me, not just because I could slide back into the depths of the classroom and be out of the spotlight, but because I faced up to the fear of teaching and survived. Even though there were so many things that needed correcting, it was a fantastic learning experience and I felt incredibly charged up afterwards. Add to that, the newfound respect I have for my teachers. There are a myriad of things that you have to be aware of and think about when you’re in front of a class full of students and keeping all those balls in the air is HARD work. Not to mention that most of my teachers make it look dead easy. So props to them (no pun intended) for learning the art of teaching and being able to do it with grace, ease and poise.

The more opportunity I take to practice teaching, the more the anxiety will decrease. For now, I have earned immunity for next week’s class so I can sit back and watch others teach. Mmmm.

About beckyoga

Interested in yoga, design, dance, music, and dogs.
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3 Responses to Fear and Loathing in YTT

  1. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for posting this! I can so relate to this whole experience. I have been teaching for two years and so am completely comfortable when it is just me and my students but there is something about teaching in front of one’s peers and even MORE daunting one’s teachers.

    And it does make you appreciate how incredible our teachers are – I watch Manouso deftly teach 90 people during the intensive – everything linked – one action leading to another from pose to pose and I think that I should just give up because there is NO way I will even come close. But, that is a silly thought too – we all have to start somewhere and it will get easier the more you do it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post. I’m in YTT as well and just experienced the “thrill” of teaching my first class. It was a daunting experience – but I too felt a sense of joy when it was over. I have so much to learn, but the only way to learn is by doing.

  3. Eve says:

    Ah yes, a very scary experience for everyone, I think.
    One thing I find useful and comforting while doing peer teaching is remembering how friendly I feel toward the teacher who’s in the hot seat when I’m one of the practice students.
    Keeping that knowledge of the friendliness of my peers, and of my teachers’ and eventually assessors’ desire for me to do well, seems to help with the nervousness.
    If anyone has a cure for the dry mouth, please pass it on. I keep a glass of water handy when I’m doing peer teaching and wish I didn’t have to.

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