Freshly back from part one of my yoga teacher training at Kripalu, I’m feeling puzzled about how to convey a fraction of what I experienced during the past two weeks. Although I typically love to write about my experiences, several of them seem to lie just beyond words. However, in the interest of inspiring just one other person in the world who might stumble upon this post, I’ll share a story that might illustrate some qualities of my time there: my first practice teach.
The Set Up
The second Monday, each of us was asked to lead a small group (2-3 other students plus a facilitator who would drop in for parts) in a 30 minute class. In this short time, we had to incorporate all 8 elements of a complete Kripalu yoga class. We were required to teach two different breathing techniques and one required posture, but the rest was up to us. Because I was comfortable with my group and what I’d learned so far, I was excited about the opportunity to put together and practice leading a class, but for the most part, an atmosphere of anxiousness permeated the larger group. During lunch and dinner breaks, students asked each other “are you nervous?” and “how are you feeling about your practice teach?” After a little while, I started to question why I wasn’t feeling nervous.
My default is typically to be an extreme planner, an over-practicer, and a learner who memorizes perfectly for evaluations and then promptly forgets everything. However, I had decided going into this training that I was going to approach it differently. For example, I:
- was not going to stress about not having time to do all the readings from the manual in between sessions
- would pay active attention (possibly taking less notes) to try and really absorb the material
- was going to plan and practice at a higher level than usual, then wing it, trusting that it would come out just fine
- would let go of my need to be perfect, and be okay with making some mistakes as part of the learning process
This seemed to be working out for me, until one more person asked me how I was feeling about my practice teach, and it snapped me back into my old habits. Up in the Sun Room during a break, I found myself over-analyzing (down to the minute) when I should be on which posture and starting to write down the exact wording of what I would say. As I did this, I noticed how it felt in my body. My heart started to race, my breathing got shallower, and time seemed to speed up. Thankfully I decided to stop, packed up my things, and headed to the Meditation Room with the Japa mala beads we received early in the program.
The Small Enlightenment
The Meditation Room has long been one of my favorite places at Kripalu. It’s a simple room with a small altar, adorned with one photo of Swami Kripalu and random trinkets and flowers left by visitors. It’s ridiculously silent and peaceful. Alone in the room, I grabbed a cushion and sat down close to the altar, taking in the photo of Bapuji (as Swami Kripalu was affectionately called). In it, he has one hand outstretched with his palm facing out–given that it’s closer to the camera than the rest of him, it appears large and detailed. I closed my eyes and started to repeat a mantra, following along with my mala beads.
After a few rounds, something happened. I first noticed myself sitting a little straighter on my cushion. Next, my ability to take a full breath up into my chest (which is often difficult for me) seemed to just open up. Then my heart started to feel…well, just a little bit stronger. The words “courage” and “bravery” came into my mind, and I started to sense powerful beams of energy radiating from the palm of Bapuji’s hand moving directly into my opened heart. I thought, “I need to teach the Warrior 1 posture, and I am a brave and courageous warrior.” I sat there taking this in for several minutes, extremely grateful and in awe of the seeming infusion. When I opened my eyes, I thanked Swami Kripalu profusely, and left feeling even more centered and grounded than I had before anyone had asked about my feelings around the practice teach.
The Follow Through
My first practice teach went well. I wove the theme of bravery and courage, which I felt Bapuji had re-revealed to me during my meditation, throughout the class. When I stumbled to remember which warm up I was going to teach next, I calmly glanced down at my notes at the title to remind myself, and continued on. When what I’d planned took longer than I expected, I decided to bag the transition to the Warrior 2 posture, and instead gave my group the gift of a longer relaxation. When I realized I probably could have fit the posture in anyway (especially when another member of our group was told she brought people into relaxation too quickly, much as I had), I didn’t feel shame. Rather, I felt proud of how I had trusted my instincts, and believed that over time, I would hone them to be more accurate. Overall, I felt a deep peace about what I had done. I had let go of my need to control every last detail–I had surrendered, and not only had nothing catastrophic happened, but I had flourished.