By Michael Levin
I taught my first yoga class this week, and that may sound like a small thing, but it’s not.
I’ve taken yoga for decades, and no one has ever mistaken me for a Yoga Journal cover model.
I’ve always loved yoga because of the combination of spiritual peacefulness and physical exertion it offers. I’ve never come out of a yoga class feeling worse than when I went in. I’ve never gone to a yoga class where I wasn’t grateful for the effort the teacher put into becoming someone who could lead others in a yoga class.
And now, thanks to the 200-hour yoga teacher training class I just completed at Yoga Farm Ithaca, a 501c3 non-profit online educational charity, I’ve become a certified yoga instructor in my own right.
This places me as a very tiny link in the chain of yoga instructors that dates back thousands of years.
The question I ask myself is to what degree I’m a different person as a result of my experience teaching yoga, instead of simply practicing it.
To put it in a word, confidence.
It takes a certain amount of guts to get up in front of a roomful of people and tell them that you will be guiding them in a yoga practice for the next hour.
It certainly took a lot of guts for me to do that, anyway.
When I first set out on this journey of becoming a yoga teacher, I sat down with one of my instructors, and told her that it just didn’t seem possible.
Her response was to tell me that many people who love yoga and wanted to teach felt the same way. She then did something very kind for me. We went through about five or six basic poses—downward facing dog, mountain pose, chair pose, and she had me think through and write down what the cues would be for those different poses.
Where do you put your hands? Where do you put your feet? What do you do with the rest of your body? And then she had me cue her, using the information that we had written down. Information that—for the most part—already resided in my head, after having taken several thousand yoga classes over the years.
To my surprise, she followed the cues and got into those positions.
Maybe this is possible, I thought.
I signed up for the Yoga Farm Ithaca online teacher training at her suggestion, and have been immersed in the study of yoga for the last four months, reading, watching videos, taking live classes, attending cueing workshops, meditating, and studying not just the poses, but also the breadth of yoga knowledge that accompanies, in a behind the scenes way, what happens in class.
I had my list of 36 poses with me as I began the class, and I certainly made a few mistakes as I taught. For example, at one point I asked the students to get on their backs, even though I was on my stomach. They were staring at me, and I was staring at them. Finally I realized the problem.
“Okay,” I told them. “get on your other backs. Meaning your stomachs.” And everybody laughed. It isn’t about doing it perfectly. It’s just about doing it and noticing what you are feeling as you go through the practices.
To my surprise, the endless hours of preparation I had put into teaching that class paid off. I might not have cued every pose perfectly, but I cued them well enough for the students to know what to do. One of the things you are reminded to do in yoga teacher training is to tell the students that there is no perfect pose, that their own practice is unique to them. As yoga teachers, we encourage students to connect with how they feel, and what they observe in their own mind as they practice. o me, they all looked wonderful. . It was my great pleasure to tell them so a few times during the class
By the time we got to the end to shavasana, or corpse pose, it was a huge relief.
I had done it.
I felt more confident than ever about myself, because I had risen to a self-imposed challenge that I did not think initially that I could meet.
And then I started to see myself as part of that chain of yoga instructors stretching back into the mists of time, while teaching in a way that is relevant to the modern person. .
Thank you, Yoga Farm Ithaca.