I've been teaching yoga for almost 20 years, practicing for twenty-five years. This practice has been part of my life for half of my life. This past week my friend Nina and I have been leading a Yin Yoga Immersion for people who want to deepen their understanding of Yin Yoga. As I always do, I over-prepared, over-worried, over-thought every aspect of this training. I prepared a power point presentation. I included extra articles in the manual at the last minute. I lost sleep worrying that it wouldn't be good enough. The most important thing for me was to do right by these people who had entrusted me, enlisted me, to teach them what I know.
One of the things I have learned as a teacher is that I can only teach what I know. I can only share the experiences that live in my own body and my own heart. When I was a new teacher I tried to regurgitate things I'd heard other people say, things that kind of made sense to me, but not completely. It didn't work. I felt discordant in my own body when I shared that stuff. It was like walking barefoot on a floor that feels clean but you can tell it isn't because every once in a while you feel crumbs underneath your heel or big toe and you have to stop, bend down and brush off the crumbs.
Teaching what is embodied is like walking on a clean floor. It is smooth, clean, and comfortable. I'm aware, as I sit in front of these ten bodies who've made time and given energy to be part of this immersion that Nina and I created, that they want to learn. I am aware that it is our job to give them what they want. Over the last three long days of training I have shared some of my power point about Yin Yoga. I have taught classes, workshopped postures, and offered my thoughts on Yin Yoga philosophy. I have loved sharing what I know.
When I think of my teachers, the ones who have made me go deeper into my own practice of life, not just yoga, I think about the little jewels they have shared with me. I think about the snippets of wisdom from their own lives they have imparted and how seemingly random they were to me at the time that they shared them, but how they have revisited me in my own life often and unexpectedly.
Last night at the end of our long day I had a flash moment of homework for the class. It was unplanned and seemingly arbitrary in the moment I shared it, but I shared it anyway. "Listen for the birds at least three times between tonight and tomorrow" I instructed the class. In the moment, I second-guessed myself; I thought to myself, these people must think I'm crazy.
This morning I woke up and lay in my warm bed under the sheets opening and closing my eyes a few times to get connected to the light and I listened for the birds. I heard the robins that live outside our window. They are so loud they wake me in the summer when we sleep with the windows open. I came downstairs to make coffee and sit on the couch and I listened again. I could hear the chickadees chirping outside and the seagulls down by the lake. Hearing the birds made me so happy. It always does. And then I knew why I'd assigned that homework.