In July I traveled to Prajna Yoga in Santa Fe New Mexico and spent a week in studentship with a group of teachers from all over the country and the world. We were all there to learn "The Art of Teaching" with Tias and Surya Little. Each of us bringing our own experience and perspective, and each of us prepared to be seen in ways we couldn't imagine.
The stated aim of our six days together is to "provide the student with the practical skills and creativity to teach a well organized, clear and inspiring class. We help teachers who are already teaching bring greater depth and variety to their classes. What makes Prajna Yoga unique is its weave of asana, mindfulness, internal alignment and wisdom sharing. We help teachers develop the skills to teach a class that is not simply a physical workout but a class that is multi-layered."
I was quite nervous going into this training. I was afraid of not being "good enough". I was afraid to stand up in front of a group of mostly strangers (yet that would change as the days went on), and of teachers, and with my teacher making notes and giving feedback. I knew how important this time was for me to let go of old safety nets, end bad habits, and offer new ways of sharing the yoga practice with others.
On the first day, I taught one pose and felt a flock of birds beating about in my chest. I tried to offer what I thought I should do. I sat down after and realized I wasn't being authentic to what I teach. My fear had made me change what I usually do, to what I thought I should be doing. Not at all what was going to help me reach those three intentions I had set for myself. Grateful to have had the chance to get this over on the first day, I was determined to be more "real" more "authentic" to my usual teaching. This wasn't easy, as I was in a totally different room, with all new people, and not teaching a whole class (just pieces to give as many people a chance to get in front of the group as possible.) In a way, this contrived teaching situation seemed to amplify the nervous habits, bad habits, etc that needed to come to light. It didn't make the experience easier, but it sure did help to make it effective.
Each time someone stood in front of the group and taught, we all had the opportunity to hear a new voice, a new perspective on the practice. I began to hear things that I did and said - as well as new, creative ways I hadn't heard or thought of before. I felt inspired by each and every person in the room, and was in awe of the strength, grace, and nurturing that each offered through their voice and their teaching.
The feedback offered from Tias and Surya was compassionate, thoughtful, helpful, and creative. Some feedback was based around the technical aspects of teaching (word choice, speed, voice, etc) and other suggestions were ideas on another approach, a new way, or a more efficient idea.
I am still pouring through my notebook and training manual gleaning new things each time. As the week went on I felt the bond among the group grow stronger. I felt supported and seen by all. This inspiration continues to encourage me to be authentic, to try new things, and to refine what I say even more. I'm noticing it's a process, and that I have to listen carefully as I speak to cut out the things that are pretty deeply ingrained in my teaching.
The big sky and summer storms in Santa Fe offered a transcendent-feeling backdrop to the training. Coming from the drought in California, I was ecstatic about the rain and eagerly watched the clouds roll in.
This nourishing rain seemed to me to be feeding me as much as the time in training. It makes me think of the desert plants well-equipped the savor the water they receive, as it typically comes in short bursts. This make me reflect on the ways my own study in the Prajna Yoga temple happens. A deep soaking happens during a week of practice and study, and then I find myself watching the ways that soaking slowly nourishes the leaves, buds, blossoms, and insights that come in the months that follow.
I've found that my reserves, like the desert plants, have become better at holding nourishment that comes in these weeks of deep training. I sit each morning in meditation and check in with my breath. I look within. This stillness at the beginning of the day seems to be a reservoir for the teachings in the months when the sangha is far away and my own reserves and practice must keep me balanced and inspired.
I am grateful that I also have a local community that supports and inspires me and my practice. As I consider the ways in which I am a student, I look to all the teachers on this path and am grateful for their guidance. I look to all the students on this path and am grateful to be one of them. Namaste.