It's dark out. The rains have returned. The sun seems to not ever fully rise as we enter into the darkest week of the year. This is the land of the shadow and as much as it can be challenging to be here, when embraced it can be an illuminating teacher. This is the time to notice where we are sticky, what habits we'd like to change, and in what ways are we keeping our own spirits in the dark.
I've spent plenty of time this year examining these ideas. On the surface, teaching yoga should be all light, rainbows, and fluffy bunnies. Although there is plenty of joy and blessings in this work, as in all things light there are also plenty of shadows. My own "existential crisis" with my teaching has been about 2 years+ in the making. When I worked for other people as a teacher, I had the container of what was expected and what I was suppose to teach. When I settled into the role of studio owner, I had this new freedom as the expectations had changed. In so many ways this has been such an awesome gift, however it also meant that there were no edges to keep me contained and I found myself often lost in what I actually wanted to be sharing and doing. At the same time my personal practice had shifted significantly since the birth of my daughter. I went from a pretty vigorous vinyasa style practice with a big focus on peak poses or practicing to get myself into some continuing level posture to practicing in condensed ways. I no longer had the time to do full 90 minutes of yoga whenever I wanted and then when I did have time, what I actually needed was restoration and nourishment of my entire body and mind. My nervous system has been through the ringer and having still not slept consistently through the night in 4+ years, my energy level is not quite what it used to be. As the gap between what I was teaching and how I was practicing grew, my sense of authenticity in my offering became less and less. I eventually shifted all my vinyasa classes to hatha style classes to remedy this gap. A decision that literally took one year to make and went through several "never mind" moments as I watched once full classes dwindle to numbers I haven't seen sense I was a brand new teacher. I wish I could say that it totally didn't bother me and that I had no ego involved and that I was just grateful to be of service to whoever showed up but that is not how I felt. It was bruising and I felt a lot of doubt and wondered if I was just a terrible teacher and whether or not I should quit and blah blah blah. No class gave me more grief than my Tuesday evening at 5:45pm.
You see, that was my first baby. My first success. My first class that I built from scratch. I started this class around 2011- ish and it was a new class at a new studio that opened. And when I first took it, there were just a handful of students showing up and after a year or two, it grew to be a consistently 25-30 people. At that time in my teaching career, I had done that before but it was with a community class so this was like a "real" class and I felt a lot proud of what I had accomplished. It also was a place where I had a lot of growth as a teacher. I was able to develop my own style and voice and worked through a lot of common places of how to juggle classes and personal practice and build community and keep your offering authentic and inspiring and I loved it. I have continued to teach this time at Love Hive and it is the only time that I see certain students and get to be a part of the "after work" segment of the community. It is a class that has held a lot of sacredness for me and has been a staple in my life.
All this is say... I will be teaching my last two Tuesday evening classes today, December 19th and next week, December 26th.
Deciding to let it go comes with some grief. And some attachment. And sadness as it is possible that my other class times will not work for some students and that I won't see them quite often. But the truth of my life is that I have a small child at home who needs consistency and her mama and a husband who has spent the better part of a decade without a partner to share in the evening routines and we are both in need of that kind of steady, earthy, routine to keep our little family humming and in place of nourishment. Part of my own growth as both a teacher and a human is to be in alignment with what is true and authentic so that part of the decision was easy to make. The other part... that was a little more challenging.
This brings me back to my shadow. What I came to realize is that many of my sticky feelings come back to my ego, giving me a go around. My shadow demons of worthlessness having a wonderful story to latch onto and shout out confirmations of my lack of value. Part of dealing with the shadow, at least for me right now, is that I have to go through the process of hearing them, of feeling all the feelings of shame, embarrassment, lack of worth, unlovablity. What better way to do this then doing a "Feeding Your Demons" practice with my "I-Got-Attachment-Problems-With-This-Yoga-Class-Demon". Here's how that went.
9 Breaths. Three for my body, Three for my mind, Three for my emotions.
Offering this practice up to the benefit of all beings through the vehicle of releasing my own ignorance and suffering.
I sat on my seat and conjured up this demon in front of me. He was like a large round water balloon shape with tiny arms and legs and a little head. He had Mr. Potato Head type lips, a little clown like hat and sharp teeth. His eyes were cross-eyed and couldn't focus anywhere. His whole body was made of water and he was super uncoordinated. There was no way for him to do any yoga posture as his limbs where too short to really even move. I felt immediately annoyed of him. His uncoordinated body, his clown-like features, and seeming lack of intelligence. I started my conversation with him. Outloud, I asked:
What do you want from me?
What do you need from me?
How will you feel once you get what you need?
I got up and switched seats to embody the demon. To take my turn being him and seeing through his eyes, hearing his experience, feeling his perspective. I answered the questions as him.
I want you to shut up. To stop talking, To realize how stupid you are. To go away and to stop trying to teach anyone anything. To realize how you are not good at any of this and we'd all be better off without you.
I need to be accepted. To be a part of the family. To be a member of the community. I need to be myself.
I will feel free.
I didn't expect these answers and at this point I'm sobbing. I get up. I switch seats back to "mine". I begin to dissolve my body into freedom. It comes out of my fingertips like water. It rains down on him as a gentle warm tropical rain or one of those fancy rain shower heads. He almost immediately dissolves into the water completely and what appears is the back of a women bathing in the rain. All I can see is the back of her which is covered in her full long thick hair and she is reaching her arms up towards the rain. When it was time, she finished and showed herself to me as a tiny women with long hair. She was my ally. I asked her the following outloud.
How will you help me?
What is your pledge to me?
How will I summon you?
I got up and switched seats. She answered.
I am here to help you remember to let your hair down.
I will be with you for every class or offering you ever teach.
You can summon me by saying my name into your hands of prayer.
I asked her her name. Asherah.
(An ancient Goddess known as Lady of the Sea - mic drop)
I got up returned to my seat and sat in the empty space of the practice.
Come join me tonight at Burnside in practice of honoring the shifting tides of our lives. Of the ending of one cycle which is only the beginning of another.
Shiva Shiva Shiva Shambo Hare Hare Hare Shambo
Mahadeva Shambo Mahadeva Shambo
My 2018 schedule starting in February is:
Wednesdays 930am Hive Hatha Burnside
Wednesdays 12pm Hive Hatha Woodstock
Fridays 545pm Honey Flow Burnside
Saturdays 11am Hive Hatha Woodstock
See you on the mat.