Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dementors at 8:15 p.m.

Last night, while teaching my 8:15 p.m. class, I had a moment where it literally felt like a dementor (ala Harry Potter) showed up and sucked the living life out of all my students - somewhere in the awkward series. And there I was, a stand-in for Harry himself having to find a way to breathe life back into 16 people. And then once they were 'back' it happened again. And again. Up and down, up and down....

This seems to be a late-night class phenomenon. What is funny is that often, breathing at the beginning nearly knocks my socks off! The energy is amazing, often I think people are just so happy and proud of themselves for getting to class at that hour. I know I would be, practicing that late after a likely long day. But then the truth sets in, and the long day aftermath hits, and the energy plummets awfully fast. This is no diss on my students, let me be clear, but as a teacher, it is so interesting to me.

And to the students, who knows - most of us in class truly have a personal experience. Sometimes, as a student, I do notice the room feeling really bright with energy or happiness, and conversely, I have felt days where it feels sluggish or just tired in the room. As a student, you just refocus on your own practice and let all that other stuff in the room go. But to observe as a teacher, and to feel a responsibility to help the situation or fix it, it's a whole different story.

So what do you do? Well, I'm learning - still a new teacher. So last night, I let the folks know that though all the heaters were on, most were set to "fan" not to "heat" and that I was aware it was the 3rd class in a row in the room, and the room was plenty hot. I cracked a window here and there. I gave a pep talk or two and joked around a little bit to lighten the mood. But mostly, I just kept the ball rolling and worked to keep my energy up in hopes of lifting theirs. I think in the end, that's about all you can do in those situations. It is a little scary, truth be told, to feel like your class is falling apart in a way - but in my mind, I just say to myself, "It's your job to not let that happen. Adjust something, make them feel cared for and show that you are paying attention to them!" When I'm suffering in class, personally, it's amazing what a little acknowledgment from the teacher will do to pick me back up. ("I know you are all working so hard, you're doing great - stay with it!" etc.)

What about you? What does your teacher(s) do to bring you back from the dark side??

I'd love thoughts from other teachers or other students on this one! It's just like the yoga, a continuous process of learning and growing and trying out different things :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just over 2 months out from TT...and here's what I think:

It's been just over two months since I got home from teacher training. And as expected, my thoughts and experience around teaching continue to morph, grow and change. Let me give you the lay of the land - well, my teaching land - first.

So far, to date, I've taught just over 30 classes - keeping in mind I had about two weeks off in there, I'm right where I want to be. On average, I have around 6 classes/week now, and as of mid-September, I will have 4 solid classes that are mine, and the possibility of a couple more. I find with my business, contract jobs and fitting in my own practice, 5-6 is the right number. I want to love to teach, I want to truly "bring it" every time I walk in the room, and I don't want to resent it, or my students, just because I'm overextended. So, to that end, I'm feeling really good about quantity of classes in terms of how it maps to quality of my classes. Spot on, for now.

I love it, by the way. I have had some amazing experiences. For example, the other night, I taught 8:15 p.m. after teaching 6 a.m. & 9:30 a.m., helping my mom all day in between after a medical procedure, and I was pooped. I didn't want to go, I called every sub I knew but no one could do it. So I went, cheered up and just decided it would be good (with kind encouragement from Jill and Christian). I got there and had 12 people. Sign in was a breeze - no money exchange at all, no new people at all. Somehow, I managed to learn everyone's names. Awesome. And then I started and the energy in the room nearly blew me away - I felt like I was floating from all the good, happy, energetic, positive vibes flying around. The heat was perfect, hardly anyone had to take a break but enough did that I knew it was hard enough/hot enough. By the end, I was so incredibly grateful to this particular group of students - though I was there to serve them, it was them who served me in the end. I felt amazing, they all seemed so happy and cheerful on the way out - everyone wins :)

So this is what is happening now. Now that the dialogue is fairly solid; now that I can notice common mistakes and help with corrections without missing a beat or leaving people hanging; now that I walk in confidently and feel ready, prepared and capable of teaching. Now, I feel like I belong there, and I'm allowed to be there.

That all said, there is so much to work on. I still study my dialogue because you do lose it if you don't - I will find phrases I realize I've not said in two weeks! Oy! Shame on me. I also still need to figure out how to deal with droves of new people all in one class. One of the less tangible challenges is when the room is full of mixed up crazy energy - when most in the class are *not* focused, lots of fidgeting and what not. Despite reminding everyone and even occasionally calling it out, I still find some classes are very disjointed in terms of energy and I'd like to contnue working on the skills to close that gap, not for me, but for them. Having practiced in that kind of class many times, it can be so draining, especially if you happen to be right on the edge of a rough/unfocused class yourself. In those cases, I know I look to the teacher to manage the room and get things in sync.

Logistically, I'm in good order. I remember back when I started doing Bikram yoga, I would take an eon to prepare, make sure I had all my little thingys to be ready. As a teacher - same thing - I had this little bag with everything you could ever need: toiletries, extra contacts, glasses, dialogue, a watch, blowdryer, curling iron, extra set of clothes, towel...goodness. Now, I throw on my clothes, make sure I can see (contacts or glasses), put the watch on and go. No need now for all that over-planning, I know I'll be ok with the basics. And there it is: Aren't we all just fine with the basics??!!

Otherwise, I hope all is well. I know the next TT starts soon and many of your are gearing up to go! You are ready, trust yourself, trust your body, and be ready to experience whatever comes at you :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Waiting for the 10 for $10 to End...

I love new students. I get so excited for anyone venturing into the Bikram Yoga world, having their first class and getting the honor of guiding them through. I make a huge effort to give them attention and props, make sure they don't get hurt, and encourage them to come back ASAP.

Well, summer is a slow time for Bikram here. So the studios come up with little specials to entice people in from the (rare, short-lived) Seattle sunshine. One of my studios has a deal where you get 10 classes for a mere $10. This causes a lot of people to give it a whirl, which is great - except they come in droves. Last night, my smallish 8:15 p.m. class of 10 people had 2 regulars, 4 people within their first 5 classes, and the rest - 4 - were first-timers. It made my brain hurt! I so badly wanted to give each of them the attention I typically can give to a newbie (usually one, or maybe 2) amongst a room full of regulars. I wasn't able to though, ended up going way over - in fact, for the first time, I skipped the second set of final stretching! A sin, but we were 5 minutes over at 9:45 p.m. and I just had to do something. It was also the first time I had someone leave the room, though I gave her the what'for and reminded the rest of the class why not to do that.

Similarly earlier that morning, I had my 6 a.m. uber-focused regulars, and then at 9:30, the energy in the room was just all over the map! Three newbies - all super young (17, 18...) - and a few who'd only been a few times and then a couple regulars. This, the morning after teaching the class-that-was-to-be-power, with 18 people who had to re-adjust to the change on the spot. Oy! I feel a little wiped, and am glad I don't teach again until Saturday afternoon, one of my favorites to teach.

I'm not trying to complain at all - it's just interesting the ups and downs of teaching, the curveballs I've gotten and the fact that they often seem to get hurled your way all at once. And, being a new teacher, it is challenging when in certain moments, you seriously have no idea what to do to deal with something, so you guess/do your best and hope for the best. I imagine more experienced teachers have a better sense of what to do based on repeated experiences. I look forward to getting more and more experience, so when these things come up, I have a little more of a handle on what to do and can feel good about it afterwards, and more importantly, the students can feel good about it :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aren't Rules Made to be Broken?

Well, I've failed already. Ok, not failed in that sense that I, well you know, failed, but I have come up a bit short in my 30-day goal already. This past weekend, we went to Vancouver to see my Bikram pals Niki (who lives there) and Tara (who was visiting from Toronto). Turns out it was Gay Pride weekend, and we were all delighted to see Bikram Yoga Vancouver have a float in the parade! It was a great time, and after, Jill and I did a great yoga class (with a teacher, Roxanna, who was a dialogue machine). All was well, I finished Day 6 when...

We hit the border. And sat and sat. And got home at 6:30 after a zillion hours in the car leaving me with two options: Racing off to a 7 p.m. class across town, or going to 8:15. It had been a long day, so I looked at my schedule and committed to a double this coming Thursday. Fine. I took the night off, guilt-free knowing a plan was in order to make up for it.

The universe provides. At 8:05, my phone rang and it was another Bikram school pal, Roy, who was in Group #14 with me, and who got the "Flower Petal Blooming" award at graduation. He called to say he just blew into town, unexpectedly and had no plans really. So I picked him up and we went to a fantastic dinner, downed a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and then met up this morning at Jill's coffeeshop for coffee. He's looking (possibly) to help move his daughter to Seattle, and I showed him some neighborhoods and brought him some magazines with good info. This is the "friends for life" reference that you hear happens at training - you're just connected in a way that is hard to describe. Anyhow, it was great to see Roy, and I was so happy (in the end) I had opted out of going to class!

Until tonight...that is.

Because my day was full and I planned to go to a 6:30 class on the way home from teaching my 4 p.m. class. After my class, though, I stayed to help sign people in for the next class - slated to be Hot Power Vinyasa (I know, I know....). Well, at 5:58 when the teacher hadn't come and 18 people were waiting on their mats, I just decided to teach...I wasn't sure what else to do. So, I went in and asked them to get their Yoga on, to let go of any attachment to their Power class and please stay and join me for a spirited Bikram class. The only one who left was a girl who'd just taken my 4 p.m. class - everyone else stayed, and all but 2 had done Bikram before. Even though a few scrunched up their faces, they all worked hard and did well! The power teacher showed up at 7:15 - while we were in Half Tortoise - thinking her class was at 7:30. So, in the end, I had no option to go take class as I didn't get home until 8:30 - and the last class here on Tuesdays is at 8:00. Alas.

So now I'm down 2. And going away in a week or so for 5 I'm adjusting to a new goal, for now: Practicing every single day until I go out of town, and re-committing to 30 days right when I get back. I don't really see a need to do 7 doubles to make my original goal.

I want to say though, that it DOES make me go - there were two times last week I soooooo didn't want to go, mostly for logistical reasons - and my commitment to the 30-days got me there, and in each case, I had great, happy practices. Mind over the matter! I definitely turned a corner and am back in love with the yoga after my little break, and loving teaching again, too. Though, a dialogue review is in order, as evidenced the other day by my Vancouver class that was textbook dialogue, I have a few gaps to fill :) Onward!