I spent the last 5 days in Tulum, Mexico for a yoga teacher training called LIVE LOVE TEACH. I kept my plans under wraps, because I have learned from experience that announcing a trip before it actually happens makes my internal organs want to sneak out of my body.
I love yoga. It is the one thing in my life that keeps me grounded, makes me aware of my body, and stops me from hurling heavy objects at my husband. In the past decade, my yoga practice has expanded my life: I have great yogi-friends, a calm(er) mind, and pretty nice shoulders. I was drawn to teach so I could share my Prozac-alternative with others.
Unfortunately, once I started teaching, I required a Xanax.
There are an infinite number of teacher trainings out there in the world of yoga: Bikram, Ashtanga, Power, Anusara, Baptiste, Kundalini….it’s a veritable spiritual smorgasbord. One training may promise to give you a yoga butt with a Buddha mind. Another may aim to balance your chakras while eating according to your dosha, while another guarantees radical happiness through the unleashing of your inner Goddess.
My goal was to stop throwing up 10 minutes before teaching a class.
I have a long standing relationship with performance anxiety. In college, my nickname was Clenchy Clencherton; my uptight, perpetually constipated alter ego. Recently, Clenchy has taken up residence at the yoga studio. The more I study and prepare for teaching a class (and Holy Shit do I PREPARE), the more nervous I am walking into the studio. My mind goes blank, my voice becomes pinched, my “Oms” sound like a cow giving birth to triplets. Plus, I forget how to stand or walk and my arms feel really long. I typically leave class feeling elated not because I taught an awesome class, but because I can go home and have a glass of wine.
A few months ago I decided something had to give or yoga was going to become about as fun as balancing my checkbook. That is when I discovered LIVE LOVE TEACH, a vinyasa yoga training that “offers rarely taught teaching skills with an emphasis on teaching passionately, all while expanding on natural gifts and strengths.”
Translation: They are not going to let you escape until you get your ass up there and teach an awesome class. WITHOUT vomiting. Or standing like you just got off of a horse. But the thing is, they do it in a really loving way, kind of like your favorite middle school softball coach who stayed after practice to hit you high pops to center field until you actually started catching them.
It has been my experience that yoga trainings can be either exceedingly practical or over-the-top spiritual; you are either memorizing every ligament surrounding your femur bone, or channeling your inner child by re-enacting your 4th grade band recital when your dad feel asleep in the front row. LIVE LOVE TEACH is a nice combination of both. I learned the proper use of techniques such as breath and flow; of building tension and well-timed release. That part was easy. It was acknowledging that I was teaching from fear (hence the vomiting) that was a little tougher to admit.
Part of the training’s “homework” was to read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I have tried to read this book in the past, but usually gave up in frustration because I had no idea how to tune into my “inner body.” And while I get that Tolle is brilliant, he kind of reminds me of a lawn gnome. Anyway, I gave it another shot and was struck by his 2 cents on the topic of “transformation.”
Transformation is a big buzz word in yoga-speak. Whether it be through speaking to your students’ spirituality, aligning their bodies, or calming their minds through mediation, all teacher trainings strive to cultivate teachers who inspire their students and facilitate transformation. No pressure, though.
But Tolle (and the folks at Live Love Teach) come at it from a different angle. Tolle claims that there is nothing you can DO about transformation. You cannot transform yourself (so you can stop trying, YAY!) . All you can do is “create a space for transformation to happen, and for love and grace to enter. ”
However in order to create space for anything – in your closet, in your suitcase, in your life – you need to throw something out, preferably something that doesn’t work or has shoulder pads.
So, thanks to LIVE LOVE TEACH, I say Adios to Clenchy Clencherton. I thow out the idea that you need to be hypervigilent in order to succeed… that you need to cover your bases and have eyes in the back of your head in order to get “somewhere.” I ditch the notion that you need an outline, flashcards, a spread sheet…that you need to travel with wet wipes, highlighters, trail mix, tampons, 4 Chapsticks, 2 books, a magazine…you know, just in case. I relinquish the belief that everything requires preparation, planning, and scripting – because somehow you believe that this will safeguard you from being FOUND OUT. That somehow you will distract people from discovering that you are not that smart, not that talented…that you are always constipated and kind of disorganized and really suck at math.
Because if I really stop and look at some of these old ideas about myself, I realize that most of them are not even true (and the ones that ARE true….like sucking at math…who really gives a shit?) This week I taught some awesome yoga totally on the fly, and actualy had fun doing it. I was relaxed, tuned-in, and decidedly unclenched. And unlike some of the participants on the training, I was not constipated. I actually poooped in Tulum.