“Wait wait wait…” he stopped me as my students were about to launch forward out of Downward Facing Dog. He being a master teacher in Boston leading a two-day teacher tune up for two dozen of us doing our damnedest to be the best yoga teachers we can in this lifelong, hard as hell but rewarding commitment to share a practice that’s changed our own lives for the better.
“Why are you asking them to lift their heels?”
Uh…because it sounds good? Good answer, Shannon. Not. Truth is, I didn’t have an answer, other than it’s what I’ve always cued in that particular transition. Until now, I did it because somewhere along the long line of yoga teachers before me, I heard it in class, adopted it, and copied/pasted it into my teaching. Someone else’s words spewing out of my mouth. Again and again.
“Try that again. This time without the heels cue.” Sure thing. No problem. Except I failed. Time and again, the cue spilled out before my brain had time to pump the brakes. Ten transitions, and 10 are-we-done-here thuds to the top of the mat by my poor students before I finally got it. Jump to the top of your mat. No preamble! So simple. Right? No. Redacting the lift your heels prattle out of my cue took a level of focus on par with threading a needle in the dark with one eye closed.
Until now, I’d failed to notice the clunky result of my half-a-breath-off lift your heels cue in every transition from Downward Facing Dog to the top of the mat.
In yoga teaching, we call this a blind spot. Blind spots are sneaky. Insidious. Hidden below layers of habit, ego, I’m always right syndrome, apathy (aka I don’t give a shit syndrome). I realized in my live teaching moment I’d been suffering from all of the above:
- Habit. It’s what I always do. How many times have we fallen into this trap? I always drink coffee. Never tea. Took me 15 minutes to resist going off menu and insisting on coffee when meeting up with a friend in Cambridge for tea. Tea, not coffee Shannon. Gorgeous varieties of loose leaf blends and aromas. Finally chose a lovely mint tea. And recognized a habit that might be worth breaking.
- Ego. Whaddaya mean I can’t cue this rudimentary transition? I know how to get their feet from back to front already. Except I didn’t. At least not effectively, until I put my ego on the shelf and tried a new way. A way that worked. Wow. Imagine if I could put my ego on the shelf in other situations, like not judging the guy two rows up on the plane failing to cram a purple over-sized suitcase into an overhead bin that was having none of it. I could have avoided the guilt that consumed me later as he sat down, asked all about my yoga practice and weekend in Boston. Get over yourself Shannon.
- I’m always right syndrome. Our group was reminded at the beginning of the weekend that we were about to receive the highest level of training. Not of the three-hour, non-stop sweaty vinyasa variety, but of the drop what you know variety. Live coaching requires being coach-able. I had to drop what I knew several times during practice teaching and listen for blind spots everyone but me were discovering in my teaching. If I’d insisted on being right, I’d have nothing to reflect on here – in this blog post.
- Apathy. Big difference between saying it’s good enough and I’m good enough. Through tons of practice, inquiry and meditation, I’ve gotten closer (not totally there yet) to I’m good enough in my teaching. Even when I make a mess of class, I know it isn’t a reflection on me as a human being. I’m clear in my mission to serve others and teaching best as I can to manifest that mission. When I cave to it’s good enough, however, the fizz goes flat. Any pursuit I care about requires me to do better than before. In Baron Baptiste’s book Journey Into Power (the bible of yoga to those of us who practice and teach Baptiste Power Yoga), Baron writes that we either grow or we die. Sobering! But true. Embodying an it’s good enough attitude can erode into I don’t give a shit territory, kinda like buying a damaged garment with the “as-is” disclaimer on the tag. Never returnable, of course. Last thing I want to leave my students with is an “as-is” good enough practice they wish they could get a refund on. Spring for a pair of new sneakers instead of that uninspired class by that uninspired teacher who has zero interest in growing her craft.
Thanks to my tune up, I’ve got work to do. In my new town. Teaching yoga. Growing. And allowing you to flow to the top of your mat free of any lift your heels pointless platitudes. A special thank you Brandon Campagnone, Naima Workman, and Coeli Marsh at Baptiste Power Yoga Boston for keeping me inspired and on the path of growth.
How are you working to unveil your blind spots?