My First Week of All Teaching and No Taking

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Hey!  Did you know I’m a yoga instructor? Have I not mentioned that practically every chance I get and in every medium I can?

No?

Hey, guess what: this bitch is a registered yoga instructor.  Pleasure to meet you.

I became registered in this past August, and I actually started teaching about a month or two before that: first as a substitute and volunteer teacher, and later as a permanent teacher at various and sundry studios.  Right now, I typically teach between 7 and 9 classes a week.  That number can drop thanks to bad weather or no attendance, or spike due to substitute teaching.

This week?  It mother$%&^ing spiked.

With four teachers at three different studios on vacation — plus a community class to help raise goods for a homeless services center — I went from 9 classes to 16.

My schedule looked something like this:

Sunday: 9 – 10:15 am yoga, 4 – 5 pm yoga
Monday: 9:30 – 10:30 yoga, 5:30 – 6:30 pm yoga
Tuesday: 7 – 8 am yoga, 9:30 – 10:30 yoga, 2 – 3 pm yoga, 6 – 7 pm tai chi
Wednesday: 6 – 7:15 pm yoga
Thursday: 9:30 – 10:30 yoga
Friday: 7 – 8 am yoga, 9 – 10:15 am yoga, 12 – 12:45 pm yoga, 4:30 – 5:30 yoga, 6 – 7:15 pm yoga
Saturday: 11 – 12:15 yoga

Now — to be fair — three of those classes ended up getting nixed due to no attendance.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I still got there, set up, and was prepared to teach.  Plus, the community class was on Wednesday, and you can beat your sweet asana I was mentally freaking out because this class needs to be perfect because people are being charitable and what a douchebag thing would it be to halfass or fuck up a class that people are attending because they want to help out and if you mess up they might never attend one of these again so you better get this right or pay the price.  

So the fretting and preparation for that one has to count for, like, five classes.

(Sidenote: welcome to how my brain operates.)

Sixteen yoga classes.  Number of classes I took as a student?  Zero.

There is a misconception about yoga instruction.  People think I’m getting paid to take yoga all day.  And — really — no I’m not.  I do get some benefits to teaching all the time.  I’m moving around when I might usually be stationary and, sometimes, if I talk enough about deep breathing and relaxation, I start sipping a bit on my own Kool Aid and feel a little mellowed out.  But when I demo (aka do the moves on the mat), I always demo modified — meaning I’m not really getting that “good stretch” seemingly everyone goes to yoga for.  And I’m constantly talking, looking around, seeing how everyone is doing.  For some people, that might be how yoga is as a student.  But it’s not for me.

The first thing that usually goes for a yoga instructor is their practice.  Teaching 16 classes might not sound like a lot (as one friend put it, “Sixteen classes?  That’s, like, almost half a full-time job!”), but the amount of time it takes to get to the studio, set up, sign in students, teach the class, answer any questions, clean up, shut down the studio, and drive back, nearly triples the overall time for each teaching assignment.  Also, when you’re teaching at all the times people usually take a class, that means there are no available times for you to hop on in as a student.

For the most part, I’ve been good about keeping up a personal practice.  My home practice has been completely shot, but I still make it a point to attend two classes a week.  And the beauty of teaching at yoga studios is that I get the option of hopping in whenever and taking a class with a fellow teacher (and every studio I work at allows teachers to take classes for free).

This week?  Well.  Not so much.

I guess I could’ve taken a class Wednesday morning or Thursday evening, but I was so exhausted from teaching that it didn’t seem feasible.  Plus, Wednesday was spent dashing all around southern New Hampshire to pick up donated items from friends who couldn’t make the community class (but wanted to donate), and Thursday afternoon was spent dropping off said donated goods (and then going off to boxing class).

I mean, these are the same excuses any busy person uses when they don’t attend yoga but, meh, oh well.

This is probably the first time I’ve gone more than a week without any personal practice.  In a long, long while.  Now that I’ve finally rounded out the week of Teach ALL The Classes, how do I feel?

For one, I feel more adventurous as a teacher.  It can get really boring to do the same sequences upwards of 2, 3 times a day.  I naturally started deviating from my usual song and dance.  I came up with different types of classes, different ways of saying things.  I played around with poses I almost never do and set-ups I didn’t think of before.

Teaching this much also gave me a little more confidence.  It’s easy to feel like I’m only a kinda-sorta, lets-be-real-it’s-all-pretend instructor when I’m only teaching one class every other day.  Or even a few classes three or four days out of the week.  Being essentially on yoga duty all day, every day, gave me an air of authority.  Me?  A real yoga instructor?  Would a pretend yoga instructor be teaching three classes in a row before jetting off to another studio to teach an additional two?  Hmm?

However, the lack of taking classes became very apparent by the end of the week.  While I was telling my students to be all nice and relaxed, I was fidgety as all getout.  Instead of sitting in silence along with them, I’m checking the volume of my music, readjusting my feet, checking the time, scratching my forehead… all the things I encourage my students to avoid.

That doesn’t seem like much — it’s not like I went from Zen master to road-raging Mad Max — but that’s only after a week without getting in my own yoga time.  I might be doing a lot of the same moves, right alongside my students, but I’m essentially doing calisthenics, not yoga.  And the proof is in the pudding.  Technically, the fidgeting.

I mean, you got a taste of how my brain operates.  I need yoga the way a rampaging elephant needs a tranq dart.

But I’m off for a week, off to enjoy Christmas with my in-laws (which is actually a more enjoyable experience than the stereotype would have you believe).  I tend to wake up before everyone else, and I plan on taking advantage of that by doing as much yoga as I possibly can.  Yoga is so popular these days that even my husband’s hometown has a yoga studio — and you can bet your sweet asana I’m going to check it out.

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