I spent the greater part of yesterday afternoon doing a 7-year purge. cleaning out old binders full of information from all of the teacher training programs I have been a part of in the last 7 years. My husband looked at the stack of articles that went into the recycling and said: "Man, good purge!" It feels great to liberate myself from a feeling of "having to know" all of those things whether they interest me or are relevant any more or not. Ah... Along the way I found my homework from my very first training, when I was also working in a psychiatric setting as a dance/movement therapist starting to offer yoga to my clients. The following is an excerpt...
" 'Amy' is a 16-year old on the inpatient unit who came in for cutting her wrists and overdosing in an intentional suicide attempt after an argument with her parents. She is overweight and at the beginning of the scheduled yoga group she said she has 13 pins up and down her spine due to scoliosis. ... When we started, Amy made comments that she can't do yoga and I encouraged her to try and I let her know that yoga is good for scoliosis because of the emphasis on alignment. She said: "my back doesn' move." But she made it through a few seated postures with no real problem. Then as we moved slowly through some positions in the sun salutation, her fear and anxiety started to come out as she vocalized: "NO Way" and "You're crazy" to some of the poses.
In standing poses (Warrior I, Warrior II, Triangle) she participated actively and responded well to praise by staying in the poses a bit longer than in the floor poses. She even smiled a few times. In tree pose she really found her groundedness.
Once back on the floor for seated stretches she became anxious again. She reminded me of her injuries and also at one point shouted: "i can't do that, I'm too afraid I'll hurt myself" Because of that I let her not do the pose. In that moment I remembered how it felt to be afraid in yoga - that I struggled with the idea of inversion. My teacher recommends that all teachers remember constantly that they were once a "raw beginner" too and that helps the teacher understand the experience of the student. So with my presence and voice I tried to let her know I thought she could do it, but at the same time I respect her decision not to try right now.
After all of the anxiety and fighting in the session I expected Amy to struggle with savasana. In my experience, more anxious patients are not able to relax in savasana and are often fidgety. But Amy was able to get very still and lay in savasana for almost 10 minutes. Afterwards she said, "I"m going to start doing that at home."
The surprise is always at the end of class when the person who was making snide remarks and pained faces then says how much benefit they get from the class. I think, as gentle teachers of people in motion, we touch them deeper than we are possibly aware of and they feel and remember and cherish so much of the relationship and instruction that again we do not even realize. This is humbling and an honor when we get a glimpse of the impact we can have. And so, I've been thinking a lot about teaching from a positive, accepting, heart-opening viewpoint. Starting from what is good and beautiful and right in the pose and bringing that to the forefront rather than giving negative feedback. Yoga changes lives and we, as teachers, are the delivery system. We off the ladder to climb into the tree of yoga. And we are the steadying force as the student climbs higher. It is a humbling role for anyone."
And so it continues to be seven plus years later.