Day 17: One of the Many Reasons I Was a Terrible Yoga Teacher

January 31st, 2016

Me, in Yoga Journal

I was in Yoga Journal once. True story. See how skinny I was? I was also a miserable wreck at the time.

I‘m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. The theme for me is “personal, not pretty.” See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

“Does anyone have anything going on with their body I should know about before class?”

I love this yoga teacher. She seems like she really means it. 

“Yes,” I pipe up. “My elbows are basically fucked from picking up my elephantine babies a thousand times a day. I think it’s tendonitis, but I’m secretly worried it’s early-onset arthritis? Also, my knees are a mess—all my joints, really. If we could just not do anything that involves joints at all. You see, I weight 40 pounds more than I ever have in my life, and my body hates the cold, oxygen-deprived mountain air here. Also, I barely ever exercise or stretch, so everything hurts. Yes, everything. Particularly my lower, mid, and upper back, and my shoulders. A LOT. My shoulders—holy shit. I can’t roll them back anymore. I can’t clasp my hands behind my back. I basically can’t move my head, so forget about drishti. Also, my stomach is in the way of just about every twist or forward bend. No, I’m not pregnant. That was last year. But weirdly, yoga seemed easier when I was 8 months pregnant with twins than it does now.”

I didn’t say this. I didn’t say anything. I was a yoga teacher once, and I too used to ask the question at the start of class. I wonder if this teacher, like me, asks it and then thinks to herself “WHY did I just ask that question?” Because here’s the deal, yoga students, we have no idea what we’re talking about! When you tell us that you have a slipped disc, we’re like, er, okay. Now what?

I kid. I’m sure a lot of yoga teachers actually know exactly what they are talking about. I was not one of them. I love anatomy, and studied it quite a bit when I was training to be a yoga teacher. I would read The Anatomy of Yoga like le Bible. But that did not actually translate into helping a student figure out how to do yoga with his or her particular problems. Sure, I could try to keep an eye on a pregnant student and make sure she stood in Tadasana with her feet apart and stayed away from deep twists, but outside of those basic parameters, I was basically bluffing the entire time.

You guys, it’s good I stopped teaching yoga. I actually hated it. It was not my calling, just something I could pull off with a reasonable degree of fake cheer.

I actually think this teacher might kind of know what she’s talking about, because after sister next to me said something about a wrist issue, the teacher made a suggestion to her a good 45 minutes later about how to modify something.

But I still don’t bother to tell this teacher what’s going on with my body. Partly because, I’m loving being an anonymous fatso in yoga these days. In the Bay Area, I was so intimate with the yoga scene that I couldn’t go to a class without knowing half the people there. I often felt like I was on display, like if I had a bad day, people would talk. “What happened to her? Wasn’t she in Yoga Journal once?” (I was.)

Here, they just assume I’m a beginner. And I love that. It’s like, one step beyond beginner’s mind. It’s like Groundhog Day. Oh, happy Groundhog Day! 

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