I have found that teaching Yoga is as much of a learning experience as taking a class. Other people's bodies, experiences, and insights can offer amazing, enlightening pieces of information. But there is another set of learning that is inherent in teaching - it is exhilarating, spontaneous, and sometimes unsettling. I am referring to moments when the teacher herself has an on-the-spot insight and decides to step off of the lesson plan and on to the tightrope of following that insight wherever it might lead.
The first time this happened to me, it was a minor point: I was leading the class through the initial breath meditation and suddenly noted, "Note how the breath supports the spine through the entire action of inhalation and exhalation. On the inhale, the ballooning of the abdomen acts like a supportive pillow. On the exhale, the abdominals draw in and provide a pillar." I hadn't planned on saying this, it wasn't something I had really thought about consciously. But there it was, and it resonated as a basic truth.
The second time it happened, it was a bit more scary, because the concept was more daring. At the end of the penultimate class of the session, I suddenly said, "For the last class of the session, you have homework: bring your favorite and most challenging pose to class. We will share the poses at the beginning of class and program the class on the fly." As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wondered who had said them. Like automatic writing, they had flowed out of me, unbidden and unconsidered. Yet that "favorites and challenges" class has become a tradition with me and is tremendously popular with the students, who gain a lot of insight on their evolving relationship with the poses both from their own analysis as well as from their fellow students.
The latest bit of wisdom that flowed through the open channel was during a discussion on alignment. I spend a lot of time with my students' shoulder blades: opening the fronts of the shoulders and settling the shoulders on the back. I often refer to how we type, drive, and do many other daily tasks in a hunched fashion, shoulder blades splaying off the back, chin jutting forward. Yesterday, I went one step further and wrapped my arms around myself. The wisdom of Loretta and Lianne must have been percolating inside, because I suddenly recognized that protective, wrapping action: the action of grieving. "Let's move away from 'grief pose,'" I said. "Time for some backbends of joy!"