This morning I guided my good friend Emilie through a yoga practice. It was my first private session. While I’ve worked with my teacher trainee peers and my parents, this one-on-one scenario was a new challenge for me. Usually challenges come with butterflies. But I didn’t feel those flittery-fluttery butterflies that I usually get when I’m about to embark on something new and untested. I was very calm-yet-excited to be working with Emilie. It was an interesting yin-yang happening within me, the juxtaposition of calm and excitement. I felt positive, confident and ready share yoga. That was a good sign, this uplifting feeling versus the nerves (aka “butterflies”) I had anticipated.
Emilie, like me, is embracing a lot of change in her life. She recently quit her job to follow her culinary and journalistic passions — and is charting an exciting path forged by her intuition and dedication. I knew I could be more “yogi” and less “Xsport Fitness” with her. Emilie is also training for her first 5K, so her legs have been put to work in recent weeks. Having this background on my student helped me determine how I would slowly navigate the practice — keeping in mind that I am a beginner and it needn’t get too “fancy.”
Our practice included:
- Long Anapanasati
(to help her plug deeper into her body, tune into her breath)
- Cat/dog in table
- Table with alternating arms/legs lifted
- Downward facing dog
(working on the alignment of the pose)
(emphasizing the alignment, from the ground up)
- Slow breakdown of Sun Salute A
- Short flow of Sun Salute A
- Warrior II
- Twists (skipping backbends)
I found myself really embracing the “painting” that comes when guiding a yoga class. We spent the first 10-15 minutes on meditation and the breath, and I enjoyed guiding this, also allowing for silence to fill the room so that Emilie could focus on her breath. Toward the end of this intro meditation, I read a poem from “Fire of Love.” It’s one about following the heart rather than the intellect. I thought it might resonate given her current life phase/transition.
When it came to the asana and vinyasa cueing, I chucked my notes and bullet points on alignment … and did the best I could. I already know that I cannot give every single cue at once, so I focused on the ones I felt were important. In Monkey pose: “Lift up half way, keep a flat back.” In Downward Dog: “Push down to lift up.” In Warrior II: “Ground the back outer arch, keep the knee above the ankle, sink forward a little deeper.” And cueing the breath with the vinyasa bits came relatively easily. Perhaps it’s just habit from all of my years of classes.
I also kept my eye on Emilie. In retrospect, I probably could have come out of my own poses a bit more to help with alignment and just observe how my cues worked on her. Next time. A part of me was hesitant to do that, so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by my attention. Again, I should have ignored that. Next time.
After the practice, I asked Emilie to be honest with me — was there anything that she found too rushed or confusing? “I am a teacher trainee, now it’s your turn to be my teacher.” She complimented my pacing and instruction, which was gratifying to hear since I thought perhaps I was going too slow. I am still very much discovering my yoga voice and pace, after all. She said one of the Downward facing dog cues confused her: “Wrap the shoulder blades toward the armpits.” I gave her a mini-lesson to explain that concept. I admitted to her that this cue had always confused me, too. Perhaps I consider always breaking this one down moving forward since it took me some time to comprehend …
Overall, it was a rewarding morning. I sent Emilie back into the world a little calmer, her body a little more limber. And she gifted me with my first private yoga session and some anecdotes that should improve my next teaching session.