Class Notes, Week 21: Knowing when to step in

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

Tonight was my sixth week of apprenticing with Kim Wilcox.  It was a touching start to the practice: Kim’s first yoga teacher at Moksha, Gregg Mierow, was participating in his final practice at Moksha — her class — before moving to California.  It’s heartwarming how things come full circle like that!  A part of me was curious if Kim would ever be a student in one of my future classes — as she was my first teacher at Moksha.

Sentimentality and future forecasting aside, this was the first apprenticeship practice where I chucked my notebook.  No scribbles about sequencing, cues, quotes.  No note-taking at all.  Hooray!  Just a pure, real-time absorbing of the practice, Kim’s instruction and the students’ responses.  This was a rewarding release to embrace, finally.

One student piqued my interest the most tonight: a forty-something man who had just gotten off a 16-hour plane journey from India.  (I learned this jet-setting tidbit after the practice.)  He was not as limber or flexible as the rest of the students.  He wasn’t following cues all of the time.  He had a habit of hunching his shoulders up to his ears.  He was constantly darting his eyes around the room to observe Kim and the friend next to him, as verbal cues just weren’t registering.  He definitely needed some one-on-one guidance.  I felt like I had a good “project” in him …

But, on the flip side, I didn’t want to spend all of my energy on this one student.  And I certainly didn’t want to do so for two considerations specific to this student’s growth: 1) Perhaps making him feel inadequate by constantly helping him with alignment, etc.; and 2) Not giving him the space to explore on his own, make mistakes, achieve small victories, learn through independence.

It was an interesting realization/tug-of-war at play tonight.  I tried to strike an “appropriate” balance.  I had to pick and choose when was appropriate to step in and help.  When it concerned safety issues with alignment, I stepped in.  I also stepped in to make poses more appropriate for his body — i.e. putting a blanket under his hip for Pigeon and telling him it was OK to work on static Eagle pose without folding forward like the other students. Sometimes, he looked to me with a “Help me” expression — and I stepped in then, too.  Otherwise, I left him alone.

I wasn’t sure if what I did was enough.  Or, if I was “invading” his practice too much.  My intentions were sincere, of course, but I was still concerned.  And it concerned me that I was concerned — would this be a theme when I start teaching more?  Time will tell, I suppose.

In the end, however, my concerns tonight were wiped away: This student came up to me after class and expressed his thanks for my help.  His friend, too.

That was a very sweet reward.  He didn’t need to do that.  But I’m so glad he did.

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