Contentment, Shame, & Teaching My First Yoga Class
"Santosa is just that - an alternative way to move through the world. It is a shift of focus. Instead of seeking contentment from the outside in, we find contentment from the inside out. The paradigm shift comes when we view all events as opportunities to grow, to encounter our own magnificence. When we view things in this light, there are no good events or bad events, only moments in which to shine."
- Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, Meditations from the Mat
Almost there! It's going so smoothly. Phew. Well, there was that confusion over left and right during our seated twists and I forgot that part of the warm-up I had planned and NO ONE is smiling, but they're doing this, I'm doing this -- and I didn't crash and burn!"
Down to savanasa they go. Ahhhhh.........
Wait....wait, wait wait. This class doesn't end at 8:30. THIS CLASS ENDS AT 8:45!!!
Down to a very long and luxurious savasana they go??? What do I do?? Aghhhh??!!!
And that's how teaching my very first yoga class actually taught me my latest lesson in santosa. I was so caught up in everything I was trying to remember as a novice teacher that I got confused about the class's ending time. When I realized my mistake, I quickly ran through a few choices: 1. Get the class up and out of their rest and practice more asana. 2. Relax into what was happening and set the class up for a deluxe savasana experience and extended seated meditation at the end of class. 3. End the class early. 4. Panic. 5. Laugh. As the cliche goes, the teacher teaches the lesson she most needs to learn. Since, I'd spent the last hour talking about contentment - right now, in this moment, regardless of circumstances - I chose a mixture of options 2, 3, and 5 -- with just a touch of 4 on the inside! My students enjoyed more savasana than they usually would in a 60 minute class and some extended readings from Meditations from the Mat. We ended about 3 or 4 minutes early. And I transparently shared my mistake with them - along with my choice to just be content with it! Some students noticed, some didn't. All were compassionate - but my own internal dialogue wasn't. As a Type A personality and recovering perfectionist, I left the studio feeling a familiar shame narrative rising. I can't believe I did that. How could I have done that? I had the class time written on my notes. What an idiot! I should have been better than that. Why am I not better than that? Ugh. The good news: After years of working on positive self-talk and the studying I've been doing as part of my yoga teacher training, I was able - at least in part- to step back, observe my reaction, and offer a counter narrative: No one is perfect and that's a good thing - that's where the magic and joy is! It's unrealistic to expect perfection EVER - and especially when you're trying something new. I'm so proud of you! You did something so hard: you stepped out of your comfort zone and were vulnerable. What if you were content with the inputs and unattached to the outcomes? Guess what?! You'll laugh at this soon and never teach your first yoga class ever again! It's YOGA, Robyn. Breathe in and out. This feeling will pass. I also used the experience to practice Brene Brown's shame resilience strategies:
Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love: I kept on chanting those positive self-talk sentences throughout the next few days!
Reach out to someone you trust: I talked with my sister who was student in the class and sent some "Agh! Help me!" texts to a dear friend who totally gets (and loves!) Type A me.
Tell your story: Well, now you know!
So, what are the lessons I'm taking away from teaching my first yoga class?
It's never as bad as you think it is. Students are having their own experiences on the mat and want a positive experience for everyone in the room.
More savasasa is never a bad thing.
When you mess up, fess up. Appropriate vulnerability fosters connection. And isn't that the whole point?
If we're truly going to practice santosa in all areas of our lives, we need to tools and strategies for moving through the other emotions that block contentment: Non-attached observance and shame resilience are helpful!
Write the class ending time in ALL CAPS with DARK MARKER at the TOP of your class notes!
Breathe in. Breathe out. As always.