Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Doors

I am so so excited to come back to my Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors class. I feel like perhaps I did stray from my original calling to yoga, which was to teach breast cancer survivors, and now, this gets to be my primary focus. It's kind of neat to watch what the universe brings, which is often unexpected, and not always what we thought we wanted, but very often exactly what we needed.

I remember how my first yoga-studio boss, Donna, told me how she came to own a Yoga studio. She was a dancer for many years, and for just as many years, she struggled. The competition was fierce, the jobs weren't always there. Even when she succeeded in getting a great job, the next one didn't always follow. But when she discovered yoga, she found that doors simply opened. She met her partner, Jen, one day, made lunch plans with her, and soon after they owned a studio. One became two became three became four (became three again, but may become four again soon...).

When I discovered yoga, I thought that was basically the same trajectory I was following. I found yoga, it felt right, and I decided that it was more important for me to continue with the yoga-lifestyle and to spend time with my kids than to return to my Large Law Firm Job as an attorney, which would have meant less time for yoga and less time with my kids. Soon though, I was bored at home, so I put in an application for Work Study at Donna's studio. The then-general manager of the studio flagged my application as being completely inappropriate for a Work Study Job but definitely appropriate for a managerial position. Doors flying open....

I managed the studio, gravitating toward personnel (managing the Work Study Program and its employees) until I left to attend my teacher training, which was what is known as an "Intensive", taking place over a period of 60 days (30 of group study and 30 of independent study). I never went back to managing because more doors flew open as soon as I graduated from Teacher Training...suddenly, it was raining teaching jobs for me - studios, gyms, schools. I never expected that to happen, and I was thrilled.

Of course, the teaching itself was a learning experience, and there were some bumps as I discovered that yoga on the Upper East Side was quite different from yoga downtown (hence, the name of my website, Downtown Uptown Yoga). Much as I didn't want to accept it, the majority of students on the Upper East Side tend to want a less challenging practice than the majority of students downtown at studios like Jivamukti, Om, Laughing Lotus, the Ashtanga shalas and even Bikram (Bikram is also uptown on the West Side, but devotees of Bikram will travel all over the city to take these sweaty and challenging classes). When I would teach headstand, most students wouldn't even try, although I often convinced them that the preparation for headstand was great work and worth doing even if they never intended to be upside down. I stopped teaching forearm stand and handstand altogether, for the most part, because of a general sense of resistance on the part of my students to being upside down.

The thing was - there were also quite a few students who came to my classes specifically, looking for a challenging practice. So, there was always the challenge for me of balancing the needs of those students with the needs of the students who wanted to be "doing yoga" but also not working all that hard and those students who simply were not then-currently "athletic" enough to be doing what some of the more advanced students were "up for". There was also the need to balance the desire of many students to learn about the history and philosphy of yoga and the desire of many other students to simply do the physical work. Downtown, the students were universally more interested in the "Dharma", so it was a no-brainer at places like, Om, where I was trained, to speak about the dharma, to discuss the yoga sutras. Uptown, not so much.

When I taught my Intro to Yoga workshops at New York Yoga, I was able to instill the role of the dharma into my new students, which was quite thrilling to me. I felt like I was able to have an impact on their entering the practice of yoga with some understanding of the "Eight Limbed" path to yoga, as opposed to merely a template of poses (I don't even LIKE the word "pose" as it creates the sense that what we are doing is "posing", like a "poser"...or worse, a "poseur""poseur").

So, getting around to my original point, I wonder if teaching beginning level and special needs students is really what I am meant to be doing. My Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors class seems to be developing a following that is not JUST breast cancer survivors - there are two students now who have never even had breast cancer, but take the class because I make them feel comfortable and teach them at the level at which they want to be taught.

In the fall, I will begin teaching Yoga For Octegenarians at the West 58th Street branch of Hadassah, the national women's zionist organization. Again, this class found ME. One day, I got an email from the president of the Manhattan Hadassah organizations (there are several), saying she had found my bio on New York Yoga's website and that she somehow "sensed" that I would be the right person to teach a group of women in their 80's. I met with her in person and showed her "chair yoga", and now the class is scheduled to begin on September 15. Again...doors flying open.

It really makes me wonder. Here I was thinking that teaching this athletic, gymnastic form of yoga that I personally like to practice, was the path for me. But in truth, I have consistently had to find my way down that somewhat rocky path, where as the path toward teaching those who probably need my teachings most has been quite smooth and easy.

Stuff to think about....

YC

P.S....I have started a blog-on-the-side that does not have a public URL for stuff that I have deleted off of this website because of complaints from my gentle readers. So, nothing is lost. It's just living somewhere else(where no one can get hurt)....YC

4 comments:

KRISTY said...

so sorry to hear you had to a "side "blog---where is this side blog? i love reading what you are writing! I am so inspired by your persepctive. I want to read all that I can, whether people agree with it or not! keep it up!
xoxo
K

yoga chickie said...

Hi Kristy...I have only deleted two posts so far - and one is not even on the side blog because I lost it!! But if you email me directly, I can give you the private blog address. I don't want to publish it....otherwise, it would still be out there, right? :) Lauren

kristy said...

Hi,
My emal address is kristykat21@yahoo.com

could u email me the link?

thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Lauren,

Thank you again for encouraging me to join your Breast Cancer class. You've created a class that is very supportive and positive. I truely enjoyed it.

Beth

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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.

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