When teaching a yoga class, I learned, it is beneficial to remember the five principles: trust, enthusiasm, awareness, focus and wisdom. These principles are especially necessary when guiding a room full of new yogis. I compare this experience to guiding a group of blindfolded strangers down a mystifying path. There must be trust in this leader. What is most important is that the leader trusts her own inner wisdom. I have assessed that the absence of an one of the four principles (enthusiasm, awareness, focus and wisdom) one could fake an okay class. However, with trust in the yoga itself, the entire can become dangerously disjointed – potentially tainting a new yogi’s perception of yoga.
I became a yoga teacher when I taught the inaugural class of a six-week Inner Healing, beginner yoga series at the Family Justice Center (JFC) in Richmond. It had only been three months since completing my 200 hour yoga teacher’s training. This was the first time that I stepped out of my own way to stand in confidence as a yoga teacher and to allow my internal wisdom to take the lead.
Twenty-five women, four children, and one infant joined us to experience their first yoga class. The participants were FJC staff and clients–all women of varying in size, ethnicity, economic class, age, and physical ability. Not only were the majority of the women and children novices, but many in the room experienced varying levels of trauma. Many of FJC clients survived sex trafficking, domestic violence, physical, and sexual abuse from the people they loved. Their trust had been well workout, trampled and left dormant. I knew that Karma Yoga Tribe had that opportunity to guide these women on an inward journey toward healing or if nothing else offering a relaxing and nourishing experience. I also knew that if not done with proper grounding I could lose their trust in me and more importantly the yoga.
For a brief moment, I lost my nerve. I wanted to resort to old practices. Having spent over 25 years as a group exercise instructor my instinct was to throw on my favorite hip hop music and count them down to a vigorous sixteen-step choreographed dance routine. I questioned myself. As I watched the women enthusiastically search for the perfect space in the room. “Who am I to be their introduction to yoga? What happens if taking the inward journey is like opening Pandora’s Box? How would I get them to trust me when their trust in the world has been demolished?” I heard my teachers voice, “Trust in the yoga.” After three slow breaths (intermittently interrupted to welcome the participants). I was reminded of my purpose in the room.
I started the class by asking everyone to push back into Child’s pose (Balasana). I cased the room. almost every individual were fidgeting, squirming and readjusting, or looking around the room – unwilling to take my instruction.
“Trust the yoga.”
Again, I panicked. Again, I inhaled. I exhaled. I surrendered. I began, again.
I encouraged them to fill their bodies with Prana and slowly exhale. At the end of the first collective exhale the energy in the room shifted and each body settled deeper into the posture. Together we relaxed into the practice of trusting.
I observed stillness in two women in the front row suffering from PTSD that was demonstrated in an inability to be still or quiet. I watched a young mother move in unison with the class as she tended to her cooing infant. The four children (aged 4, 7, 10, 14) maintained the same level of focus and intent as the adults.
Through the guidance of deep and mindful breathing and simple asanas, I took the opportunity to witness the majestic benefits of the practice. We moved through the hour, using the breath as our vehicles. At the end of the class, in Savasana every woman and child surrendered in silent stillness. There in the truest reflection of trust we began again.
I give thanks to the women for showing up, for their courage and belief in themselves. I give thanks for internal wisdom. Most importantly, I give thanks to the yoga.
RYT 200 Hours