I get asked often what kind of yoga I teach. I don’t teach a brand. The “masters” I once followed keep proving how human and flawed they are – like me. It’s not that I expect them to be perfect. Really, I don’t. However, sometimes their flaws (i.e., sexual misconduct, emotional abuse, narcissism, etc.) taint the brand, and I can’t, in good faith say, “I teach X Yoga” any more.
And I’ve tired of teaching fast classes. The pace of life is too fast for my taste. I’m looking for ways to slow down and stay present and savor each moment. My yoga practice seemed a fine place to start. On a 68″ mat is always where I start to try new, scary things. And the way in which I teach yoga is a reflection of the way I practice yoga. Of course, I modify the practice to suit the bodies and souls I see before me. But, mostly, I teach “deliciously slow.”
And I know there are students who need to cross their cardio off during their yoga practice – to kill two workout birds with one stone. They just don’t have enough time, so they have to get both done as quickly and efficiently as possible. And I say this without judgment because I make it a practice never to judge a path that I used to find myself upon. There’s a ton of good yoga to go around this town. You can find those classes at every studio, every hour on the hour.
In years past, I might have revolted at who I’ve become as a teacher. My ego wouldn’t have liked me much.(My ego still doesn’t). But during those years, I didn’t live inside my body. I couldn’t teach what I didn’t know.
And, if I’m to be honest, sometimes I still don’t live inside my body. I ignore the signals. Until my body says: no. While my mind is a sophisticated wordsmith, my body speaks mostly in single syllables.
No. No. No.
And after no: Slow. Slow. Slow.
I was flattened by a Mack Truck of an illness last week. And the truth is that for about a month leading up to that illness, I’d known something needed to give. I’d been meditating on how to create some changes. I’d been talking with my new less famous spiritual “masters,” my business advisers, my wife, my parents, my therapist.
Dana and I see this really no-nonsense therapist. This is not by my choice. But, there was a dark night of the soul back in January of 2014 when we looked at each other after I’d already separated our cd’s – the same cd’s I’d merged in the hopes that mixed hers and hers cd’s might serve as a binding legal contract for our commitment. We looked at each other and realized that we didn’t want to give up. I knew that every problem we had, I’d revisit in any future relationship. I could change partners. My same character defects would still follow me.
I won’t speak for her, here. I don’t really know what changed. But, she agreed to go to therapy…under the condition that she could pick the therapist.
No airy fairy metaphysical karmic nonsense. (We’d been to therapy together before).
And this new no-nonsense cut-to-the-chase save-your-drama-for-your-momma therapist has saved our relationship. Sure, we did the work, but we couldn’t have done it alone. She translated for us when we were speaking different languages.
And a couple weeks ago, she says to me, “Amber, what would it take for you to rethink your schedule?”
The question prompts me to spend 20 minutes – the equivalent of around $75 for those of you keeping score at home – attempting to answer that question. I can rationalize anything. It’s a gift left over from childhood. Most addicts, I find, have this talent/defect. And at the end of the session, after all of my bull shit, she says, “Interesting.”
“How?” I want to know. Sure, I love everything I do. It’s interesting work. But my schedule? Demanding, unmanageable, unsustainable. Insane. These are the words others have used to describe my schedule.
“Interesting that you’re in a career where you teach people to connect to themselves and you’re so disconnected from your own needs.”
All of this for $150 I give her. $160, actually. She doesn’t have change.
Thank you. See you next month, we say.
For a couple weeks, I brood over her comment. The truth in it. The irony. And meanwhile, I journal. I reflect. I realize that I’m exhausted, which is not news to anyone who lives with me. A few good naps might cure all that ails me.
I don’t think anyone, including me, was surprised when I lost my voice and began coughing up colors of the rainbow and aching with pain and sleeping for days at a time.
In his book Divine Therapy & Addiction, Thomas Keating writes about how in aviation history, planes had an automatic pilot which would signal with a beep into the pilot’s headphones when he was off course. To the right was one beep. To the left, two beeps. When he was dead center, no beeps. Silence.
I’ve found the same to be true in my own body. When I’m connected to my highest Self and wisdom, when I’m acting within what my intuition deems to be God’s will, I feel at peace. And, when I’m not, my body gives me signals. The sound starts as a series of intermittent beeps. And soon, my ears are ringing and I know something is not right.
How intelligent the body is, to notify us when something is amiss.
I’m grateful for the time I spent on the couch last week. A forced landing of sorts. A divinely ordained change of course.
And, now I’m back, and I’m realizing, yet again, that I don’t have to teach any sort of way. How liberating. How frightening.
A couple weeks ago, I asked a few regular students for a testimonial about my ability to teach inversions. I teach inversions every day. Slowly. Progressively. I’m not sure what I was looking for other than something to put on a flyer. And one replied with something that’s stuck with me:
“As you probably know, I still can’t kick up into handstand. It’s happened maybe 2 or 3 times in the last year. This is more of a reflection of my fear than your teaching skills. However, if I’m being honest, the allure of a handstand pales in comparison to what you have taught me about love, forgiveness, compassion, peace, balance, strength, and patience. <3
Sorry if this wasn’t what you were looking for, but it’s the truth.”
Of all the testimonials I received, hers is ironically the only one I’ve used. Though handstand hasn’t quite happened in the physical form yet, she’s nailed it as far as I’m concerned.
Spiritual principles are what I hope I embody and emit and, in some way, transmit through osmosis to the beautiful people whose mats find my classes. I’m going to teach what I need to learn. And right now, I need to learn a second speed: slow. Ergo, my classes: deliciously slow.
Headshot below captured by my beloved after she told me to think of the time when Cash Diehl photobombed my camel pose (also pictured below).