“Come on the risin’ wind. We’re goin’ up around the bend.” ~ Up Around the Bend, Creedence Clearwater Revival
I’ve started teaching yoga.
This has come as a complete surprise, because teaching yoga was never anything that I’d ever dreamed I’d be doing, not even when I’d signed up for the teacher training. In fact, when we took our seats in a circle on that first day, we were asked for a show of hands as to why we were there. Had we signed up to teach yoga? Had we signed up to deepen our practice? Everyone raised their hands accordingly; everyone, that is, except for me.
I didn’t have an answer as to why I was there. I was seated without any clear intention, knowing only that I needed something next, and I wondered if this might be it. I figured in 200 hours over the next five months I’d be able to figure that out.
I’d felt much the same way when I started practicing yoga. It was several years earlier, and a sign had suddenly appeared for a new yoga studio in the shopping center near my home. I saw it every time I drove by on my errands to the bank, or the grocery, or the gas station. I circled it like this for months before finally stopping in. And then I signed up for a class without any clear intention. At most, I thought I might get some exercise. It would be an understatement to say that I was in for a big surprise!
Right away I started practicing and couldn’t seem to stop. And I kept on like that, completely unaware that I had embarked on any sort of journey. In fact, if I’d been asked as to why the practice had gripped me so, I don’t know that I could have answered. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why it felt so good to move on the mat the way that we were moving. All I knew was that the movement moved me. Practicing was making me feel as if I were on my way somewhere, and I think that’s why I was always there.
In truth, I’d been there many times before, because the new yoga studio was in what used to be the video store! Oh, what irony that the place that once put me on the couch was now the very one to lift me from it! For years my children and I had roamed that same floor, looking for movies to kick off our weekend. Our all-time favorite was The Sound of Music. On countless Friday nights we’d sprawl across the couch with family and friends and watch it all over again.
Those Friday nights were a like a breather for us. Our busy week had ended, but the even busier weekend had yet to begin. In many ways, those Friday nights mirrored my life. I was taking a breather, too. Recently separated, I’d made enough decisions to settle with my children in a home of our own, but not many more than that. The rest would have to wait. Repotted for the time being, we were taking root, and those Friday nights were watering us.
It would be many more years before I would find yoga. My children would grow up, and then I would, too! They flew the coop first, jetting off to college within a year of each other, and I was the last to go, jetting all the way down the street to my first full-time job since before they were born. And what a big turn that was for me! My Friday nights became a breather again, this time in between my work week and my weekend. With my new schedule filled to the brim, it never occurred to me to look for anything more.
But, as it turns out, just because we aren’t looking, doesn’t mean that something’s not around the corner, just waiting for us to make that turn. And that’s how I discovered yoga. I literally turned the corner, and there it was, outside my car window! I’d been on my way to the neighborhood shopping center, and when I made the turn, I spotted the new sign above the old video store. It simply said, “Yoga.” That would be the first of many times I’d see that sign. Like a favorite movie, I’d watch it all over again, until that fateful day that I dropped in.
Right away, I loved the practice! Yoga was like Twister, the game from my childhood. While trying not to fall, we’d put our hands and feet here and there and twist and turn in all sorts of directions. The practice was hard, but it was also fun! From the very beginning, I was eager to learn, so I paid close attention to all the directions, even though I struggled with some. Apparently, I had some inhibitions to overcome. But I persevered, because it felt good to move. And that perseverance, coupled with a lot of encouragement and some very patient instruction, helped me turn some corners that I hadn’t even known were there.
And so I made a deal with myself to keep practicing, because I liked how it felt to flow like this, not just on the mat, but also around those corners. Each revolution was an evolution, and the practice propelled me. And that was a good thing, because, as it turned out, the practice made for a lot of turns! In fact, that’s how I found teaching. After several years of practicing, teaching was what was around one of those corners, and so I made the turn and signed up for the training.
And that’s where I met an expert on turning. Another trainee, he was a dancer who’d been turning from the young age of three. And whenever I’d turn upside down, he’d claim to see a dancer in me! He said that he could tell I felt good there, as if it was a natural place for me to be.
“I always felt good turning,” he said, “so I can understand.”
Turning, he said, made him feel protected and on top of things. And while he knew that I preferred my turns upside down, I knew that he preferred his by spinning around. Maybe that’s why, at the end of the training, the instructor insisted that he perform several pirouettes before getting his certificate. He had never danced for us before, but he quickly agreed. He had so many turns inside of him that it wasn’t going to be a problem conjuring them.
“Watch your heads!” he said.
We scooted back to make room for what we were about to see, and then we cheered as he easily set them free. We watched as he spun, releasing his turns, one by one. In multiple revolutions, he propelled himself across the floor before arriving in a gentle landing on the other side.
And I wondered: Did he even know that his turns were a gift? Or that they were evidence of fearlessness?
I looked down at my own certificate and thought of the many turns that had landed me here. With those in mind, I guessed I’d been practicing long before I ever saw that neighborhood sign. In many ways, by that time, I’d long been putting my hands and feet here and there, twisting and turning in all sorts of directions, while trying not to fall. And now I had learned how to teach the practice, so that I could help others do the same.
The energy of his impromptu performance hung in the air like an invisible sign that read, “Turn here!” And I could feel it directing us around the next bend, where it promised that we might find that same energy again. And, so, while I couldn’t see it then, I followed that sign like I had the other, and now I’ve started teaching yoga!
And I’m surprised by how much I like it! Mostly, I’m surprised by how at home I feel when I teach. I turn on the music and start the class, and I feel as if I’m where I should be. And my goal is to make everyone else in the room feel that same way, too. And so, when I call the class to the top of their mats, I ask them to set an intention. And then I tell them that it’s okay if they don’t have one. If that’s the case, I say, then just flow with me and see what’s learned, because I’ll be teaching from all the corners I’ve turned.