It’s hard to believe, but two weeks ago we finished our sequencing section with Elise. It was truly amazing to be a part of the culmination of training that led to us concluding this section, as it really did become palpable towards the end that everything that we had learned was building upon our ability to design and sequence a class. And building, sequencing, and teaching a final class was, appropriately, our final for this section of training.
For our final, we broke into three groups, each of which blindly chose two themes with which to design a class. My group received heart and hip opening, which sweetly fit together well. We decided to create a sequence with Lord of the Dance Pose as a peak pose, and with other external hip opening, such as Goddess Pose, entwined as well. Of course the most difficult challenge was coming up with group consensus and decision-making, but after overcoming that hurdle, we found ourselves frantically trying to memorize the sequence, to then be able to teach it to the rest of the class. As our sequence was only thirty minutes long, I began to realize just how difficult it must be for teachers to memorize and teach classes over an hour long, by themselves. I really began to to revere this skill in a whole new way, and aspire to hone my capacities to get there. In the end, our class was taught smoothly and gracefully, and I was astounded to see that we designed a sequence that led the rest of the class to break into a sweat! I left really desiring to teach more, and to design new sequences. As much of my own background is in art and other creative and organizing pursuits, I can really see how sequencing will become an exciting aspect of teaching for me. Of course, responsible sequencing is contingent upon an active relationship and understanding of anatomy, alignment, philosophy, and all of the zillion other components that we have been taught through this amazing training.
As part of our requirement for graduation, we were all charged with actually teaching a full-length class, observed by another yoga teacher. I was daunted and excited by this challenge, and after practice teaching in Elise’s class, I felt more ready to go about it. I reserved the back room of the Valencia studio, and went about inviting friends to the class. A friend of mine who I went to graduate school and who is also now a yoga teacher after having gone through Yoga Tree’s Teacher Training program agreed to observe, which I found exciting and relieving, as it made the task seem less formal, in a certain way. I spent about a week coming up with, and memorizing, a sequence. I wanted it to be about heart opening and standing tall, as many of the friends who I had invited were either fellow graduate students who spend way too much time hunched over typing on computers, and/or fellow transgender and/or genderqueer friends, who have had varyingly contentious relationships with their chests, and who bind, have had reconstructive surgery, and/or who have had difficult energies funneled into their chest regions from internal and external sources. I thought of utilizing Lord of the Dance as the peak pose again, but realized that this might be difficult as some of the students attending had only practiced yoga once or twice. Others, on the other hand, were regular Bikram students. I suddenly realized how difficult it must be to design a multi-level class. As I often focus upon pushing myself to deeper and more advanced levels, I rarely pay attention when taking class to modifications necessary for newer students, or even for advanced students wanting to take it easy or with injury. I ended up coming up with a sequence that I imagined could be modified or pushed, depending on the student, and went about practicing it several times until I had it memorized.
When I showed up at the Valencia Street studio to teach, I was let into the back room for the first time, and immediately realized my first mistake. It is tiny! I had assumed that it was a larger space, and had invited too many friends, some of whom are tall people and need space behind and in front of their mats. Luckily, everyone who I had invited and who showed up are close friends, and didn’t mind piling upon each other. It reminded me of some awkward Yoga to the People classes that I used to attend, so I was able to draw on some of that spatial knowledge to adapt the sequencing so that a mat was, largely, all that people needed. Nevertheless, it was the most packed-like-sardines class that I had been a part of in some time. I ended up ditching my sequencing half way through and improvising, which I found to work much better. It was a bit relieving to realize that I had the capacity and skill-set to improvise, as I’m sure that such circumstances will come my way again. At least I know now to always check out the space before teaching in it! My students and teacher observer all gave me great feedback, and I left feeling more confident around my teaching capacities and future.