My only real teaching stint was back in high school when I worked as a lifeguard and taught lessons at the public, unheated pool in my two-stoplight hometown in the hinterland. Most of it involved convincing little kids to stay in the 65-degree water long enough to learn to stay afloat. When their lips turned blue we got out and discussed safety rules, me in a sweatshirt talking over the chattering of little teeth.
Four or five evenings a summer (to be generous, this season lasts about twelve weeks in the Ottawa Valley) we had adult classes. Although I'd had my share of preschoolers clinging to me like scared monkeys during lessons, nothing in my life experience, save for my own mother's fear of the water, prepared me for this entirely different job.
I remember encouraging and talking about getting comfortable in the water, and if I was completely out of my depth, my students were determined enough to let it pass. What I principally recall is my own admiration of middle-aged women who were brave enough not only to put on bathing suits for what might have been the first time but who were also prepared to acknowledge and overcome their fears. No dudes in these classes: this was 1984 in rural Ontario, where men did not admit to fearing anything other than the Junior B hockey team missing the playoffs. But these women wanted to do this thing so they didn't have to be afraid any more. Farmer's wives, they were practical and suffered no silliness, least of all from themselves. Still, there was gratitude in their eyes when I explained that my own mother had grown up on a farm and didn't have the chance to learn to swim, that she'd been adamant and generous in ensuring I'd gained this skill.
Last night I took The Boy to our second yoga class together, the Raw Beginner session. The Boy is a runner who has heard that he can train harder without injury through the wonder of vinyasa, and he loves any physical challenge. Plus this particular studio is full of attractive women. He's down with that.
Then there is the teacher, a woman I estimate to be in her mid-twenties. She has all the gifts I lacked when teaching grown ups new tricks, the rare sort who is well-accomplished in her craft but still remembers how it feels to start something new and scary. I am, as I told her a couple of weeks ago, worse than a raw beginner: I've practiced on and off for five years or so, but have developed some bad habits. She is great at breaking down poses and really giving a good foundation. She is funny and incredibly positive without being saccharine and has the ability to push people past their comfort zone while never being patronizing. An old soul to be sure, I am certain she also has a good story, which I hope I might learn someday.
There were people (dudes, I am happy to report, are no longer afraid to reveal that they don't know how to do something) ranging in age from middle school to retired in this class. Our teacher gave us all a fine lesson and an exercise in learning what is easy and what is hard for each of us. It was a class that helped me identify where my own resistance lies and the reasons behind my sore spots. Her gift is priceless. Namaste, indeed.