Teaching Yoga in a Foreign Country and Jazz

~Windy weather turns mountain pose into half moon pose~

~Windy weather turns mountain pose into half moon pose~

Post yoga class and I feel elated. Not only because I survived a new experience but because I thrived. I had been present. And this presence produced acceptance, ability to adapt to change and to focus on the needs of the people in front of me.

I did not freak out when I was informed that I needed to teach a pranayama focused class as oppose to my planned dynamic yoga class, due to an engagement party unexpectedly setting up camp in the space we had reserved for the weekend retreat. Lesson one: When working in Tunisia; expect the unexpected and get ready to think on your feet.

I didn’t give up when I realised I would be teaching to the soundtrack of a jazz band tuning up. And I didn’t freeze when twenty Tunisians looked at me blankly as I spoke english decorated sparsely with french words.

I embraced the wind as it started to blow mid-class and the mats started doing their own yoga across the lawn. And by the end of class I was completely okay with a shavasana accompanied by a now fully tuned up jazz band banging out a few classics.

I share this because I know how different it could have been. I have experienced my expectations being dashed before and my resistance to change resulting in explosions of anger or sulking or giving up, depending on what I felt the situation called for!

Maybe this time had been different because earlier that day my partner had read to me this wonderful section from the illuminating ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle:

‘I have met teachers…[who] are one with what they do, one with the Now, one with the people or the task they serve…I have also met many others …whose ego constantly sabotages their work. Only part of their attention is on the work they perform; the other part is on themselves…

When obstacles or difficulties arise in their work, when things don't go according to expectation, when other people or circumstances are not helpful or cooperative, instead of immediately becoming one with the new situation and responding to the requirements of the present moment, they react against the situation and so separate themselves from it.

There is a “me” that feels personally offended or resentful, and a huge amount of energy is burned up in useless protest or anger, energy that could be used for solving the situation if it were not being misused by the ego. ~Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth

As he read it I relished in the reminder of these wise words. I had lent him this book, which was underlined and written all over because I had loved it so much! I now realised I had forgotten so much of this book that had sparked something in me. It reminded me that just because you loved reading a book and now keep it on your bookshelf, it doesn't mean that it’s message has fully been digested and become part of you. Giving this book away and hearing it again helped me re-find these wise words. I decided in that moment that giving away books to people who want to read them, is a very good alternative to books growing dusty on shelves. Lesson two: Read wise words then return to them, and if the book doesn't call you to read it again; give it away and share the wisdom.

I have a feeling though that it wasn’t just these wise words that helped me out and gave me strength. As I taught what I knew to the very best of my ability, I felt fuelled by a strong belief in what I was teaching. I felt supported by my short morning practise that reminds me daily that I believed in this stuff called yoga.

~Place your hands over your eyes...and maybe the jazz band will just disappear...~

~Place your hands over your eyes...and maybe the jazz band will just disappear...~

So even with a few blank faces staring back at me I continued, motivated by my personal experience of slowly being changed by this practise. Lesson 3: When people do yoga their concentration face can look a lot like anger/confusion/boredom so as a teacher it’s best not to try and guess what people are feeling; so many times I have been completely wrong!

I continued because amidst the jazz and language shortage, I felt something was being shared; communicated through moments of eye contact, smiles and moving together. When someone said they enjoyed the class afterwards with the universal thumbs up and another teacher asked the jazz band to give it a rest for two minutes for the seated meditation, my feelings were confirmed; it had been worth it. Indeed as long as I am inspired by the practise and have teachers that I am learning from (thank you Elena Brower and Kia Miller) it is a book that I will continuously return to and continuously share.

Photos by Fityogaprof