The Ninth Limb of Yoga?
Teaching yoga in Dallas means running around to different studios and homes and offices. Tonight instead of a breathtaking view from the W Penthouse, I gave thanks to seeing my double bed piled high with pillows… I came home, pushed pillows to the floor and collapsed after teaching three classes. Usually, my Tuesday evenings are spent teaching private yoga to Kidd Kraddick and Lisi, his fiancee. David Craddock suddenly died on Saturday. I can barely rinse sadness from my brush so that I ineluctably painted melancholy blue classes when I most needed a palette to register joy for students suffering their own woes. I pushed my students unforgivably and then had them feel their hearts beating and think of Kidd Kraddick (a true trickster) lest they take life and laughter for granted. Laughter heals. Kraddick was a yogi of the radio!
As a result, I employed laughter mercilessly and shamelessly for the rest of class. Sometimes, I need to laugh to keep from crying because life hurts. I put my own oxygen mask on first so that I have energy to help my students. And if I yank the cord to start the flow of laughing gas instead of oxygen before putting the mask firmly over my nose and mouth, so be it. I bring enough laughter for everyone. Sullen, stingy yoga teacher, I am not.
All things being equal, I fall into Gunpati’s trickster tribe…I honor only the safety of my student and I irreverently employ laughter as a didactic tool and therapy. I transgress against the serious, self-important yoga pompassity that infects the yoga industry. Why does having a puss on your face make you a better yogi?
Question: Should a yoga teacher be funny?
Funny does not necessarily mean good yoga and dry doesn’t mean bad yoga. I can get high from a boring, dry yoga class THAT IS CONTENT RICH because I no longer use yoga as a chew toy like a teething puppy. I used to be a puppy yogi. Bored puppies will chew and destroy anything because they have no discernment. Boredom often indicates pranic stagnation.
A freshly walked puppy, a child just in from the playground, a yoga student subdued by 10 surya namaskars can often sit still and absorb teaching. A good teacher ascertains this and plans accordingly. Good teaching takes the boredom out of folding and makes it joyful. Boredom today is a dangerous adjective that often reflects a mind bereft of intellectual curiosity.
Perhaps you didn’t get the text, tweet or instant message? We yogis are pushing back against evolutionary decay…certainly the opposable thumb we grew should do more than text and undoubtedly the mind is meant to do more than surf channels and watch the Kardashians? FYI: Our jaws are weakening because we eat processed foods with no cellulose or ruffage. Our minds are slack because we expect to be entertained…
Aside: An interesting Atlanta Ted Talk by Sally Hogshead describes the modern attention span as 9 seconds whereas in the past it was 20 minutes. Yoga teachers are at our best neuro-plasticity sculptors in our aim to samsara halahala, n’est-ce pas? A strong mind is the sexiest boon of yoga and dharana is a pre-requesite to nirodhahcittavrttis and the elusive dhyana.
Eddie Murphy said a mind is a terrible thing. I think he took that from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. When the student is ready she learns from EVERYTHING…learning is why yoga slows Alzheimer’s and removes depression and ADD…it is an acquired taste to focus the mind. Yoga also cultivates listening. But really who listens anymore? Ah, that is another ranting post…
Yoga provides the entry point to divinity through an infinite variety of teachers and styles. We yoga teachers sing into a class room the way one might sing into silent piano strings and that one note will vibrate and sing back. The rest will sit quietly…those silent strings may fancy themselves BORED but that singer just didn’t call out to those notes.
People who want to study with a shaman, shape-shifter, trickster, healer-yogini will come to me. If I had a dollar for every student who comes up to me and thanks me for making yoga fun, well, I might be BIKRAM ;-p. In contrast, one student (a 99% Pitta, 65 year-old Israeli Jew) told me he could do without the stand up routine. I get it. Overtime, this grumpy old man fell quite in love with me.
After I nudged him into his first crow with the assurance that Dallas is replete with plastic surgeons should he do a face plant, he stayed after class to admit that I had an edge because everyone loved me…versus he was so off-putting that he was lonely.
I teach mula bandha…as if I could teach a mula bandha. The audacity, the hubris of teaching a banda is comedy straight no chaser. I brazenly suggest that I will know if and when students are working their mula bandha because their right eye will shut and it will look like they are doing long division…I also inform them that I will not check to see if mula is engaged because it is not that type of class.
If Billie Halliday sang good morning heartache, then Rumi wrote the same in the Guest House. Now, I can barely stop sadness from bleeding into the room since learning this tragic news. Laughter is the counterpose. Two weeks ago, I suffered terribly when I saw a mullet. I held my students in horse for two minutes so that they too could know suffering and learn compassion.
IF YOU CANNOT STAND BURNING QUADS FOR TWO MINUTES, HOW CAN I TOUGHEN YOU UP FOR THE TRULY UGLY THINGS IN LIFE, LIKE SEEING A MULLET IN 7-ELEVEN WHEN ALL YOU WANT IS A BIG GULP?
Paxil is an artificially manufactured happy neurotransmitter…but we yogis manufacture our own happy neurotransmitters. We are our own pushers and molecule jockeys and yoga addicts through the eight limbs of yoga. Humor may not be the ninth limb of yoga but humor is sometimes all we have. Sometimes humor is enough. Otherwise we have inspiration piped into our lives through radio by a mensch like Kraddick. I will miss David but I will keep laughing in his memory.
Yoga Teacher of Dallas, Texas