A little while ago, I left my little Von Trapp family singing The Greatest Showman on repeat (it was hard to leave, honestly) and drove up to Richmond to teach yoga at my first Fitness & Yoga retreat.
The retreat was hosted and organised by my cousin who is a seasoned personal trainer, nutritionist and self-confessed fitness addict. You can find out more about her personal training here. She had brought with her a group of her similarly seasoned clients, who go to her for regular press-up hell, among other much more amazing things.
When my cousin asked me to teach at this retreat, my instinct was to run a mile (which probably wouldn’t have been far enough for her!) I had only recently qualified to teach and I was only teaching a small – but perfectly formed – group once a week.
Now I was being asked to teach multiple classes to a large group of people I didn’t know who had a range of quite major injuries – one was recovering from knee surgery, one had severe lower back problems and one had wrist issues. What could possibly go wrong?!
The little voice at the back of my mind had absolutely no trouble reminding me what could go wrong, of course. It kept telling me I wasn’t ready, that I didn’t have enough experience with injuries and that I’d never remember more than one class plan.
But my cousin was insistent (she’s very good at that) so, after a bit of nail biting deliberation, I was eventually swayed by the promise of not having to partake in any press-up hell.
Over the course of the weekend, I taught four group classes and one 1-to-1. The classes were themed to suit the time of the day and the other activities happening on the retreat. For example, the Friday evening class was ‘Relax and Unwind’ and the Saturday morning class was ‘Get up and Flow.’ This was to tap into our natural circadian rhythms and channel energy in the right way.
I also ran a class focused on twisting to stimulate the digestive system and help with detoxification, which went hand in hand with the zero alcohol and healthy eating ethos of the retreat.
The final class was themed around Goddesses and Warriors. After a weekend of quite intense training including conditioning, workshops, self-myofascial release instruction, individual personal training sessions and an ‘Amazing Race’ style challenge – as well as yoga – the participants were the epitome of warriors and goddesses as far as I was concerned!
The 1-to-1 session was with a participant who really wanted to advance her headstand. We did some preparation exercises and poses and then progressed to the king of poses, Sirsasana (headstand). Her aim was to find her balance away from the wall and she did that several times! Mission accomplished!
At the end of the day, teaching is all about the participants’ experience – how they feel and how they benefit – that is what matters. No-one minded (or even noticed) that I’d replaced Gomukhasana with Janu Sirsasana, missed a pose out, or not cued their specific injury modification in every single pose. In fact, they all gave great feedback and a full sweep of 5* ratings on the feedback forms, which was fantastic.
Obviously, what that little voice in my head hadn’t told me before I taught at this retreat was that there was a lot that could go right…I could get great experience, learn as I went along and grow as a teacher. After all, even the original Greatest Showman, P.T. Barnum, believed comfort to be “the enemy of progress” and like everyone else, I cannot grow when I’m comfortable.
As I have started teaching more and more and have shifted my focus from self-practice to leading practices for others, I’ve often found myself feeling simultaneously petrified and excited. I am starting to learn to embrace this feeling as I now know it’s a sign I could be on the edge of something quite special.
So having courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Having courage means you don’t let your fear stop you.
And on that note, I’ll get back to being serenaded by my kids.