Show Your Work

 

I think it’s really good for bands to go out when they’re
not ready. Because then, as you do get a grasp on your instruments, people see
you in a continuum, as opposed to you just jumped out of nowhere, which is what
I always thought: The boy comes out of the womb with a screaming Led Zeppelin
guitar, and I feel like I’ll never be able to do that.

-Molly Neuman, Bratmobile (from Sara Marcus’ Girls to the
Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution)

One of the coolest things about being part of a punk scene
is getting to watch the bands evolve over time. Band members meet one Saturday
at a party, practice together for the first time on Tuesday, and then play a
show the next Saturday night.
Needless to say, you can’t always get your sound right in a
week, so that first show might be a big fat question mark, but if the band
sticks together and the audience sticks around, the kinks get worked out and
you get to watch everything fall into place.
This kind of process orientation is characteristic of punk’s
DIY ethic. Bands aren’t there for you to just look up to, they’re there to
inspire you to start your own band. Being able to see the process makes it seem
doable, like self-expression isn’t just for the talented few.
Pop music has basically the opposite approach. An artist
appears overnight, fully formed with a readymade mythology and a meat dress.
Her talent is magical and untouchable. If you happen to find any early videos of her playing to small audiences at dimly lit bars, they seem somewhat
disconcerting and a little embarrassing.
Too many yoga teachers feel pressured to take the pop music
approach to yoga. And for good reason: when people are looking to you to be an
expert on something, you want to be that for them. As a culture, we want idols.
And we want them to be basically perfect.
We want yoga teachers to look like yoga teachers. We want
them to act like yoga teachers. In effect, we want them to represent perfect
yoga values, perfect yoga form, and perfect yoga bodies. AND we want it to look
effortless. We want to think that there’s a shiny yoga pill somewhere that we
can take so that we can have perfect yoga lives, too.
We don’t want to see the long-term struggle that goes into
the (seemingly) effortless demonstration of pincha
mayurasana
(forearm stand). We don’t want our yoga teachers to smoke, to
eat fast food, have casual sex, or to need anti-depressants. We want them to
sell us the yoga that we want buy and package it in their own bodies.
But it’s not real, y’all.
The reality is that yoga teachers are fat. They smoke. They
take drugs, have affairs, get divorced, and sometimes aren’t nice to children
or old people. And, what’s worse, sometimes they couldn’t make it into bakasana (crow pose) if their life
depended on it.
I know this, because I am a yoga teacher and all of the
above statements are true about me. Sure, I’m a sober, vegan, well-adjusted lesbian yogini
with a strong practice today, but I’m 36 years old and I’ve been practicing
yoga since 1996. And even today I’d say that almost half of my students have
far more physical prowess than I will ever hope to achieve.
So what the hell kind of yoga teacher am I?

A real one.

I am proof that years of sustained practice will change your
life, even if you walk into your first yoga class high and completely
out-of-shape (true story, y’all). Yoga has gotten me through quitting smoking
and cocaine binges. It has helped me heal from scooter accidents and psychic
scars so deep I thought they were part of my genetic makeup.
But it doesn’t come in a pill. And as a teacher, I think
it’s really important to embody not just the beautiful results that come from
the practices, but also to expose the struggle that is the real meat of the
endeavor.I think it’s important to show your work.
Not only is it just too much pressure to represent some
imaginary idyllic yogic lifestyle, it’s not actually good for students to think
that their teachers are perfect. It just reinforces cultural norms that force
us to curate our lives ad nauseum before we show them to other people. It makes
our practice space symbolically something like a status update.
I want my classes to be safe places for people to struggle,
and to make them safe I am willing to expose my own struggle. Because, damnit,
this practice is hard, and sticking to it is hard, and pincha mayurasana is super fucking hard and we will all wobble
through it and sometimes fall.
And falling is okay, as long as you get back up.

 

And I want my yoga class to be a place where it’s okay
to fall down and also a place where students know there is someone there to
help them back up.

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