When the Best Laid Plan Is No Plan At All

  I made a beeline to my beloved shrink after I taught, no, more like recited aloud my yoga teacher training final class. I was in need of a quick fix for my public speaking phobia. A pill would be great. Maybe some hypnotherapy would do the trick. I might have been willing to explore a little shock therapy if it would cure this communication obstacle of mine. You see, I had carefully crafted a beautiful script for my class. I had so many inspiring words and insightful alignment cues I wanted to share. I wrote them down in an effort to commit them to memory. That way, I brilliantly hypothesized, I could share them aloud as eloquently as they sounded in my mind. The plan was to throw away the script as soon as I memorized it, and  improvise during the actual class. That was the plan. What actually happened was a much different scenario. The studio door shut, the lights dimmed, and 20 eager students all looked at me to tell them what to do next. What occurred in my mind in that very instant was the equivalent of a rush hour traffic jam. A million thoughts, intentions, expectations, judgments, hopes, doubts, and nerves collided into one big mess, and my plan disintegrated in the epicenter. I opened my mouth and no sound came out. All of my finely woven words deserted me. In a panic, I resorted to reading my script aloud. That’s just about the biggest no-no you can commit during your YTT final, second only to actually breaking someone in a bad adjustment. My grand visions of becoming the headliner of the next Yoga Journal conference were dashed. Okay, so maybe my visions weren’t that grand. But my failure to deliver the graceful, epic final class I’d envisioned left me wondering if I was capable of teaching well at all. After refusing my request for a simple frontal lobotomy, the Doc asked me to walk him through the event as it unfolded. It took him all of about 30 seconds to identify a critical detail that I had completely overlooked. I had ceased to breathe. I love it when he points this out. Apparently I do it all the time and hardly ever notice. As it turns out, I get to skip the brain surgery and just inhale. What is so powerful about a breath? We take an average of about 20,000 of them every day without even thinking about it. We sigh when we’re bored. We gasp when we’re frightened. Outside of yoga class, we hardly ever give breathing a second thought, let alone our full attention. And yet, if we don’t take a breath the effects are immediate and undeniable. How is this going to help me carry out my plans for a class? It’s very simple. Take a deep breath. Really. Inhale fully, expanding your ribs, filling your lungs opening your heart. Are you doing it? Okay- now do it again, and this time try to plan your next hour at the same time. Didn’t work, did it? That’s the trick. All of that energy washes over you like a tide and when it washes back out again it takes the chaos with it. The problem with my plan is that it was a plan. I put so much pressure on my brain to make me sound knowledgeable, look graceful, and feel confident that by the time I tried to speak I had overloaded the circuits and effectively blown a fuse. Had I called upon my breath to wash away my clamoring thoughts, I would have been left with just my voice. Because the universe has such a great sense of humor, I recently had the opportunity to test this theory. I was recently called to substitute a class at local studio. It was to be my first class. I was was thrilled, but cautious. I told myself not to make it into a big deal. I put some note cards together with a brief class outline, and tried to ignore the building anticipation. When I arrived I discovered that the flow class I had been planning to sub was actually a yin class. It might be helpful to note here that I had never taught a yin class, nor had I even attempted to put one together. My note cards crutches were perfectly useless. There was no planning for this one. What could I do but breathe? In with the prana, out with the jitters. And when my voice came, it sounded surprisingly assured. I named one yin pose that I knew, took a breath, and cued my unsuspecting students into it. After a while, I cued another that felt like the right way to follow the first. The next thing I knew an hour had passed and I was at least as relaxed as my students. Speaking of the students, the feedback I got was fantastic! So, the moral of my story is pretty simple. Breathe. Everything else will unfold exactly as it should.