March 30, 2012

When a Yoga Teacher Needs to Release…All the Way. ~ Ivan Nahem

Photo: Jennifer Hess

You know that moment when you realize your stomach is a bit queasy in a way that signals increasingly imminent stress?

I was on my way into Longford. This was a number of years ago, when I was living in Ireland and had my own yoga teaching business, renting halls around town. I parked in the lot in front of St. John’s and a row of houses and apartment houses. It was bright at 7:00 in the evening. By the time I stepped out of the Corolla my insides were feeling shakier. But I wasn’t too worried; there were two toilets in proximity.

I had a yoga class to teach at 7:30 in the upstairs room of the St. John’s recreational facility. However, during the mornings, I was teaching in the rooms across the street and usually this place was deserted at night.

I had a key, which I used, but then I saw that the door to one of the classrooms was open and I heard someone call out. Turned out it was another teacher, a young teacher I didn’t know very well, but who had a pleasant albeit rather strong, chatty character. I explained who I was, but not why I was there, which was to use the toilet in the small adjoining restroom. The conversation turned to the classroom and its virtues and deficits, and then she told me about her day.

Not much room to interrupt. So quite a long story short, I left the building without using the facility, mission not accomplished, yet growing more urgent by the minute.

I headed toward the building where I would be teaching in about 15 minutes, but by now it was time for students to start arriving.

The restroom was on a landing on the stairs between the first and second floors, which meant that everyone would be passing.

Now I confess that I’m a bit discreet with regard to, shall we say, bathroom noises. Call it a neurosis, I’m not bothered. And I knew the sounds that would be forthcoming would be momentous, and I just couldn’t bring myself to even contemplate going into that bathroom. So, hitching up my mula bandha, I walked into the hall and set up my mat.

Wouldn’t you know, I swear that night my master plan for the class was core work. Now to an extent I imagine I’ll always feel like a novice instructor no matter how many years descend under the belt, but I’d only been teaching a year plus some months at this point. And so, I made my announcement of the class intention early, and then stuck with it. These days I would easily transition to something as far away from the core as possible, possibly a class on finger pads, just to draw my attention away from distress.

What made it worse is that, as a novice instructor, I demonstrated nearly every pose. So here I was doing yoga crunches, crunching down into my belly, which felt more or less the way an atom bomb must feel, if an atom bomb could feel, a second before impact.

I made it through the class. I called on my Higher Self. I told myself, endure this, and you will be stronger. Intestinal fortitude, sphincter power, hold the bandha, don’t let the levee break! Second chakra, save me!

I recall wondering if my one yogi (it was always hard to get Irish men to yoga) and myriad yoginis could possibly have a clue of how much pain their bliss-guiding teacher was currently undergoing, and how they would “take the piss” if they knew. (Don’t mention piss! Think fingertips!)

The torture extended even after class.

Rose and Magda came asking questions, normally a situation I cherish. I don’t recall what they asked or what I said. And then they were all gone, and I thought lovingly of the toilet so near, but then the custodian, a dignified, kindly woman, showed up! Just as I was closing the hall door, and again I felt too embarrassed to race into the bathroom, just down a few steps, so near, so far!

I bolted through the door, still ready to explode, and the light was still on across the road, so I had ran to my car to drive the eight long miles out of town to reach home.

Then at last, at long last, the event that might be best described by a common yoga catchword: release!


Read Ivan’s other adventures teaching yoga:

When a Yoga Teacher Would Just Rather Not Call the Ambulance

When a Yoga Teacher Puts the Class in Horror


Ivan Nahem has been publishing stories, essays and poems for decades. He began teaching yoga when he lived in Ireland for a few years in the middle of the last decade, and now teaches six classes a week at Zen & Yoga in Forest Hills, NY. His yoga blog is at ivanteach.com and his writing website is ivannahem.weebly.com.



Editor: Brianna Bemel

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