by Blakeney Schick
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was instructing two of my fellow teacher trainees. Or maybe I should say, trying to instruct. I’ve been talked through high lunge hundreds of times, but this was the first time we were working with verbal instruction, and I was beginning to realize all over again how different it is to be the teacher and not the student. I knew exactly what I wanted them to hear, but I couldn’t figure out how to say it, so I said more than I needed to, using 20 words where 8 would have sufficed. One look at their faces confirmed that I was confusing my students.
I felt like I was on vacation in a foreign country where I did not know the language. We’ve all been there. You’re in a restaurant in France or Moscow or Buenos Aires and you need a fork. You know what it is you want, you know they have them, but you don’t know the crucial word: “fork.” Even though a fork is an expected part of the restaurant experience, as you try to describe your way around the word (with a few hand motions for good measure), the gulf between being fork-less and having a fork in your hand suddenly seems unbridgeable. And it’s easy to get more and more flustered and frustrated when your efforts come up short.
I’m a verbal person, so when I couldn’t find the words on that afternoon at Mala — words I thought were familiar, phrases I thought I knew by heart – I was surprised. But I shouldn’t have been, because teacher training has been full of such moments. Some things I thought would be challenging have come easily, and others have turned out to be much harder for me than I had bargained for.
That day, Christina was right there, watching me try to figure out how to say what I wanted to say. I tried once, I tried twice, and then I asked her for help. Lucky for me, Christina speaks yoga. She translated my intention into a followable instruction — and suddenly I had my fork. And my students had the pose. And I had learned another phrase in this language that I’ve understood for years, and am just now beginning to speak.
Blakeney Schick is a public radio producer who follows events and elections. She started going to yoga 8 years ago in the hopes that it would help her stand up straighter. It has. But she’s stayed on the mat because yoga’s also made her stronger in every possible way. Blakeney found her way to Mala in late 2007, and finished Mala’s 200-hour teacher training in 2012. She is also a regular contributor to the Mala Yoga blog.