Eyes glazed over

Still Life with Fish 1864 Edouard Manet

I’m having a bit of a downer day.  Cramps will do that to a gal.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop for cramps, so I got up this morning, had some breakfast, skipped the 25 minute workout I was going to do and went in to teach my yoga class.

When my body isn’t feeling all that good, my mind doesn’t operate as well.  That’s a fact.  And yet, that’s where I tend to go.  I start thinking really hard so that I can feel a little less. I sat down to review notes and plan today’s class and I went all intellectual on myself, delving into the brain and pulling out of the body.  I started thinking about yoga philosophy and the Sanskrit terms for things and I pulled hundreds of yoga books off the shelf just to swim around in them, reading a little bit of DesikacharKraftsowBiharSchoolAtlasofAnatomy all at the same time.  This word-think-talk-mind thing is a samskara that I’ve been known indulge. My mind really likes it.  But without the body and a tuning in to the feeling-sense, the stuff I came up with today was dry and over-intellectual (that may be a too generous) and for students, it leads to the condition known as “Eyes Glazed Over”.

I started class with 12 people out there, ready to practice and move…like we usually do.  If I had been paying attention to my feeling-sense, I could have picked up on that and kept my intro short.  Generally, I offer ONE thing to consider as we move. One.  Instead, with my mind all pumped up and running on its own agenda, I launched into a five-minute talk about Kriya Yoga, the yoga of action.  “Yoga offers us a way to make changes in our lives that lessen suffering and there are three aspects to a transformational practice: Tapas, purifying heat, Svadhyaya, self-reflection and awareness, and Ishvarapranidhana, surrender to and recognition that there are things beyond our control, and we can choose to stay open and humble in the face of such things. “ Only it took me much longer to say it than it took you to read it.

At this point, I can see that students’ eyes are glazing over.  It doesn’t stop me.  It does make me a little less sure about this path I’m on.  My body is not in agreement with my mind’s agenda, so my voice leans toward mousey and my eyes try to break eye contact with my students, but my words get more waaaay more preachy.  Not a good combo.  I keep on talking. This leads to even more severe eyes-glazing-over and a battle between body’s feeling-sense and MIND:  “Yoga is a practice that can help us RISE ABOVE the suffering that is present in our lives.  We need to develop these three aspects of our yoga practice IN BALANCE to MOVE BEYOND the suffering.”  It goes on until finally, I have. To. Stop. In under 6 minutes, the eyeballs of my students looked like cloudy dead-fish-eyes and my mind knew its time on center stage was drawing to a close.  In a desperate attempt to assert its importance my mind and mouth blurted out, “This is really important stuff so we are going to talk about this for the next month.”   (shit.  I wonder if anyone is going to show up over the next month…)

My mind really likes to think it is in charge but when I stay connected and integrated in mind, body and spirit I’m more tuned in.  Yoga is about this very “yoking” of these aspects of our experience so that together we can use all of our awareness and facilities to be present to what is going on.  My mind loves the chance to elbow its way to the front of the line, but when I take a breath, tune into my whole self, the mind gets a hip-check and bumps back in place with the equally important body and spirit.  When I can teach from this place, from a yogic place, the classes, the blog-posts, the time with my kids and my friends, my time in meditation is all so much more interesting and fulfilling and fun.  So here’s to fewer dead fish eyes.  Here’s to getting out of my head and into my body.  Here’s to yoga. yeah.

10 thoughts on “Eyes glazed over

  1. hey there, i feel you man. that’s why i’ve started sending the emails to my tuesday night folks.
    Jenn’s class yesterday was about softening and cooling, in response to the Pitta-aggravated state we are most probably all in, given the 3 digit situation outside. but i was really sweating thru most of the class. i decided my two classes tonight at the Hays Y i will dig deeper into this idea of cooling, so no back bends to speak of, except dwi pada pitham at the beginning. Even though forward folds are supposed to be cooling, i’m not doing too many of those either, since i personally find them warming. i’m doing a bunch of poses that are opening, like chandrasana, Warrior I and Warrior II, Ardha Chandrasana, ending wiht leg cradle stretch, supta badha konasana and then savasana. hope you feel better soon. xo,

  2. Rebecca, I wish I could come to your classes. That cooling sequence sounds great for this kind of heat and level of aggravation. You are so tuned in, lady. I’m glad you are my friend. xo

  3. Helloooo, just wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog! On an unrelated note, I’ve always wondered what the yoga instructors are thinking at their end of the classroom. Definitely plan on reading more. 🙂

  4. hi amanda! so nice to have connected with you…really loving reading your posts! this one spoke loudly and clearly to me because it’s something that happens to me a LOT, and quite often at the same cyclical time…i’d never really looked at it the way you’ve written about it, and i’m gonna definitely have to re-read this post a couple of times. wanted to mention, though, that there’s always the chance that what you had to say in your class a couple of days ago – while it might have made some eyes glaze over, maybe somebody in the room really needed to hear it…ok – at the risk of sounding all head-in-the-clouds, maybe you kept going also because something outside of you was dragging it out? i dunno…there’ve definitely been times in classes where the instructors made my eyes glaze over, but more often i find the teaching part is so often forfeited in the name of Getting Fit Now!…nice to know you prioritize all of it as much as you can…
    looking forward to reading more!

    1. Ann, love your blog! And thanks for your encouragement and comment here. I came home pretty frustrated with myself over this zoning out that I did, but I’m finding that teaching yoga asks me to show up and do my best and sometimes that looks a little different than other times. Sometimes I’m in my head a little more and then I get to move on and try again, and again, and again.

  5. I’ve had the same experience (more times than I would like.) For some reason, the more dazed and confused my students become, the more I try to talk my way out of it. I love this post. Thank you!

  6. I am fearful I will give my students a whole blog-post worth of information when I start teaching. Expectations always make things harder. It is funny that the mind uses expectation to placate itself, but then we end up getting lost in it and we can’t stop the word vomit! I am sure that your students forgive you. Also, I am sure that you ignited at least one person’s fire with your thought and research.

    1. aw, thanks Kayla Mae…my students did come back despite my blabber performance. 🙂 thanks for your thoughts. Also, I want to encourage you to teach, teach, teach. So much learning comes from that process of refinement of languaging and sequencing over time. hard, great, worthwhile.

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