I always figured writing my first blog post would be difficult, so I’m pleased to report that it is in fact much, much harder than I would have believed. So hard, it’s taken me seven years to write. That’s how long ago I became a yoga teacher and a massage therapist, and it was suggested that someone somewhere might like to hear what I have to say. But the years went by, and the train left the station. And my blogging friends have been gesturing at me from the caboose for so long, I’m sure they’ve mostly given up.
Almost two years back, I was asked to teach as a part of a teacher training program for the first time. One of the requirements of the program was that students create a blog about their experiences as a teacher trainee. On the first day of training, they quite rightly asserted that if they (the students) were going to do it, well, so should their teachers! I believe I nodded and shrugged in a non-committal way that could have been interpreted as protest or assent depending on your angle. Luckily, no one ever called me out on my lack of follow-through. Their blogs were universally amazing and some of them continue to inspire me to this day.
The fact is, as a teacher, I’m not much on self-disclosure. I know there are some teachers who can create a great class plan around the contents of their breakfast that morning or the ordeal of their rec-room remodel, but I am not one of them. I have based much of my teaching philosophy on the belief that when I step into the studio, I leave a lot of that – the breakfast, the remodel, my politics – outside. The less of “me” that teaches, the better. In yoga class, somebody has to be steering the ship, and you’re a lot safer if they’re watching the waves, not reading their journal.
When I heard a therapist refer to this as “maintaining the frame,” I finally had a name for what I’d already been practicing. The reason therapy works is you know you are never going to go for a beer with your therapist later and find out too much about them. Their restraint and lack of self-disclosure how you know this hour is therapy and unlike the rest of your life. Not to say that I think yoga is therapy, or that I am a therapist, but people can certainly touch a similarly vulnerable place when they step on their mat, and deserve that kind of safety and respect.
But what if I don’t have that entirely right? The following year, with my second group of teacher trainees, I made what I might once have called a slip–up. During our initial check–in to see how everyone was doing, rather than steering all attention past myself, I shared news of a mild medical condition, and admitted that it was probably stress related. The general consternation was immediate. Several jaws dropped to the floor. One student quietly began a conversation with herself: “Madeleine has stress? How can this be? Ah, well of course she does, she’s a human being, isn’t she…?” Another student looked me dead in the eye and simply said: “Thank you for that.”
This reaction got me thinking. Has my well-intentioned practice of maintaining the frame been overly rigid? By “protecting” my students from knowing too much about me have I allowed myself to appear different, less concerned with the same things we all are, less stressed out? It would seem so. The reaction to my admission was more positive than I would have anticipated. What’s more, the evening’s teaching was still effective, the focus gracefully moved back to the students, and the world and the class did not cave in due to my revelation.
And so, seven years later, I’m hopping on. No one will ever accuse me of being on a hot tamale train of blogging, but I’m grateful to have you, whoever you are, along for the ride.