Thank You, Wellness Center

It’s Wednesday evening and getting dark, and I’m feeling nostalgic for the class I’ve just retired from: a Yoga for Athletes class at the UNC Wellness Center. I taught the class for the last six years (and also taught indoor cycling there for four). In conjunction with my standing Monday night class at Carrboro Yoga, it’s given me the room and the students to think through much of the material that became my first two books, my DVD, and my ongoing teaching. I’ve added a Thursday night class since becoming studio co-owner, though, and three nights a week was one too many to be out of the home at dinnertime. As I told my students, I’m honestly using the explanation that I’m retiring to spend more time with my family.

My first class at the Wellness Center wasn’t planned. I’d shown up to take Bryan Carey’s Tuesday evening class. (Bryan now owns Patanjali’s Place, a lovely studio in Durham, which is a testament to the hiring practices at the Wellness Center—they get the best!) When Bryan didn’t make it in for transportation reasons, I volunteered to lead the class instead. I was finishing up my teacher training program, and as I’d just taught my first yoga class ever the night before, this was a little like offering to land an airplane after having once played a flight-simulation game. But it went pretty well.

The next day, I saw two of the students in the class at the Wellness Center. Both schoolteachers, they said they’d just been discussing the class and asked me if I’d like some unsolicited advice. “Sure,” I said, steeling myself.

“Don’t apologize for not being Bryan,” one said.

“We can tell you aren’t him just by looking at you!” the other added. “You’re a great teacher as is—so don’t worry about who you aren’t. Be who you are.”

Wednesday evenings over the last six years have given me the space to be who I am. Often, this was the easiest hour of my professional week, when I felt like a conduit for the teachings I explored on Monday nights and refined by Wednesday. It was never work; it was always play. I walked over from my home 150 yards away and into a welcoming room, opened my mouth and let the teaching flow through me. Often, my husband would take the kids to the Stay and Play so he could swim laps, then let them run a loop on the indoor track. I’d look through the glass-brick wall to the track as the students were in savasana to see my daughters’ faces pressed up near mine and give them a silent smile and wave.

During the eight months of the year when the angle of the sun was right, we’d set up with students facing that glass-brick wall. It made a lovely metaphor for the practice. People would come by on the track, at various speeds and with various interesting gaits, somewhat indistinguishable because of the thick glass, then pass on by. If we really needed them, we could run out and get them, but instead we chose to stay on our mats and reconnect breath, body, and mind. Sometimes they returned and we let them pass again, over and over.

My students were uniformly wonderful, and quite loyal. I’ve seen them train for longer and faster events, or try their hand at triathlon after talking to their classmates. Many have been with me for my whole six-year career there. Both the models for my DVD have Wellness Center affiliations. Of the twenty-plus faces I saw in class each week, I may not have had every name right (there’s no cheat sheet enrollment list like we have at the studio), but I had pet names in my head! I look forward to seeing many of these faces at Carrboro Yoga—and getting the names down right.

On a not-unrelated note, a new commitment for 2011, and a reason to free up a night each week, is a one-weekend-a-month 200-hour yoga teacher training I’ll be leading beginning next September. If you’d like to find your teacher’s voice and learn to be who you are in front of a classroom, click here to read more.