LOST IN TRANSLATION:
What the Hell are you saying?
I got some great advice from an experienced teacher (thanks, Micheline Berry!) before I started teaching yoga: You have to be willing to make a fool of yourself because you will end up saying the most ridiculous things. It’s so true! Confusing left and right is an easy mistake to make. I’d be retired if I had a dollar for every time I heard or said that one. But when I say elbow and I mean foot, you’d think I was a stroke victim. What’s up with that? Luckily, I teach older adults who understand and forgive the brain lapses of these silly mistakes.
It can be quite comical when I say things that make no sense and watch the quizzical looks as students consider how to actually follow my crazy instructions. I catch myself saying “your big feet” when I mean “big toe” as I pray I’m not looking at someone with big feet –oops! Or “put the strap around the arch of your ankle…” Good luck with that!
Then there is the unforgettable time I made the self-deprecating comment on a day when I was tired and couldn’t get my words to sync up to my brain – or maybe I just couldn’t get my brain to sync up, period. I said, “I’m sorry I’m retarded today.” One of my student’s son is mentally challenged and was devastated by my insensitivity. It was a humbling moment for me that I won’t forget. I won’t make that mistake again!
Another advantage of teaching older adults is that they will tell you straight up, “I have no idea what you are talking about,” or “That doesn’t make sense.” They teach me to be clear. I was startled the first time a senior literally yelled at me from the back of a crowded class, hands in fists on her waist for emphasis, “I don’t know WHY you say RELAX anything! There is absolutely NOTHING relaxing about this!!” I have no idea how I responded, but I got it loud and clear – literally. If I’m teaching mindfulness through movement then I better mind what I say or suffer the heckling of straight-talking seniors.
So I know I’m going to keep saying ridiculous things and fumble over my words and that some days are better than others. But I am grateful for the honest feedback that keeps ME honest so that I mostly do know and mean exactly what the hell I’m saying… in teaching and in life.