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“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde
A perfect storm of a learning curve
Here’s a little paradox for you. Nothing makes me more anxious than not knowing what I’m doing. (Actually, mix in a computer or anything that plugs in, and I get even more anxious.) Yet nothing makes me feel more empowered than having learned how to do something new.
Because of this tension, it took me a full week after I made the decision to start offering virtual yoga classes to support my students’ practices during this time of quarantine to do so. I spent a day or two trying to envision what a virtual class could possibly look like. I spent another day or two staring at screens on Amazon, not knowing which wireless microphone to choose.
Mistakes create anxiety
The same day that I mustered the courage to announce the live-stream yoga classes, I shanghaied my husband into helping me set things up in the studio. It took precisely 30 seconds for us to discover mistake number 1: there is no (NO!) Wifi out there. (To quote Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Huge.”)
Paralyzed once again, this time by the logistics of finding a space in our house for the class, I valiantly resisted the urge to punt on this project and watch Mrs. Maisel instead. But I persevered and started moving furniture out of the living room. “All done!” I thought.
Doing something familiar helps me relax
The morning of my inaugural virtual class, I was awake way before dawn feeling anxious. In fact, I don’t think I took a single deep breath until the first smiling student appeared on my screen. “Thank goodness,” I thought. “This finally feels normal and right!”
Back in my community (albeit virtually) and with my teacher’s hat on, I relaxed. While it had been a very long time since I practiced postures while teaching a class, that went just fine – even when my cat, Lola, wandered onto my mat and stretched out underneath one of my low push-ups. As I turned the record feature off and said good-bye to the class, I was actually smiling.
Another mistake, another freak out. But also, more learning
“Learning curve climbed!” I thought, and immediately discovered mistake number 2. As I sat down to upload the recording of the class, I realized that I’d recorded all of the little “Brady Bunch” frames of the class instead of my screen only.
My panic and nausea returned. Cue the mental spiral: This was a horrible mistake! How could I fix this? Clearly, I was in over my head.
I took a deep breath and hit play on the recording and discovered that it looked OK. It wasn’t what I expected and would be better when I learned how to record only my own screen, but it would absolutely give my students something to practice with.
Relieved, I got down to a little more learning. I figured out how to get the video uploaded. I even managed to choose a not-hideous thumbnail image for the class. I then navigated the byzantine process of making the video accessible by invitation only. Finally, I sent it to my husband and (drumroll please!) the link actually worked!
Problems solved and lessons learned create a sense of confidence and pride
I was as proud of myself in that moment as I was when I got up (and stayed up) in my first headstand! As I thought about it, I realized that my first headstand would not have been the profoundly empowering experience that it was had I not made so many mistakes, including falling over flat on my back, as I tried to figure it out.
Maybe good old Oscar Wilde has a point? Maybe I should look at my mistakes as valuable experience? And maybe the big ones, the ones that seem overwhelming and impossible, the ones that trigger horrible anxiety, maybe these are the best experiences of all?
After all, as I write this, I’ve now taught a whopping three (!!) virtual yoga classes. And the last two times, everything went swimmingly. While I’m 9,997 hours away from being an expert (according to Malcolm Gladwell it takes 10,000), I’m starting to feel a little confident.
In fact, if Lola doesn’t mess up a posture with another cameo in class tomorrow morning, I think I’ll actually be disappointed.
Yoga With Sprit is offering a variety of ways to attend virtual yoga classes. You can practice with the Ashtanga primate series video (just $5!) or a quick 20-minute class (free!), both available on our website. Or you can attend (or receive a recording of) a live-stream Ashtanga-based creative series class on Wednesday (8:30) or Saturday (9:00) mornings.