A Rabbi once told me, “Jill, you have a Torah to teach.” I thought that was high praise coming from a Rabbi. But a voice inside of me also rejected the praise.
When I did my last Yoga Teacher Training, I was asked to participate in that training as assistant and mentor (which I also felt was “high praise”). During a preparatory staff meeting, we sat and discerned what special skills we each had to offer during the training. I noticed that I felt a little dim inside.
“What the hell did I have to offer?” I asked myself “besides being a Yiddishe Yogin? “Some Henny Youngman shtick? I know I can teach Inversions. Big fucking deal. I’m better at being on my hands than on my feet, so what. I am vigilant about wanting to prevent injuries. Okay. But what special skills do I have? I have no idea. One thing I know for sure is that don’t I know how to use my kitchen.” These were the thoughts which took prime retail space in my head.
What began to happen during the training as I assisted classes, was that one by one the trainees began to ask, “Jill, when are you going to teach us?” I told them that I wasn’t going to, but that I was on the studio’s schedule to teach classes while they would be in teacher training “lockdown.” Additionally, one of the main staffers decided to lean in to one of my skill sets and she asked ME to rally the trainees back into the studio space after breaks and meals because she knew my PUSHY NEW YORK JEW would effectively manifest them back into the studio like clockwork as she was having a hard time doing so herself.
What also began to happen was after three weeks of being together, no... actually, after three or four days, many of the trainees began to emulate my mannerisms. I click my tongue at the top of my mouth with emphaticism at the end of sentences to drive a point home or just due to sheer enthusiasm, and I kick my leg out to the side and simultaneously shoot my fist out as well when I say something meaningful or exciting to me. Suddenly, many and soon, most of the trainees were repeating these behaviors. Clicking and kicking and oh lord, dare I say it, “fisting” (and I don’t mean that so get your minds out of the gutter)!
So what I began to realize is that there is no mistaking why there is an exclamation point at the end of the Italian sentence tattooed around my right bicep (even though it is a private joke between me and myself)! Perhaps I live that way- INSIDE that exclamation point.
I used to feel badly about living there because it would send many folks running in the opposite direction. Seriously. Even as recent as four months ago, as I was purchasing flowers, I was so excited about the colors of the wild roses I was eagerly awaiting to purchase that the flower lady actually said to me, “NEXT TIME I SEE YOU, I’M WALKING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION!” A flower lady!
But when she said this to me I laughed. I laughed hard.
Anyway, back to my point.
What I began to realize is that although at first, I was “concerned” that the trainees were adopting my mannerisms (because the whole point is to grow oneself and find one’s own authentic voice) what was being revealed to me is that part of the Torah I have to teach is my inner unstoppable (and yes, relentless at times), SPARK and SPARKLE and crazy nutty JIG.
It’s the thing that makes me so uniquely me. My larger than my body can hold laugh. My wild eyes that say I’m going to hug you, so prepare yourself and WATCH OUT! The joy and laughter that used to come through during my asana practice even when my heart was in agony (because my body was able to be in its FULL expression). And on and on.
So even now, now as I sit in this long giant pause of not knowing who I am. Who I am as a yogin, or even who I am as a Yoga Teacher (because I wonder if I still know how to teach as I am beginning to feel like an anachronistic anomaly, wondering if I will have a place to land), and who I will become, the one thing I do know is that even as I sit and have sat through three surgeries now, through pain in my body I do not wish to describe, there is a spirit in me that is still very deeply alive and whether I have full use of my legs or not, I think that spirit will always send certain folks running in the other direction.
May it always be so! Zei Gezundt!