adult Story time

I had a dream last week about teaching the free community class at Patagonia in Ventura. (Which, by the way, is SO much fun.) In real life this class typically has between 40 and 70 people all packed in, and there are no props. It makes for a very different teaching experience than my weekly classes!

In my dream we actually did have props for everyone, and when I told the students to go grab what they needed, I stepped out of the room for a minute. When I walked back in to the room, instead of yoga mats and props spread out, the students had set out long tables and had sat down to eat a big Sunday dinner type of meal.

Incredulous, I said, “I thought you wanted to do yoga!”

To which they replied, “No, we just came to hear stories!”

And so I happily abandoned the need to teach yoga postures, and settled in to share stories.

When I woke up, I thought of the great quote by Barry Lopez: “Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”

There is something about stories that truly nourishes. And not the kind of stories we tend to tell ourselves over and over in our head about what a certain exchange meant, what other people think of us, why our life is the way it is, etc.—but the everyman kind of stories, the myths, the spiritual parables. The ones that point us back to the essence of being human.

The dream was in part a reality: in my classes over the last month have had a lot of what my student’s call “adult story time.” I invite them to sit in meditation or get into a restorative posture at the beginning of class and then I share a story from the Gita, or some myth, or some conglomeration of personal story and research I’ve been reading recently.

It’s gotten to the point where, last week when at the beginning of class I asked what people wanted to do in terms of postures, a male student in his forties answered back, “I don’t care as long as you tell us stories!” My inner little girl was just as excited as his inner little boy!

So I think the dream was also a teaching dream: it was my subconscious telling me that this piece of weaving a story throughout class that was once so terrifying for me and that is now so fun, is actually really important. In fact, inviting in the collective through story can be a very powerful way of strengthening the collective within the studio. Not to mention a good story can be just as illuminating or reflective as a meditative yoga posture.

I’d also like to think that it was a prophetic dream: there are actually times when I feel like having to teach yoga postures within a class gets in the way of what I really want to teach. I suppose it’s easier to say that it’s just more challenging to juggle postures, story, theme and all the thousand things into some coherent offering. And that to have the excuse to not have to include yoga postures seems incredibly liberating at times.

It’s with this spirit of liberation and excitement that I look forward to the Teaching People, Not Poses Teleseries that begins on June 11. I can’t wait to have two hours each week to engage with teachers through story, dialogue and other experiential teachings. It’s like a dream come true. Literally!So if you struggle with how to speak from your own experience while weaving together yoga postures with stories and themes, we’ll be addressing that on the fourth call. There will be twelve calls total, one for each of the principles from my book, Teaching People, Not Poses.If you’ve been thinking about joining us, I encourage you to sign up soon—the early bird discount is only good through next Friday, May 24th.

In the meantime, here’s your homework:

Watch this clip from the documentary about Joseph Campbell called “Finding Joe.”

It’s kinda a dorky visual representation of this story it in my opinion, but it’s one of my favorite stories—and it’s true!

If the story feeds you, I encourage you to do one (or both) of two things:

1. Seek out anything Joseph Campbell, one of the greatest story tellers of our time.

2. If you’re a teacher, play with how you would share this story with your students. And not just a straight re-telling, but presenting the story with or through your own reflections.

Happy adult story time!