Practice Aloha: Because You’ll Never Forget Your First Time

Admittedly, my brother and I were a little disappointed when we stepped off the plane from LA to Hawaii. We both thought that we were going to lei’ed. But so far, that’s been the only really disappointing part of Hawaii–we haven’t gotten lei’d once! Tonight, a woman tried to sell us some leis, but we both agreed that a lei is something you should be given, and not pay for.

However, I did end up getting paid for my services while I was in Hawaii. Now, we all know that when it’s been awhile since you’ve offered your services, it can be hard to jump back in the saddle. So imagine how it is to jump into the saddle, in a different state, and offer services that you’ve never actually offered before!

That’s what happened to me when I showed up to a yoga class at the local studio in Lahaina, Maui. Because even though I showed up, and eight other students showed up, the teacher didn’t. The rest of the class seemed really distressed, and someone joked, “ok, who’s going to lead?”

“I’m a yoga teacher!” I volunteered. Since I’ve been a very little girl, I’ve had this problem where I raise my hand to answer questions before I know the answer, or say that I’ll do things before I know what they are. This was definitely one of those cases. Some of my fellow teacher trainees and I have been talking about “ripping off the bandaid.” In other words, you need to start teaching fast, or you’ll never stop being afraid of doing it. This was the ultimate band-aid rip: no preparation, no knowledge of what the wound underneath even looked like. Contemplating the consequences of what I’d done could only lead to me running out of the room.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen, but before I could start to center my breath, the studio manager was asking me if I was “ok with teaching” and I was seated at the front of the classroom, offering wisdom about how we should all look for “the teacher within.” (Aka, “if this is a disaster, please teach yourself, and ignore me.”)

But it was not a disaster. Even though I characteristically failed to be able to tell my left from my right and led a alleged surya namaskar B without utkatasana (but seriously, does anyone enjoy utkatansana? no. and I remembered for the second round, so I have no doubt that at the end of the day, thighs were burning.)

So, somehow, we made it through an entire hour and a half class. And my students were totally enthusiastic. Two of them recognized me from the night before, when I had eaten at the delicious organ and veg-friendly restaurant where they worked. They were so grateful for class that they told me to come back and let them give me free food! I was pretty psyched already, thinking that if the stir-fried brussel sprouts were as good as they said, my teaching experience had been totally worthwhile.

Still, I walked up to the front desk to request that I not be charged for the class. To my surprise, not only did I not get charged, I got paid! (And I got paid way better than most studios in New York pay.) And then the owner showed up and said that my class had gotten such positive reviews, I might get asked to sub again.

Lo and behold, 2 days later. I got a phone call. This time, I was totally prepared. I had already been in Hawaii 5 days, learning to “practice aloha.” That means having an open spirit, having respect for other people and the land, and living according to the natural flow. And of course, flow means breath.

As I explained to my class, we’re always told that “things will happen when they’re ready to” but that this seems a really passive approach to life. It seems complacent, as though the world will either make things happen for you, or not. When we start to move on our breath, and more specifically, let the breath lead, we are taking a proactive approach to being aligned to the flow of our environment, while still letting nature take its course. Nature can’t really unfold for us until we’re consciously paying attention to it, and becoming receptive to its motions. We can’t force it, but we can coax it and mold it.

Unfortunately, I still can’t tell my left from my right, a problem that might prove lucrative for the Maui tourism industry, when I cave and buy a toe ring.

P.S the Wicked Witch of the Web is Two Years Old today!


10 thoughts on “Practice Aloha: Because You’ll Never Forget Your First Time

  1. What an awesome post and brilliant experience!

    So, first up, congrats on the two year blogiversary.

    Second, you're a braver woman than I… I doubt very much that I'd have stuck my hand up like that. Or maybe I would've but been terrified!

    I too, have a left/right issue, which is exacerbated by my attempts to mirror while teaching. Meh. Practice makes perfect, perhaps?

    P.S. I suspect you meant to write: “delicious organic and veg-friendly restaurant” (not “organ” hehe).

  2. Congratulations on 2 years. What a great story! Wish I could have been there.
    And you're not alone, Shannon can't tell left from right was at one stage written on my report card.

  3. I cannot tell my right from my left either, my friend. You reminded me that I really need to get back on the yoga wagon. Congrats on the class and the 2 years!

  4. O, I got so excited while reading this! It's a great story….and it really happened to you, and to your first group of yoga students. I love this so much; congrats!

    I have been in a horrible slump away from yoga. Told my husband just last night that I must sign up with a class. For some reason I just don't get it done on my own. So you are an inspirational teacher even from afar, and I really mean that. 🙂


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