Teaching and inspiration

I feel like I’m bragging a little bit when I say this, and it makes me feel a little slimy on several levels.  People tell me that what I do is inspiring.  There’s a lot that could be problematic about this (take a look at this fabulous TED Talk by Stella Young about inspiration porn and disabled people to see some of the reasons behind this).  There’s more to it though.  Even before I broke my spine, I had people tell me that my presence in physical spaces, like dance, triathlon, swimming, in the gym, made them feel comfortable to try to find a way to be in those spaces too.

Even though there’s an undercurrent of “Casey, your body doesn’t really belong in those spaces but you do what you want to anyhow,” I understand that these folks are saying that I’m giving them the courage or even permission to find joy in their bodies in whatever way they find it.  I’m uncomfortable by the attention and it’s why I never got to the point of being a professional belly dancer (one of my regrets honestly).  However, being an adjunct professor this semester has shown me that I need to get over these hurdles of shyness and introversion.

Doing tree pose on a rock in Lake Superior, 2006
Doing tree pose on a rock in Lake Superior, 2006

On Thursday, I went with R, a doctoral student friend who isn’t a kinesiologist (she’s a kick-ass education scholar and we guest-lecture for each other) to a yoga class downtown.  They were having a free class as a celebration of being open for two years and we’ve been wanting to find an off-campus yoga class to go to that we can afford.  I’ve been doing yoga off-and-on for about ten years now and she’s a beginner, so finding something that works for both of our needs has been a bit challenging (plus we’ve been busy).  As the room was packed with all levels of practitioners, the instructor reminded us to find where our bodies needed to be, even if that meant being in a restorative pose instead of holding a pose or going through a flow of movements (changing poses on the breath for Sun Salutations for instance).

Despite doing a lot of modifications, I ended up in a lot of pain part way through but I realized how much I learn from yoga practice.  Although I was crying towards the end of the class, I found myself slowly learning how to be inspired by my body and inspired by all bodies.  While my instructor that night had a body shape that people would associate with a “yoga body,” my body is also a yoga body.  My body’s limitations gave other people permission to find the sweet point between pushing one’s limits and honoring them.  I realized that perhaps this body ought to become a more formal yoga teaching body and fondly remembered my first yoga teacher and his not very limber body.

As I’ve been toying with taking personal trainer certification classes, this really isn’t preposterous….and is likely a better choice for my body anyhow.  As the TravelScoot has been opening so many fitness doors for me lately, I’m thinking that this might be a way to inspire people in a way that feels less slimy.  The same studio I went to on Thursday is offering a teacher training class next month and I’m thinking about fundraising for it.  I would love to be able to offer something akin to a Yoga for Queers and Misfits class that I used to attend…all levels, drop-in, all body types and abilities warmly welcomed and acknowledged.

What do you all think?  Would you all help spread the word on a fundraiser to get me certified to teach and show that even fat broken bodies can be yoga bodies?

From a t shirt that says "this is what a yogi looks like"
From a t shirt that says “this is what a yogi looks like

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