A few years ago I walked into Y2 Yoga prepared to take over Tanner Bazemore's class. Little did I know, that I was stepping into a lion's den. Tanner, the owner of the studio, had the biggest following and students with very discriminative tastes. When I walked in the ladies room and witnessed girls putting on make up and doing their hair BEFORE HOT YOGA class, I knew that I was in trouble. They had no idea, that the hunky dude they were used to, had given his class to a hippy black girl from Alabama.
The yoga studio was overpowered with the energy of disappointment oozing off the students. I knew that nothing I did was going to be enough. Jennifer was working front desk at the time and was also taking the class. I had no clue who she was but I would soon find out. Though I had been teaching for quite a while and practicing for close to a decade, I was a baby at Y2 and still learning the dynamic and creative style of vinyasa that makes the studio unique. I thought, hey, this is yoga, they will have compassion right?
After teaching what I felt, at the time, was a decent yoga class, I cleaned the room and went out into the hall. I was crushed. While standing at the cubbies, I heard women in the dressing room dogging me out. The first thing I though was, man, they couldn't even wait until I left?" I don't remember what they said specifically,all I remember was the hurt. Then I heard a voice responding to them. "You can't always get what you want but make the best of what you have." I did not learn until later that it was Jennifer.
Jennifer worked the same morning shift that I taught and as time progressed, I confided in her. She gave me feedback, told me what she liked and what she didn't. She was a wealth of knowledge and was eternally positive. I would get up at 5AM in the morning to make the drive from my home on the edge of Concord in North Charlotte, all the way to South Charlotte to teach a 6:30AM class where I would proceed to get dogged out and eye ball rolled by students.
Finally enough was enough. I told Jennifer that I couldn't take it anymore. I was stressed out by trying to teach a style way outside of my comfort zone and from having my art trampled on . I was going to quit. That day as I prepared to teach, what could possibly be my last class, she said, "Just be yourself. They don't like you anyway. So you have nothing to loose." She also told me that she was ready to see who Shanna really was outside of what Shanna was being told to do. This made me realize how much I had lost myself in this process and I had no one to blame but myself. As a yogi, I had alot to work on, for I had allowed the students words to set my ego alight and I had lost all my power as a teacher. I was never going to be successful being a second rate version of someone else. The students could see straight through it.
I wish I could say I got it back that day but I didn't. I can say, however, that because of Jennifer that I didn't quit. I did not give up and I am so thankful for it. Working at Y2 has transformed me from a teacher riddled with self doubt and self deprecating thoughts to one that can walk into a room and teach from a place of power regardless of the maelstrom of shit coming my way. No matter how much it hurt, that truth gave me a platform to grow on. Y2 was the fire that tempered me through pain into something amazing and vibrant & I will always be thankful for it.
When the student is ready, the teacher will come. Through Jennifer's strong words, I stepped into my own and the student's who enjoy what I have to give found me. I am still there now loving every minute. Instead of criticism, I now receive smiles,hugs, positive e-mails & Facebook messages, christmas gifts, & cards and sweets from my students. They have even written blogs about me. I had a student come up to me two weeks ago and say I was their reason for becoming a teacher. I have tripled my numbers and have received many atta girl's and well dones from management. Does everyone love me? No. Am I perfect? No. However, I have now discovered how to grow from hardship instead of being crippled by it. I owe this to a brief but powerful relationship with Jennifer.
Shortly after meeting her, I found out she had cancer. As she got sicker, I saw her less and less around the studio. From time to time she would shine her beacon of light my way through positive words on Facebook. When I heard of her passing, I knew that I wanted to write this. She will be missed.