The first time I met Caroline Icaza over a year ago she asked me if I’d considered competing. No joke. Me, of the world’s tightest hamstrings and the left knee that makes it look like I’m doing “standing bow” pose in an earthquake. But I came to realize that this is the sort of teacher she is. If practicing this yoga makes a person incredibly confident in their abilities, then teaching it gives people that same confidence in others. Soon after I told studio co-owner Adam Roper in passing that asana competitions had become a goal of mine and his response was a stone-faced silence. I left understanding that you can’t listen to teachers like Ms. Icaza all the time because you’ll get ahead of yourself and lose a sense of the work that still needs to be done.
My twelfth class was my first class with Ms. Icaza in over a year, and it was also a memorable one. In my nearly three years of sporadic practice, I’d always dreamed of demonstrating for the class. To me, and many, that means the teacher thinks you’re good enough for the rest of the class to see a particular posture from you again, and that there are things the class can learn from it. I’d always had visions of showing off my “balancing stick” or my “floor bow” or my best posture “awkward pose.” You know, the ones where I might feel I’m the best in the room and I’m worthy of a display. On this day, Ms. Icaza thought that I was progressing too far too early in “standing bow” and thought that the class needed to take a quick break to see my posture. My arm was dropping, I wasn’t using the kicking leg to open up my chest enough, and I was bringing my body down even though some of the mechanics of the posture had been lost. These are some easy things to correct on my own, but in a crowded weekend class with forty watchful eyes, it was an arduous task to simply keep my knee locked and start the demonstration. Then, about halfway into the corrections, something just felt right, and I got the strange feeling from the mirror that I’d done the posture correctly for the first time ever, the way I’d seen it done in competitions. Then, before I was completely into my bow, reaching for my eyebrow in the mirror, she stops me with my front arm pointing to about two o’clock and says “that’s your posture” in a way that said: “here’s where your posture starts to break down, work from here.”
The demonstration energized me, and the class, one that I initially didn’t want to attend, became one in which I had now decided not to fail. I always look for positives in every class and from every teacher, and Ms. Icaza’s teaching style, (she’s got the auctioneer’s speed when finishing a posture and starts oh-so-many non-dialogue conversations) might not be the best for keeping a granite-strong focus, but her explanations of movements and transitions are stellar, and unlike anything I’ve experienced in a Bikram Yoga class. She told us to hook our thumbs before a Bikram-style sit-up by “pretending that you are making a shadow puppet of a bird on the ceiling.” She mimics throat compression by saying the dialogue for “separate-leg head-to-knee” pose and “rabbit” pose with her own throat choked in her best Daffy Duck impression: “toke jo thoat en run dun en pat jo fahead on je knee.” Whenever I take her class I’m reminded of why I’m doing this-to get better, and I always find something in Ms. Icaza’s class to add into my practice and improve it.