Do It And Then You’re Doing It: Touching Strangers

What happens when a yoga teacher with a phobia of touching strangers faces her fears?

This story is a part of a series called Do It And Then You’re Doing It, in which we attempt to inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and take your life to the next level.

Touching strangers makes me feel weird. It’s not that I’m a physically closed-off person who doesn’t like to be connected to other humans. It’s just that I’m way better at it when I actually know the other person. I mean, I make the best little spoon, but it’s not like I’m going to walk around spooning everybody I meet.

This isn’t that big of a deal for most people. Physical boundaries are important, right? That’s self preservation. This is true, except for the fact that I’m a damned yoga teacher. I know from experience that receiving a juicy hands-on adjustment in a yoga class can be the difference between a good class and a great one. Put plainly, my fear of touching strangers as a yoga teacher is synonymous with being a school teacher and hating children. That shit just doesn’t make sense.

But I’m a worrier. When I go into adjust one of my students, bells go off. “What if you hurt this person? They’ll hate you. You have no idea what is in this person’s physical past. There could be abuse or trauma and you’re just going to grope them and mold them into a pose? How dare you. You have no right. You barely know what you’re doing. Walk away. Just walk away.” (I’m working on teaching that voice how to soften a bit in stressful situations, I promise.)

So, in the spirit of Do It and Then You’re Doing It, I asked Elena Brower if I could assist one of her classes Wanderlust Stratton. She said yes. 

Leading up the the festival, I kept thinking about this room full of hundreds of strangers. And what it would be like to touch a bunch of them. Then, the week before the festival, everything got much worse. Another Wanderlust teacher, Marisa Sako, was in need of an assistant at two of her classes. There I was, about to assist three well-attended classes on a mountain in Vermont at a very well-liked yoga festival.

I get it. There are yoga teachers all over the world who would trade places with me in a heart beat. I’m not discrediting that. I was, however, having a very difficult time seeing the blessing in doing something that I can barely muster in my own classes, let alone a room filled with more than 100 people.

Do it and then you’re doing it. 

On Friday, at Marisa’s arm balance class, I ended up demonstrating poses by practicing in the front of the room. I didn’t have to assist. Awesome. Didn’t have to do it.

On Saturday, at Marisa’s handstand class, around 150 people showed up. I did my best. I shared my hands-on and verbal handstand advice with some students. Later that day, a few of them saw me in passing and thanked me.

Well, okay. That was neat. No disasters. Onward.

On Sunday morning, everything came together. I’d been training for this moment. My girl, Verred Hamenahem, had been assisting Elena all weekend and she survived. If I got scared, I knew I could just go running to her. Elena walked into class and smiled at me. Oh god, I thought. This is it. I should just go. But I didn’t.

As class began, I realized something very important: that room was not full of strangers. We were all friends. The people I touched and assisted were my brothers and my sisters. We were all there for the same reason: to face our fears, to elevate our collective consciousness and to have a good effing time.

And we did. I laughed. I danced. I cried (just a little). And I got super clear on one major thing: I’m extraordinarily blessed, and that matters way more than all of my fears combined.

1493122_10104006331212070_157903400_nTatum Fjerstad is our social media manager. Born and raised in Minneapolis, this writer/yoga teacher/cat lady is determined to make you laugh as you bravely step out of your comfort zones.