An outside introvert

I attended a course for introvert yoga teachers last week. I know, it sounds like an oxymoron – for surely you need to be extrovert to stand up/lie down in front of a class? The truth is that most teachers are actually quite shy regardless what they teach. Most yoga teachers I know, start their own yoga journey as a student from the very back of a yoga studio , often in the corner furthest away from the teacher.

We introverts usually disguise ourselves by forcing ourselves to spend a lot of time on the outside.

The course was a dream for someone like me because it was held on Zoom so there was none of that awkward ‘meet and greet’ from the real world. The organisers knew what they were doing for they lured us in softly – coaxing us to unmute and switch our cameras on – and then shuted us into random break out rooms (or ‘rooms for drop outs’, as I like to call them) 20 minutes into the workshop.

I have grown to love a break out room – you never quite know who you are going to meet after the Zoom mixing hat has done its work and you find yourself galvanised into talking because even an introvert doesn’t like to sit in an awkward silence for 15 minutes.

You are probably still a little shocked that I have outed myself as an introvert, for the evidence would say otherwise. I can talk for England and surely I am an exhibitionist if I teach in a secondary school and write a blog each week. ‘Charlatan!’ I hear you cry.

Most introverts I know are quite like me – well I think they are, I have always been too shy to ask them.

At school, it may surprise you to know that all my reports read, ‘she knows the answer but she never puts her hand up’. I was flattered that teachers felt I knew the answer, but they were certainly correct in saying I was much happier putting my thoughts on paper than speaking them out loud. Since then, like most introverts, I have learned to fill any awkward silence with chat – mastering the art of an open or reflective question at a young age. We introverts also like a prop or a specific role to play in a particular situation. I learnt as a child that if I commandeered a bowl of peanuts at any of my parent’s excruciating drink parties then I had the means of starting any conversation with the immortal line, ‘peanut anyone?’

You see, as the youngest of four children, I had the perfect excuse to hang back and let my older siblings do the talking – I would not even answer the home phone (yes, a landline) unless my sister pinned me to the wall and silently mouthed what I needed to say to the boyfriend she was about to reject. I spent most of my childhood years hiding behind a very thick fringe with very little to say.

Over the years I was eventually saved by my excessive nosiness. I spent so much time silently ear-wigging on other people’s conversations that I came to the conclusion that it would be impolite not to join in their chat – and it might also prevent me from being branded a stalker. My curiosity coaxed my voice into action and soon I knew how to blend in just by chipping in a question or two.

I think I then got a little over confident and started setting myself challenges to speak in public…and before you know I am standing in front of a school class and then leading assemblies to whole year groups. Yoga teaching and running marathons happened in the same way – I didn’t need a loud voice to undertake these, but I did need to set myself a scary challenge to apply and I seem to have an uncanny ability to shock myself into action.

My nosiness and motor-mouth disguise mean I that I now know a lot of people fairly well, but I doubt that many of these people know a lot about me. Never trust a chatty person who smiles a lot.

This thought comes to me when I was on the course last week. The trainers asked us if our students knew ‘our story’ and they challenged us to share it with our classes so that we could have an authentic relationship with them – and they us. It made me realise that I have never really thought about what my story is – besides, other people’s stories always seem to be more interesting than mine.

‘What would it surprise your students to know about you? the course leaders ask. My first thought is that it would surprise my Year 10 to know the truth about me for, as an introvert, I have a tendency to make up colourful stories about my life to elucidate the study of English literature. Naturally they play along, ‘tell us another of your prehistoric stories, Miss, ‘ they say and occasionally they catch me out; ‘I thought you said you were a child bride Miss? You just described yourself as Miss Havisham’.

Following the workshop I decide that I will challenge myself to come up with 15 things that may vaguely interest both my yoga students and anyone reading my blog. Let me down gently if this scary self-challenge doesn’t work – it could take me weeks to get the courage up to be so open with anyone again. Oh, and being nosey, I would love to know your story, or your 15 interesting things (10? Or even 5 maybe?).

  • I like to sing along to David Cassidy songs when I am doing the ironing. Thankfully, since lockdown I have had little requirement to iron. ‘ How can I be sure,’ if I am really missing it, ‘I really, really want to know’.
  • In a slightly drunken moment I once declared that I felt unfulfilled because I had never driven an army tank. Well, I have now.
  • One of my best days out as a teacher was the day I took my mini-bus driving test with one of my closest chums – ironically we had to drive the school minibus to the test centre before we could do the training. I have a vague memory that we tried to stop for coffee en route, but couldn’t find anywhere we could park, or leave the school branded bus inconspicuously. We both passed the test – I think because my buddy shamelessly flattered the assessor and because she charmed him into allowing us to take the theory test repeatedly until we passed. To this day, I love a road trip.
  • I like my food to crunch, so I annoy everyone around me because all my food seems to be very noisy.
  • When I am feeling very low or anxious I will watch the whole BBC box set of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ in one sitting. Colin Firth resets me every time. ‘There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well’.
  • My life will not be complete until I have seen the Northern Lights. I have tried so many times but they still elude me. I may need to arrange a student trip to Iceland in the school mini bus.
  • I had never camped until 10 years ago. I dived in bravely/foolishly (delete as applicable) by spending my first night under canvas in Kenya – go big or go home, I say. I now know that nothing beats the sound of fellow campers snoring to drown out the sound of Kenyan wildlife and a local cockerel who has no body clock.
  • My family nicknamed me ‘Tubby’ as a child and in my head I still am. I don’t blame them – few realised back then how difficult names and labels can be to shift ; the family colluded in an affectionate way and felt they were being hilarious. In terms of career potential, I don’t feel that ‘Tubby’ would have filled my purse in the same way as ‘Twiggy’s nomenclature managed to. ‘Tubs’ could have given me more street cred I feel. Thankfully times are much more body kind.
  • Even though we lost my sister in 2018, I still go to WhatsApp her each morning. I will never bring myself to delete her.
  • I love the smell of a printed newspaper and I get a bit twitchy if someone reads my paper before I do. I still like to tear out articles and send them to friends in the same way that my grandmother once did. ‘I saw this and thought of you, ‘ still warms my heart.
  • I love a new pair of running shoes and always feel a little sad when they no longer look brand new; I never wear a pair of trainers as a fashion item though so feel I miss a trick here.

Ah, I got to 11 and then clammed up. As an introvert, I feel I can only hold my interest – or your’s for so long. However, I have a feeling that one of my band of brothers may share at least another 5, ‘did you knows’ in the comments section – for we introverts rely on our friends to get us out of situations when we get tongue tied.

Anyway, I had better get on, with students coming back into school from March 8th, I need to spend some time reorganising my seating plans; it is not easy arranging the furniture to get the teacher’s desk to sit at the back of the room. I think Year 10 will appreciate some introversion of the teaching dynamic and we will all be happy that I can legitimately hide behind my mask. I also need to galvanise myself to enrol for Part 2 of my Yoga Teaching Journey. I promise to report back – it will hold me accountable.

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