On teaching yoga

posted by danbean

Like so many before me I decided to take a yoga teacher training, to sustain and lengthen the obsession. Some take trainings to deepen their practice and understanding. I think it’s safe to say that fewer teach.

But as someone with somewhat of a flair for public speaking, or at least plenty of experience, it seemed like a logical next step. As a freelancer, after all, diversity is helpful. Unless your freelance work is incredibly consistent and pays a bundle, a diverse pool of work sources becomes near necessity.

On the outside I thought perhaps the therapeutic work that some of my teachers do with yoga might be a long-term destination for me. Of course like many disciplines the only path to such advanced teaching is through it; one has to teach and study for years and experience firsthand what does and does not work.

The training itself is a lengthy discussion for another time; the demanding work both written and physical, the long hours, the comraderie and of course the not-so-minor injury… I could go on endlessly.

But once you are done it’s like… um…

It’s the other side of the looking glass in that room, man, when you are teaching.

Doesn’t always seem like a big deal but all of a sudden you have a bunch of mysterious bodies in front of you that are just brimming with samskara. Who the hell are these people coming to the studio and what the hell can I do for them?

Like other disciplines the beginners are often the most receptive. Tell them to lift an arm and it goes up! Like other disciplines the students who perceive themselves as experienced can be worse to teach because they already know how to practice and just use your class as a framework to get their prana on.  Yes I’m being sarcastic because for all their perceived know-how most students know a lot less then they often believe they do.   Regardless of how many times one has taken parsvakonasana there are still endless variables.  A truly seasoned practitioner would know this and of course respect the teacher.

And so it was that the newbies suffered through baddha konasana but the slim dancer in the back had to prove she could take the forward bend though the instruction was to sit up straight.   If you are someone who has received a tongue lashing for collapsed arches or one miscounted breath in the Primary Series then like me you are conditioned to the holiness of details, the essence of the yoga practice for me.  So as a teacher one might be limited to how much you can direct those dropping in to class, it makes me curious about the dynamic I want to create.   Being a hardass is perhaps the most unnatural thing for me.  And yet I see how it could be helpful.

In beginning to teach yoga, it’s hard to know exactly what I know and what I don’t know.  Time will tell.  Seems like the only way to grow is to get banged up a little, so here goes…

6 responses to “On teaching yoga

  1. I just completed yoga teacher training in June. It wasn’t really my intention to teach but about halfway through I began to change my mind and thought maybe I would like to teach after all.

    I think that you hit it right on with “it’s hard to know exactly what I know and what I don’t know”. Seems to come when you are a student
    but to actually explain with words how to do a posture – that can be surprisingly difficult! I have thought more than once: Wait that’s not what I meant … What’s everyone doing!?

    I look forward to hearing about your teaching experiences. Namaste.

  2. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for On teaching yoga « Elephantbeans [elephantbeans.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com

  3. danbean~

    yeah, it’s the ones who think they know that really embarrass themselves, as with all else, the more you know about yoga, the more you know you know nothing. it’s interesting to figure out, as a teacher, how to deal with it–esp the character doing their own thing at the own pace in the smack front of the class, confusing everyone else and distracting the teach. i’ve found that by letting them do what they want until they figure out I’m worthy of their respect (which can take awhile) , they turn into the biggest fans. I try to ignore them because I find that people who think they know are going to resist and resent any direction, hardass or otherwise. If they realize you are confident enough to let them do their own thing, they’ll open up and respect you. What I’d do for that slim dancer in the back is go give her an assist. Ground her hips as she takes a forward bend in baddha konasana. Who doesn’t love that? Not only will she be back, but she’ll be less likely to try to prove something, if that’s what she was up to (cause who knows? maybe she just had a hard day and wanted the release of a forward bend?)

    look forward to more ~coconut

  4. Ha ha ha! You’ve hit the nail on the head! The joys of managing the diversity of egos and abilities is part of the fun of teaching yoga. In time it will all just roll off you like water off a ducks back…
    Good luck with your yoga venture

  5. Hi

    I think your site is great. I was wondering if you wanted to do a link exchange. If you can add me to your blog roll? My site is: http://www.lexiyoga.com

    Hope to hear from you soon

  6. What’s really funny is that I have experienced the same exact thing teaching 7-year-olds! There are always the sweet quiet ones who are totally psyched to learn something new, the ones whose moms signed them up and made them come and think it’s all sort of nuts, and the ones who have been practicing in class or at home or school and want to totally show off and finish your sentences without listening to instructions.
    It’s all good – just think it’s hysterical to think that those 7-year-olds don’t get any more insightful with age! 🙂

    As someone who has taught kids but never adults, I have thought about the teaching training but never wanted to actually teach. Maybe your updates will change my mind, especially since I’m also trying to become a freelancer!

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