Teaching Yoga: Navigating an Experience

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training outside

Taking advantage of the sunshine with a bit of theory outside.

When yoga teacher trainees start to teach their peer groups they often become nervous that they will fail to get it right. They want to teach a correct flow or sequence; they want to give the correct instructions; they want to teach with the right balance of tone and volume; they want to impart just the right amount of information; they want to teach within the timeframe they have set for themselves and above all they want to teach each asana safely. When cultivating their teaching style they naturally want to get all these things right and above all do it without their students necessarily noticing that they are doing it. This is because most people dont really have these things in mind when they book a class.

While people who attend a yoga class unconsciously want knowledge, good instruction and even inspiration from their teachers, when they book a class they are really booking an experience. Most students don't want to think too much when they are in a yoga class rather they want to be conducted or navigated through a pleasant experience leaving them feeling calm, relaxed, invigorated, energized or all of these things. They want to walk out of that yoga room feeling more in tune and harmony with their physical, mental and emotional bodies that they did when they walked in.

When trainees are learning to teach yoga and they are faced with this task they are daunted and think they will never get it.

They discover that learning the methodology and techniqes mentioned above can be challenging and nerves and lack of confidence kick in.

It is at this time that trainees do well to remember that at least half the skill in teaching others is gained from their own deepening practice. When trainees are submerged and absorbed into their own deep asana and pranayama practice they know they can have a very profound experience and it is this experience that they can translate on to their students in their teaching.

It was fascinating how it came out this month during the training weekend at the Mind and Body Studio.

This particular weekend had to be reduced to one day for various reasons and most of that day was devoted to trainees teaching a flow of some 45-50 minutes to their peer group. They all delivered a flow that they had been working on themselves for a few weeks choosing asanas for whatever personal reasons they had that month.

I had made a particular point of mentioning last month their lack of reference to safety in their flows and this was picked up by all students who did well to incorporate safety into their instructions often deftly icluded thus keeping their flows running smoothly.

The timing was good and while there were some things that could be improved upon with experience such as tripping over their words in instruction occasionally; showing a little nervousness; inaccuracies with breath instruction; a little unfriendly at times with tone and communication or monotone; too shorter closing relaxation etc what was beginning to shine through was a hint of them teaching from the growing depth of their own practice. They were beginning to give their peer group a better experience than in pevious months. Even the most nervous of out trainees despite some shakiness and the occasional tremble in the voice demostrated detail of instruction that was almost inspiring and in defiance of her nerves.

Another whose playful and laid back personality may sometimes be interpreted as flippant used that playfullness to inspire her flow to full advantage making it an entertaining experience.

Yet another gave us a well orchestrated energizing flow that left us feeling strong and invigorated with almost perfect timing on instruction handled well in that she kept up the dialogue while demonstrating a collection of often respiratory challenging asanas.

Another student took us through a well sequenced flow that led us perfectly to an appropriate conclusion and even provided interesting asana variations and modefications some of which were new to me.

What this also demonstrated was that each students own personality and style was beginning to peep through into their teaching

Part of the philosophy of the Teacher Training at the Mind and Body Studio in Bury is to teach from ones own deepening learning and practice and students on the course are beginning to reveal this skill half way through the course.

Any yoga teacher trainee graduate worth their salt does not want to merely call off postures to a class of students. All yoga teachers need technique knowledge and methodology; a sense of safety; good communication and instructional skills and empathy with student learning but their strength in teaching will more than likely come form the depths of their own deepening learning and practice that can then translate a more profound experience to their students.

Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)

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