Today my yoga cohort group had our first (of two) teaching labs. These labs are the sessions where we put theory into practice, and actually begin teaching a full-on asana sequence to other people – and then receive feedback about how we did. For these small teaching experiences, we will be instructing a sub-group of our peers.
I’ve not been looking forward to these sessions. And to not want to teach is unusual for me, actually; after all, I am a professional trainer for a multi-billion dollar company. (Literally.) I teach adults a lot; and I teach them about concepts and content that are quite a bit more challenging than yoga poses. (And I’m not minimizing or insulting yoga poses here; but I will say that for me, explaining how to calculate standard deviation, or how to write a compelling project brief, or how to deliver difficult feedback to another adult, are topics that are generally more challenging than showing someone how to position their body into a safe Warrior 1 or downward-facing dog…) After a decade of teaching professionally, I know that I can do it. But not only can I do it, I LIKE to do it. I enjoy helping people learn, and I like it when they push me and help *me* learn; the exchange of ideas and knowledge truly excites and invigorates me. I even like teaching so much that a few years ago I went to graduate school and acquired a Master’s degree in education. Currently, I volunteer once a week to teach second grade kids at my local elementary school. So clearly I really do enjoy teaching. And, not only do I like it, I’m also good at it. (I get paid a lot of money to be a corporate trainer, so I better be good at it!) :) I create classes that adhere to sound instructional design and learning theories, and I have a solid vocabulary to be able to articulate those theories clearly and concisely, and I have enough “personality” to then facilitate effective knowledge transfer from myself to my students…and my students generally say that they enjoy learning from me, *and* that they learn a lot from me. So: I can teach well, and I like teaching…and I also like yoga. Actually, strike that: I LOVE yoga! I love learning about yoga, I love the asana practice, I love being challenged, I love the peace and happiness I feel in most yoga exchanges in which I participate… I love walking barefoot into a warm studio in my stretchy clothes and throwing my hair into a ponytail and exploring facets of my physical (and emotional, and spiritual) self that I didn’t even know existed…. I love reflecting on the yamas and niyamas, and doing my best to put them into practice…. I love meditation and the search for more than just being bendy and twisty…. I love yoga. And I can do yoga. I can do yoga well. I can perform most asanas proficiently, and can even do some of the “crazier” versions of some poses with relative ease and grace. I’m certainly not perfect by any means, but I can give fellow yogis a run for their money – so it’s not that I’m not competent or confident in this realm, either. I know what I can do, and I know what I can’t yet do; and I know I can teach any pose either via a physical demonstration or a verbal instruction.
So. I know teaching. I know yoga. I love teaching. I love yoga. Why wouldn’t I then love teaching yoga? The whole situation looks great on paper; but it doesn’t feel great. Why?
After much contemplation, reflection, and self-examination, I think I know at least a little bit about why I haven’t been overly excited to begin teaching yoga: I don’t want my yoga practice to become one more “responsibility” in my life. I really enjoy going to a yoga class, and not having to be “in charge”. I like having the teacher tell me what to do, and being able to simply follow directions with confidence and relative ease. I like feeling free of planning, organizing, controlling (obsessing); I like being able to just BE. And if I started teaching yoga, I suspect the ease that I currently enjoy in attending yoga classes would erode, and eventually be lost altogether. If I started teaching, there would always be a part of my mind thinking, planning, assessing, analyzing, critiquing, determining how I might integrate a pose or teaching method I liked into one of my classes, or noting things that I would like to avoid in my teaching space… If I started teaching, I would no longer able to be only a student; I would always be examining things from a teacher’s point of view, too.
So. Back to today’s session. Moving from student to teacher. The instructor spent quite a lot of time (i.e., an hour) doing introductions around the class. We all shared our name, the status of our own personal sequence development, how much (or little) we have practiced our own personal sequence, and any questions or concerns we might have. [For the record: “My name is Stef, I have developed a full 75-minute class sequence, I have not practiced it on anyone but have rehearsed it many times by myself, I’m not really looking forward to teaching, but I don’t have any questions about it.”]
After the introductions we got into groups of four, and we each taught a 5-minute section of our larger 75-minute class. Hmm…. five minutes of teaching hardly seems like adequate preparation to teach a full class to ‘real’ students; nor does it seem like enough time to be able to assess a peer’s teaching style/methods/knowledge in order to give any meaningful feedback. But, oh well. Right now I am not in charge, and I just need to get through this class so that I can get my certification… So I taught my segment, received some generic comments from my peers, observed others teach their segments, offered as much meaningful feedback as I could, and then waited for the next set of instructions from the instructor.
Which, interestingly, was an invitation to each of us to engage in a self-reflection exercise. If this teacher only knew… She handed each of us a series of questions that we could use as a starting point for journaling; and I have already addressed most of the questions in significant detail throughout this blog. The thought-starters provided included items like:
- Why do you want to be a yoga teacher? (I think I have well-covered this item in this blog post already…)
- What qualities do you admire in a yoga teacher?
- Have you ever had a challenging experience with a yoga teacher?
- What successful experiences have you had as a yoga teacher? Challenging ones? Fears about teaching?
- What makes you unique as a yoga teacher? How could you improve as a yoga teacher?
- What is your favorite pose? (Why?) Least favorite? (Why?)
After a few more moments of reflection, instruction, and discussion, we wrapped up the class session. Only three more to go…