This afternoon I completed my second (of two) teaching labs. For the first hour of class today we got into small groups, taught a very brief 5-minute sequence to our peers, and received any feedback our ‘students’ wanted to share about our sequence, our teaching style, etc. This first hour of “lab time” was very similar to the session we had two weeks ago.
We spent the second hour of today’s class session discussing, observing, and experiencing a variety of physical adjustments for a few common yoga poses (i.e., down dog, cobra, forward fold, etc.). I took a workshop that focused on adjustments near the beginning of my yoga teacher training experience, so I had studied many of these same adjustments at that time; but I was surprised at how helpful it was to re-visit them, re-study them, re-experience them nearly a year later, near the end of my teacher training experience. I have learned, grown, and actually changed so much from then to now; I felt like a rather different person reviewing these familiar topics. It was a bit like the adjustments themselves were actually a stable benchmark against which I could see and assess my own growth. Interesting…
The final hour of today’s session was spent back in small groups, again teaching for 5 minutes to our peers – but this time, we were told to use the time to “practice whatever you want”. We were given permission to set aside our scripted, ‘official’ class design that we created several weeks ago, and instead to open up and do whatever we felt we needed to practice. So I did. I set aside my “planned” class, and tuned in to where my body, mind, and heart were all at in that moment. I then gave up the idea that I ‘had to’ stand at the front of the class and only use words to convey ideas, and instead engaged in the movements I wanted my students to do as I also verbalized those actions. I let my body guide my mind, and allowed my teaching directions to be informed by my heart instead of brain – and it was awesome. Teaching in this way felt empowering, yet also relaxing and peaceful. I felt at ease (instead of incredibly nervous and tight as I had been in each of my yoga teaching experiences up to this point), yet also confident. Clear. Competent. Whole. I felt the state of union that is ‘yoga’.
All of the instructors at this training studio have stressed again and again that every individual must find his or her own ‘teaching voice’ – that is, we all have to find the words, methods, and means that ‘work’ for us as individuals. We have to teach yoga from a place that is authentic and genuine in ourselves. Today, I realized that part of my issue with teaching up to this point has been that I was trying to adhere to the pedagogy the studio wants us to follow (namely, to teach using verbal instructions only, to provide extensive coaching and physical adjustments to students as we lead a class, to teach sessions that are at least 75 minutes long, etc.). I fully understand that this is a very effective, positive, masterful way to teach yoga. But it’s not where I’m at right now. I need to feel the yoga instead of just intellectualize it; and again, this is one of the reasons I adore yoga so much – it’s one of the few spaces in my life that I get to connect with my entire being instead of just my head and brain. It’s one of the special places where I get to relax into what ‘is’, instead of trying to plan for what ‘should be’. It’s a place where I am perfectly content (and indeed, very eager, willing, and happy) to ‘allow’ instead of ‘control’.
So, in setting aside the plan, the script, and the detailed step-by-steps, and in relaxing into the present moment, the feelings, the wisdom of my own body, I began to ‘hear’ the quiet, subtle yoga voice that has been with me all along.
Today I began to discover the teacher who lives deep inside of me. She’s pretty amazing – and she has a lot she can teach me.
P.S. Here’s a fun moment of serendipity: I attended a 3-day-long meditation retreat shortly after completing this class session, and at the yoga retreat I was spontaneously asked to lead a yoga class. (I had literally no idea I was going to be asked to teach yoga during this event, much less actually accept and lead 15 people through a 45-minute class.) If you’d like to read about it, click here (and scroll down to 12:30 pm, then 4 pm).