Well, its Thursday Morning. A big day of teaching is on deck for me- I am subbing for Gioconda at Castle Hill at 9:30 and for Gillian at Castle Hill at noon and then I have my own class this afternoon at Castle Hill at 4:30 and then the group practice at Breath and Body at 6:30. So, teaching yoga is such a weird thing because while teaching 4 classes does not necessarily take 8 hours like a full work day does for "normal people" I find that kind of schedule a pretty tiring thing. This is the time of year where not just students are out of town but when lots of teachers are on trips as well and so the need for help with subs is high. I in fact, am cashing in on the same kind of favors when I am in Tucson in a few weeks. I will be out August 4th-11th and so all my classes during that time will be subbed.
It has been a full week of yoga yoga yoga. I have been quite pleased with the response to my "online mentoring group"query. In fact, the response from people far and wide was so great that it may make more sense to just do the whole thing online and not have the group meet locally at all. The local folks can just join with everyone on an online group. We will see. I have to work out the technology of it and also consult with Mr. Friend. I am compiling lists of interested folks and I will keep everyone clued into the details.
Speaking of consulting with Mr. Friend, I had a great conference with him about my manuscript and have to clear a bit of time this week to work some of his suggestions into my writing. He and I talked a lot about the differences between leading yoga classes and teaching yoga classes and about various strategies for helping aspiring certified teachers really see the difference between the two. It is a topic I am passionate about. Somehow, I made my way into yoga under the guidance of really good teachers during a time when yoga wasn't as popular and widely accessible as it is now.
Those teachers didn't "make suggestions" or provide tons of "options" or "choice" in the classroom. They taught classes and did not lead practices. (And also there were like 2 classes a week not every day so the idea was the other 5 days you practiced on your own. Now there are yoga studios on every corner and classes at almost every hour of the day!) Anyway, these teachers educated me about the different poses and their forms, the actions needed to make the poses come alive as well as the other related poses that were preparatory- the mastery of which opened the door to whatever pose we were working on that day. I never had a teacher who didn't have x-ray vision of a sort or who I felt like I knew more than. When my knee, shoulder, back, etc. hurt in a pose, my teachers knew what to tell me to do to help it and when I was inattentive and some part of my pose had drooped, sagged or been forgotten, they quickly called my mind back to the task at hand.
Anyway- my point is that while the climate of yoga practice and teaching has changed and yoga is so widely accessible and practiced by so many in various situations and circumstances, in Anusara Yoga we still have a standard of teaching people yoga over and above leading people through yoga. (Of course, if the students are well-trained and can execute good alignment and are familiar with the forms then certainly it is not not Anusara Yoga to lead a great practice-based class. Someone asked me that recently- if you can teach Anusara Yoga in flow. I said "I can teach it, but rarely have I found someone who can really learn it that way. However, if a group of students were all in a room, in flow, in good alignment, following instructions and when quizzed knew the forms, the UPA's and the philosophy, then sure, you are teaching Anusara Yoga. But I digress.)
When mentoring and training aspiring certification candidates, I hear people say a lot that they are afraid to really ask their students for as much as I am suggesting. I get that. Instruction over suggestion is not always well received if someone is not used to it! No one wants to scare someone away or to blow them out of the water or in anyway upset someone they are trying to help. But I keep thinking that the reason I do Anusara Yoga is that Desiree and then John got so in my personal yoga world and then showed me how to get better. Much better.
Obviously, this leads us to a consideration on "Teachable Moments" and how we might begin to know that student is ready to be "taught" and not "led" and that idea leads us down the road into a whole discussion on skillful means- the teacher's and the students.
Recently, in a short, text-based mentoring session John gave me the other day, he reminded me to wait for the student to be ready and to respond to the questions that are asked over and above what I may think needs to happen. And we dialogued a bit- (via text)- about the kind of listening and observation needed to assess that. I think that is why it takes so long to become a certified teacher. The first thing we get concerned about is our part of the teaching formula- developing the themes, learning and articulating the movements with the breath, talking people in and out of poses efficiently and so forth. And there are so many balls that the teacher has to juggle in teaching Anusara Yoga that it takes a while to get the presentation down. But the video is assessed on those skills and also on how the students in the room are executing the teacher's instructions. Honestly, it can take many years to get a group of people to really do that. Anusara Yoga is a commitment between teacher and student to learn and grow together. That was is so cool and so transformational about it. We climb the mountain together.
An Iyengar Yoga teacher told me once that at the upper levels of their certification process, you are being tested on teaching the advanced poses on their syllabus and you have to bring your own students to the assessment. You are not just demonstrating your knowledge of the advanced poses but you have to come with proof that you helped a group of students do those poses! See how linked we are in this?
Paul Muller Ortega often gives a teaching about the grace in the learning process. He reminds us that while we, as student's, are held in the grace of the teacher, the teacher is held in the grace of the student. It is a lovely thing to consider, I think.