Monday, August 3, 2009

mild, medium, hot

Not too much to report in on today. I had a really mellow and for the most part, uneventful day yesterday. I spent some time on the phone with John Friend getting some guidance about my book, teaching and life in general. That was helpful. He gave his blessing for the mentoring group- locally and online and gave me some suggestions for that so that was cool. Kelly and I spent some time researching some options for the technology support and I think we have a plan in place. I have to iron out some details and get a handle on the logistics of it but then we should be good to go later in the fall. I will send out more information as soon as I can.

One thing John and I talked about at length was about developing a very broad range of skills as a a teacher to really be able to meet different students where they are and to nudge them along in their progress (and not blow them out of the water!) I joked with him about his "commentary" of the three different kinds of students. (I first read this in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra where he talks about three kinds of student- mild, medium and intense but perhaps it goes further back than that.) Anyhoo- John uses the analogy of salsa, something anyone from Texas can relate to- saying that there are mild students, medium students and hot students, just like salsa.

Anyway- we tend to think that hot is better than mild and get into a comparison game or a game of pretense or something like that. But that is not what the teaching is saying at all. I think this teaching is about seeing clearly so we can respond appropriately. It really makes me think about the adage of practice "You benefit most from the level of practice that you are really at." It is so obvious as to be pedantic but I find this saying a very powerful teaching. So many forces in our world teach us to be something other than what we are in the moment.

But yoga is about skillfully responding to the truth of the moment as it is, and therefore to ourselves as we are. If we are injured, for instance, we will benefit from a therapy-based practice. If we are feeling strong we will benefit most from a strong practice. If we are fragile emotionally on a given day we need to learn the skillful means to respond to that. If we cannot kick up to handstand, for instance, we should be in a class where that skill is being taught, not a class where that skill is assumed.

Pretending we are more advanced than we are will not lead us deeper into the practice; more likely it will result in injury or frustration. Pretending we are not hurt will not help us heal an injury. Pretending we are not scared will not help us develop courage. (Nor will indulging those state- which is where the skill comes in but that is a different post.)

And this is just practice. So as a teacher- as someone who guides and facilitates that practice of others, we have to learn how to accurately assess the true needs of the student AND what they are ready for. Can we see that their potential is hot but there current state is mild? Or do we just respond to one or the other. It is endless. It is challenging. I find it fascinating. There are so many variables, nuances, demands and opportunities at work to really respond appropriately. We really have to get out of the way.

One thing I talked to John about was that when I was coming up in the method I was coming up with a very intense group or practitioners and it was a very intense time for me and he treated most of us with a lot of heat. Don't get me wrong, he was always very loving but it was super intense to be around him and to grow in the way he was asking us to grow. And now many of those people in those retreats and workshops that I was with are senior teachers in the method and are charged with big leadership responsibilities-some locally, some nationally and others internationally. It is cool to see how the fire tempered us and prepared us. And while it is true watching him teach workshops now, that while I know him to be a very intense teacher, typically his presentation in a large group of students new to the method is not aimed with the same fire. He is very skillful that way.

So that is on my mind today. Hmmm..

Today I need to finish packing before I teach the last class of the Bodhi Yoga Beginning Series. I am not exactly looking forward to that ending but it is cool to know that many people are ready to join other classes and continue on their yoga journey. I plan on a morning of yoga tomorrow before getting on the plane to go to Tucson. I talked to Darren last night and we have 46 people signed up for the Immersion with a waiting list. What fun. I can't wait to meet everyone and see where we can go.


Leanne said...

Great post. CP, SJ and I had a talk about the challanges of different student groups. What their classes look like downtown compared to mine in the valley are so different. Most of their students are medium to hot and come out 5+ times a week and are doing pincha, handstand and 5 urdvas to finish. My students are mild to medium once a week yogis and the levels in my all level classes really are all levels- handstand in the middle of the room to raw beginner.
I told Sjanie the easiest classes I have ever taught in some ways were her classes I sub downtown. There I spend much less time on explanation and much more on observation. In some ways the all levels classes have really made me fine tune how I present the material because I have to have everybody on the same page even though they read at different rates...or something like this. I love to go downtown and just plop the hot salsa on the table somedays and go "Let's eat" but really most days all three salsas are on the table in my classes and I get everybody to taste a little of all three and see how it settles in their stomach if you know what I mean and then I watch their faces and reactions and we go from there. I mean does it really kill the pitta who loves the hot stuff to have a mild one once in a while?? There is a lot of sweetness we miss in the hot stuff sometimes....

Sara said...

Wonderful post! I am not an anusara teacher--but several friends are anusara or other teachers and issues about where students are really at tends to come up in conversations!

I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful book. I have read it several times and pulled it out in times of need. I think what I like best--and this may seem silly--is the pictures. They show beauty in all forms and the amazing power of the human body.