Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Morning

Well, we had a full day with Teacher Training yesterday. I taught the 10:00am class at Breath and Body which was fun. It is a very interesting thing to teach the public classes at Breath and Body because when I am not teaching them, they are Baptiste classes. So, once a month I come in for a weekend, along with a handful of people who regularly study with me and I teach the classes. I have a good time and I think I do a good job but it's an interesting expression of Anusara Yoga for a few reasons.

One reason is that while the two methods share a lot in common, there are plenty that is different so there are times when the Baptiste people are asked to go way outside their familiar zone of practice, which sometimes goes well and sometimes not so much. I always remember how Manouso Manos used to give this teaching about change: He would ask the group, "Know how to make a young person go crazy in yoga? Ask them to do the same thing every class. Know how to make an older person go crazy? Ask them to do something different every class."

As I contemplate the teaching he gave on the subject, I think its not so much an age issue (although that may be part of it) I think it is a temperament issue. Some people are drawn to those practices that have a high degree of routine involved and for a variety of reasons they like that and grow within that structure. Others are drawn to those practices and methods that have a lot of variety in how the asana is practiced, sequenced and performed and those people learn to grow and change within that situation. All that seems to go well until a super-structured sort of person lands in a variety situation or when a variety person lands in a structured situation. When that happens one has to go beyond the first rung of preferences determined by basic temperament. And seriously, this is not easy for most folks.

Another reason that it is an interesting kind of gig is that it is just not my class. I step in to teach an ongoing class that the people at that studio love and adore so they have a substitute teacher (And would rather have their usual teacher!) and so I have a group of people getting used to "me and my ways" which is markedly different than stepping into a class I have taught for years and have grown in a certain way and in which I have established a certain culture and way of working and rapport.

So teaching these weekends always gives me a lot to reflect on and work with which is kind of cool. Truth be told, I think that is at the essence of teaching- this sort of reflection. My sister told me about being at a workshop with Patricia Walden, senior Iyengar teacher who is one of my yoga heroes to be sure. Anne told me how at a certain point, Patricia reflected out loud on what was happening with her teaching in the class. She said something to the effect of:"I probably should have stopped with that pose... everyone was feeling so good at that point in the class and now you are deflated... I was so excited to get to the more advanced posture that I had planned for today that I may have missed the fact you were not quite ready... and now we leave with you not feeling so great..."

Both Anne and I discussed that the impressive thing about her teaching is not just her presence, her brilliant sequencing and her totally bad-ass practice and x-ray like vision with her observation. The real impressive thing is that this far into her teaching career, she is so reflective about what she is doing and so transparent about it and just without a big ego attachment. She is still refining herself. From her example, I think that, as teachers, we may never advance to a point where we are always, 100% of the time pitching the perfect thing to the group without any misses. Nope, that is not seasoned teaching. I think seasoned teaching is more about the willingness to constantly reflect on our teaching- to courageously confront our misses, to analyze how we might improve, to acknowledge and validate our successes and triumphs and so forth.

I think John Friend is brilliant in this domain also. I remember years ago, he taught a partner exercise in a weekend workshop. I had been with him before when the exercise worked really well- it had been a group very well-practiced in Ansuara Yoga and they took to the exercise like a fish to water, so to speak. A few months later he tried the same thing in an area where people were less experienced in his classes and it just didn't work well. He looked at me with a gleam in his eye and said, "Well, that was a train wreck!" And then he backed up, did a more basic approach to the posture and the assist and the group was totally successful. What was remarkable was not that he did it "perfectly," but that he had no problem acknowledging it didn't work and making an immediate shift and adaptation for the group. In fact, so often in teacher training he says things like, "I am a good teacher because I have made more mistakes than anyone else." I love that about him.

So we worked a lot yesterday with observation skills and that was difficult for many of the trainees. In reflecting on the day, I have come up with some things to try today to back us up a few steps earlier into the process to see if we can have a bit more success today and build a little more confidence and clarity. We are really into the thick of the Teacher Training process now where we are breaking long standing habits and I am holding the students to a higher standard and where they have more than one ball in the air to juggle. It is not easy. Teaching Ansuara Yoga is not easy.

Like John so often says, we have a lot to manage at any one time and keeping it all going in an effective way takes a lot of practice. And we can bet we are going to miss the mark a lot. So that's the thing- Are we reflecting? Are we sorting out where we are off-track and how to get better? So once again we get to see that having a high standard is not an easy thing but better to fall short of a high standard than to achieve mediocrity without flaw. just sayin.

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