April 11, 2011

Teaching Yoga

I've been teaching yoga for coming up on three years now - since I was (unexpectedly and inexplicably) tapped on the shoulder at the end of my teacher training and asked if I'd like a class. I've had my ups and downs, but I've settled into a nice rhythm of teaching 2.5 classes at the studio, one adult ed class, and filling in when I can. I'm sort of the studio "utility infielder" - not quite in the starting lineup for a lot of classes, but able to step in to a power class, a hot class, a gentle class, even a yin class now and then.

I guess I've gotten a reputation as the gentle teacher who makes you work. Once in a while I'll teach a gentle class where we never leave the floor, but mostly I get the class up for some standing postures. My friend Kristen teased me the other day - she was all zoned out and suddenly realized "Hey. We're doing dancing warrior! How did that happen?" I occasionally get a gentle class into Warrior III without them knowing it. There is a sort of panic / joy thing that happens when they realize it. It's kind of like riding a wave - just need to slowly increase the swells and students go along for the ride.

In my all levels class, I'm kind of the "stickler to form" kind of teacher. I spend so much time in the back of crowded hot and power classes, trying not to watch the students ahead of me who jumped right into these classes. Their postures are all over the map, and the teachers (responsible for 40 or 50 students) are not going to be able to do more than triage in terms of adjustments. So every hunched shoulder, askew knee, bent arm, or lifted heel reinforces my teacher mind - my All Levels students, if and when they make the jump to hot or power classes, will have my voice reminding them of the basics. And it's not so much the cues and harping, but breaking down the postures - setting the feet in Vira I. Then squaring the hips. Then lifting the arms. Then softening the shoulders. Each posture built up from the floor to the sky.

I'm the prop teacher. My own body just does not do every posture easily - I still use a towel to bind in Extended Warrior! So when I see a student's arms loosely approximating a wrap or a bind, I'm quick to offer a strap. I'm a big fan of blankets and blocks. The first few times I went through the Ashtanga series, I was crying at how inaccessible so many of the binds and twists were for my body. But I had some amazing teachers who worked with me to use my props - and now I just automatically put the pieces in place to get into the pose. So I teach with props in mind, always.

I'm also the mischief teacher. There is something ecstatic about crazy yoga poses - Balancing Half Moon, Down Dog on the wall, Warrior III, Dancer, Side Plank. All these graceful, strong, flying poses. I love working with new students, and using the walls, using props, building up in stages, have them walk away with a new posture. I remember my own early days of practice - I'd add a posture to my practice and then get so excited when it came up in a class. So I like to toss in a crazy asana now and then, break it down, build it up, let students play with it a little. Nothing wrong with walking out of yoga class with a bit of ecstatic joy!

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