There is more to teaching yoga than showing someone how to move their body into various postures. It involves so much more than directing what angles feet should be facing or supervising the alignment a set of shoulders should take. Yoga is about sharing the moves, the feel and the conscious awareness of your own body with the students in your class. Teaching yoga means merging your present breath, body and mind experience with the students’ burgeoning appreciation of their own.
Circulating among the class can be helpful to personalize some of the benefits of a pose, especially with a mixed level class, but focussing on this consistently fails to give the students an adequate impression. Reciting the moves from a one-dimensional instructional perspective is like reading the pages of a book aloud without expression. The words are understood, but the lack of emotion falls short of delivering a memorable story and most of the message is lost in the poorly executed translation. Continuing to perform the moves during a class helps the teacher to focus on internal awareness and precision cuing.
The asana (poses) are necessary to evolve the body; they are the means by which union is created between the physical body and the emotional or spiritual plane. Moving through the poses while teaching them strengthens the connection between your visual and auditory cues. Specific cuing helps the students to imagine the posture and connect it with their own body movements. Reinforcing the mental image with the visual representation provided by the teacher gives students the opportunity to see yoga within a richer frame of reference.
Achieving alignment has many angles to it. Yoga has 5000 years of reference available for teachers who wish to tap into that wealth of resources. Offering alignment options provides a variety of levels to intensify strength and multiply stretch alternatives. Repetition can kill any good teacher’s delivery. People need healthy change to facilitate growth even though, ironically, we fight it. Changing the view of the posture expands the knowledge and purpose for each pose as well as leaving room for growth.
Helping a student to intensify a posture means connecting your own body to your mind and describing the experience out loud while you do it. Igniting your passion for yoga by challenging yourself with new levels or visiting another instructor’s class are methods that keep the enthusiasm alive.
Using your own voice conveys sincerity. Your real voice keeps you in the moment and helps you connect deeper into your body cues. Teachers need a vehicle for their own expression; this carries over and shows through in the presentation.
Practising yoga in a studio creates common ground where teachers and students can learn from each other. Sharing yoga means describing your own experience as you feel it right in the moment. Passing this onto your students with the power of joy allows them to feel yoga and bring it to life.
Learning new combinations of moves, using new music and spinning new ways of feeling the postures adds depth to yoga. What joins the class together is the desire to experience the pose; for example, there is more to the foot than just a foot; it includes an instep, heel, toes, top, sides and a sole. While a detailed description of the foot would be as tedious as a monotone voice, choosing the area of the foot that best describes the alignment point helps students to hear yoga. Voicing the experience of pressing the ground through the heel as you exhale, and feeling it all the way up the back of the leg shares more of the whole pose.
Yoga is Dimension
Sometimes, a student will say that they love yoga because a particular pose has helped to alleviate some specific discomfort. More often, students recall their experience with yoga as a wonderful sense of release. Students frequently comment that they feel great after class. They share the positive changes they feel in their body and describe accomplishments they have made since they began to participate in yoga. This is the shared understanding of yoga; we all feel better for the experience.
Yoga is a true union, not just of your own body, mind and spirit, but of the greater collective awareness we all share together