Teaching Yoga without Doing Yoga: Serving as a Yoga Master


Yoga Stuff Happens

Next week I am having a medical procedure done that will require me to not do yoga for a week. This could be a potential problem for me as a yoga teacher. When I asked the doctor about what it meant to “not do yoga,” she specifically stated, “No Downward Dogs.” Are you kidding me? Being asked to not do the pose that takes me back home on my mat? The pose that connects me with my yoga clients as we do our yoga? The pose that works like the golden thread to weave my Vinyasa style classes together? Downward Dog is the glue that keeps me attached to my mat, my breath, and my practice.

It’s time to reinvent my role as a yoga teacher for this week. I have decided to be a Yoga Mistress. For those of you who think this sounds inappropriate, I am going to teach yoga like a Ballet Mistress, or Master, as they are also called. The stereotype is a professional who has danced and performed for many years, and now teaches dance without actually dancing. She carries around a stick and taps it to the beat of the music and pokes it at students’ misaligned bodies, insisting on better turn-out in the feet, and for more strength in the center to avoid over-arching in the back.

I think I will leave my stick at home and my attitude will be one of a servant.

I plan on being there to help with adjustments, to really observe each student, to praise, and to take the time just to notice things. Many times as teachers, we forget to do this. We get very caught up in the rundown of our classes and we don’t make the effort to walk around the class or to observe people doing yoga from different perspectives.

How about you? As a teacher (or as an observant student) have you ever had to take or teach a yoga class with an injury or limited movement? Have you ever taught a completely verbal class without demonstrating the poses? If so, what are some of your ideas to handle this challenge? 

Give me the flow of your thoughts!

Image courtesy of Liz West

4 thoughts on “Teaching Yoga without Doing Yoga: Serving as a Yoga Master”

  1. I had shoulder surgery and could not do any yoga at all for 3 weeks, it nearly killed me. Once the sling came off I could start very slowly, and built my way up. It is now 6 months later and I am back to almost normal. yay! I found by talking to myself consisently out loud in my house, the car the shower, going through a practice it helped. I would visulize the poses in my head and speak through it as if I was teaching a class. It took a while to get into it but the more I did it the easier it became, I also worked the room standing slightly to side of students so I could see which side they were on and check their aligment. I am very comfortable on my mat so this was another challenge for me, but helped in the long run.

    1. I like your idea of talking out loud with the poses. Just like giving an important “presentation,” at a corporate job, we yoga teachers have to have our acts together and this helps to alleviate the pressure to remember every detail while the class looks on.

      Last night I was able to see the class from the corner and it was lovely! Have done this before but I did not feel as obligated to demonstrate every pose so in some ways I was more relaxed.

  2. I’m a fairly new teacher and student of yoga; about 2 years. When I teach I rarely do the whole class. I intermittently stop and demonstrate things if I notice the class isn’t “getting it”… but I really enjoy adjustments and talking through the workouts rather than participating while teaching.

    When taking class I prefer to have an instructor walking around, adjusting, and demonstrating only when necessary.

    I’ve been involved with group exercise for nearly 30 years and have always felt it was more important to instructor rather than get my own workout in…

    1. I have to agree with you but I also like to flow with the teacher. I used to be a dancer, so I think this goes back to my internal tendency to “move in unison as a group.”

      Sometimes when the teacher walks around I subconsciously get nervous thinking I am doing the pose incorrectly but a good adjustment is like a breath of fresh air!

      I challenged myself and did not “dumb down” my yoga rundown that I taught this week and it worked! I even had a new person who was new to yoga and so this freed me up to spend some extra time with him. I kind of do this anyway on a smaller level (mix up my demonstrating and walking around) but after this experience, I think I am going to do adjustments and observe more than before.

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