Thursday, July 05, 2007

Teaching as a Trust

I am trying to maintain a once-weekly entry in this blog, all that I can manage right now, so here goes (although there may be a part two, depending on energy and time.)

Two women came to class this morning, both of whom are experienced yoginis and both of whom had been to a yoga class at the gym the day before where the teacher hadn't shown up. A student took over teaching the class, and it seems to have made people uncomfortable, because they didn't feel confident in his abilities or compassion. This sparked some interesting debate today, and I am left thinking about the responsibility of a yoga teacher. A lot has already been said on this topic, some of it by me, but here are today's musings:

  • A teacher should know more about her topic than her class, even if it is just a little more.
  • As a teacher, you only have the authority you are freely granted. You don't get it just by standing up in front of a class!
  • It is a vital and necessary task for a teacher to have her own dedicated and regular practice and to constantly learn more about yoga philosophy, anatomy, communication skills...
  • Sequencing IS important, really really important. You can hurt people if you do this wrong.
  • Reading the room is important, really really important. Again, if you give asanas that are not appropriate and people actually do them, or you give a bizarre sequence, things can go badly awry.
  • Yoga is a sacred practice, and teaching yoga is a sacred trust. Most people who have practiced for a while begin to feel this. It is not just athletics or aerobics, and you hold that trust when you teach.
I am so grateful that there are some of you out there who are still posting comments! I probably won't respond, but if you feel so inclined, I would love to hear what you think about yoga teachers you have known, what you want from your teacher, what you want to achieve as a teacher...

5 comments:

Karen Beth said...

I agree with this one especially...

"It is a vital and necessary task for a teacher to have her own dedicated and regular practice and to constantly learn more about yoga philosophy, anatomy, communication skills..."

I would NOT want to practice from a teacher who did not hold her/his own practice. It would feel to me as though they thought they knew everything there was to know and I do not agree with or like that attitude.

Luckily, the teachers I've practiced with have all been very good in all areas.

Lisa said...

I think people have a similar relationship with their yoga teachers as they do with a psychotherapist (I'm a psychotherapist, so I've observed this same interaction style in the yoga studio). Students are trusting the instructor to hold their insecurities, inadequacies, etc., and the teacher should know how to do this gently...

I'm often amazed at the wisdom of my instructors, and hope they use their influence on students wisely.

On the other hand, She Yogini has been talking lately about becoming a teacher and how the expressions on her students faces sometimes freak her out (they're all grimacing, what does that mean??) so I've been conscious lately of the influence that a student has on a teacher as well.

Great post to think about.

Kiki said...

All your statements of what a yoga teacher's responsibilities are really resonate outside the yoga classroom as well. Knowing a little more, authority being granted by your students, consistent learning practice of your own, sequencing, reading the room, maintaining learning as a sacred practice - all of these are hallmarks of effective teachers throughout history, no matter what they teach. Thanks for the great musings, all of which I will certainly rely on and keep in mind during the coming teaching year.

rand(om) bites said...
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rand(om) bites said...

I agree with you also. For me, trusting my teacher/s is so important. I want to be able to feel that I can trust them with enabling me to go further in my practice when I go to class. I practice at home to "practice" and go to classes to be pushed further and learn more. I only hope my teachers are aware of how much I appreciate them too when I talk to them and practice with them.