Take Child’s Pose, I’m begging you

Take Child’s Pose, I’m begging you

If you’ve ever found your eyes wandering around the room during a yoga class and wondered “Why can’t I do that???” This article is a good starting place for you!

The truth is our bodies are unique in BOTH structure and daily living patterns so our experience in postures will vary widely. There’s a long and complicated answer to why you might feel a posture differently than your yogi neighbor or your favorite teacher. What you should know is when your experience doesn’t match up, it has nothing to do with your ability, your self worth or whether or not you are “good at Yoga”.. As humans, we often observe, compare and try to adapt to what we perceive as the norm. In doing so, we can create unreasonable expectations and miss the chance to go more deeply into our own experience.

Teachers: it’s time to take a look at our language and our approach when we teach group classes. It’s impossible to teach to the individual in a group setting, but there are small things we can do to start opening up this conversation and normalize variations between bodies. Try these three tips to start changing your class culture.

  1. Invite your student to consciously explore in their bodies what they are feeling. Again and again and again, ask students what they are feeling. They don’t need to answer, but in asking you can point them to where the real magic of asana can be found, noticing the different ways our bodies respond to movement and stillness with equanimity.
  2. Offer options, encourage all students to try and decide what’s best for them. Study and try out these options for yourself so that you can be well versed in the choices you present.
  3. Modify your cueing approach. Instead of saying “and if you can’t try…” use language that minimizes a hierarchy of postures. During Sun Salutations with a long hold in downward facing dog it’s not uncommon for students to overwork dog or be downright miserable. Instead of saying “And if you need a break, you can come to child’s pose,” try something like “consider subbing in puppy pose or child’s pose here if you find this to be the shoulder or low back stretch you need right now.” This empowers students to make the best choice for themselves in the moment rather than making them feel like they can’t do what’s expected in that moment.

Practitioners: I’m not a firm “keep your eyes on your own mat” kinda teacher. In fact, I think observing others is one of the primary ways we learn and thus, can be a useful tool in understanding what’s happening. It’s a slippery slope because it takes a strategic mindset shift to really get the most out of your group class experience.

  1. Adopt the mindset from the get-go that we are all different, we will look different when we practice and IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING. It’s like going to the botanical gardens. Even if it’s a rose garden, there are many varieties to enjoy and it’s the slight variations in each that make the garden complete.
  2. When you see or hear a variation TRY IT! Try out the new positioning and really go into feeling mode. Ask yourself what do I feel, where do I feel it and is this useful for me?
  3. Don’t expect that the group experience will be tailored for you. The teacher is doing their best to meet the needs of the group but take ownership of your practice and experience and make the most of your practice by being willing to try new things, go deep into your experience and make choices that serve you. You won’t hurt your teachers feelings if you don’t take the shape they’ve cued. The truth is, if you show up and lie in savasana for the whole class, a good teacher (and everyone around you for that matter) will be jealous, not irritated.

Yoga teachers and practitioners each have their own role to play in normalizing variations between bodies in yoga classes. When we each do our best to encourage focus on the present experience of each body, we can make the most of our mat time and move into the true essence of yoga; coming home to our true selves.

Teaching Yoga Changes Lives, Especially Your Own

Teaching Yoga Changes Lives, Especially Your Own

I never had any intention of teaching yoga.. 

When I enrolled in a teacher training course in 2005 I was three years into a rapidly-deepening yoga obsession. I was practicing at the studio, at home, even at the gym. I was buying books left and right to learn more about postures, anatomy, philosophy, and the history of yoga. I was driving to Chicago to attend workshops with national and international teachers. But I didn’t have any intention of teaching. 

So, why teacher training? 

It was a desire to follow the path toward deeper understandings, wider vistas, and clearer insights. Even then I knew that the training of a teacher was more than just learning what to say and how to say it, it was about taking my own practice to new levels and about really understanding how much I didn’t know. This last insight is one I’ve never let go of. 

Now, somehow, I am celebrating 10 years of training yoga teachers. It has for many years been one of the joys of my life to welcome new cohorts into the fold, guide them through the practice I love, and inspire them to share it with others. Our graduates are studio owners, professional teachers, weekend warriors, specialists. We stay in touch with our graduates from the local community to Washington state, Texas, Nevada, California, Colorado, and on and on. 

From our studio to coast to coast we hear one thing again and again: 

Teaching Yoga Changes Lives, Especially Your Own

This fall we are offering two programs: our 200 hour Foundational Teacher Training and our 300 hour Advanced Training. Both programs have been filling all summer and are down to their final two spots. 

There has never been a better time to seize the opportunity and embrace your potential. Complete an application today at: https://tapasyogashala.com/ytt-application/

 

An Open Letter to Yoga Instructors

An Open Letter to Yoga Instructors

We all want the best for our students, I wholeheartedly believe that, but let me tell you yoga teachers: there’s a better way. It’s time to really ask yourself: What am I here for?

When students are taught and master fundamental skill sets, are allowed to develop through logical progressions and are empowered to learn the asanas in their own bodies, magic happens.  

I’ve seen it time and time again in the self-practice format.  People new to yoga, people who have spent their time in group led fitness, people “past their asana prime”.  They are learning to stand on their heads. They are building tremendous core strength. They are surprising themselves by what they CAN DO, instead of feeling self conscious about what they can’t.  And it’s a beautiful thing to see.

So here’s my call to you asana teachers…  

First and foremost, get a teacher and practice asana!  It’s in our own practice that WE truly understand and own the postures.  Here’s where we do the nitty-gritty work of experimenting with progressions, refining our understanding of the posture and working out how we can share with others.  

Next, choose a posture – any posture! You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, there’s plenty of resources out there if you are willing to look. Study up on your physical anatomy bit by bit. Break things down one movement at a time.  Practice and track your own progress in the various elements of the posture. When you feel like you’ve laid the groundwork, start sharing!

Start sharing simple progression with your students and really OBSERVE them as they try it out.  Listen to their questions, ask them how it feels, watch how they move, become truly invested in the art of teaching, observing and communicating. Gather up all your prep work and your field experience and refine your technique. Keep sharing and don’t be afraid to be wrong.

If you choose to dedicate yourself to teaching asana and sharing yoga with others, why do it any other way? You can do this and your students deserve it!