Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Empowering Teaching Immersion

Power yoga is everywhere, but what about empowering yoga?
This world has enough so-called gurus. I’m not really into the type of practice where the teacher says things like, “And now I’d like you to lift your knee. Please. Ahhh. Ah-ha.” And all the yogis say, “Ooohhh, ahhhh, how you’ve enlightened me.” I’m not into the way we worship some teachers for their cultivated presence at the front of the room. The thing that always drew me to my teacher is the sense that, after just a few practices with her, she became part of the group. 

In group therapy we call this “decentralization of the facilitator.” It is a sign that the group has gone from the initial stages – where everyone is anxious and trying to impress one another or holding back – to the second stage – where there is increased comfort and congruency. Skilled facilitators get there quickly. And skilled yoga teachers can do the same.
How? By teaching empowering yoga. Empowering yoga puts the practice right where it belongs: in the hands of each individual practitioner. The focus comes off of what the teacher is trying to teach or what the teacher would like you to do. We call this an external locus. All magic happens when there is an internal locus, a place within a person where he or she is doing the work.

Empowering teaching requires a lot of the teacher. First, it requires he or she be continually involved in personal practice and process. And it requires admitting that the teacher doesn’t know everything, that he or she is just there to hold space and create an environment where a powerful practice is possible.
For me, the skills most valuable for empowering teaching are:
  • Knowledge. Yes, we want to get out of a “teaching” role, but we can only do that if we know when we really need to teach. A wealth of knowledge on anatomical alignment and effectively teaching alignment in a way that is simple, straightforward and understandable is key. When a teacher says, “Rise to sun and fold into self,” my husband always rolls his eyes. He’s not a ‘yogi,’ and these words sound like a Saturday Night Live skit to him. What do you want me to do? Can you show me, using props and exercises, what it might mean to rise to stand with a strong spine? Can you give me that knowledge so I do it without your cuing next time? If you can, I want it.
  • Observation skills. Why are you telling this class to ‘lift the gaze’ when half of us don’t have our feet correctly set? Empowering teachers look at the room and decide which cues will truly help enhance the pose and which are simply throw away suggestions. This helps them leave some space between words for students to feel each cue.
  • Intuitive adjustments. I love a good adjustment. We all do. Learn to do it well, and give lots of them!
  • A receptive attitude toward feedback. If you can give me honest, intentional feedback about something I did that didn’t work, I will thank you! I like to think I know when I’m making sense, when the class was focused, or when I simply lost you. But, sometimes I don’t. You feel the class in your body. Please, let me know what you felt.
If you’re ready to deepen your knowledge, hone your observation skills, adjust intuitively, and receive honest, intentional feedback, then this upcoming immersion is for you. We will learn to empower our students by bettering our skills. Join me!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Words of wisdom for Friday! #thisisyoga #yogaeveryday #namastehighlandpark #SeeYouOnTheMat
Words of wisdom for Friday!