I’ve been practicing yoga for some 23 years now. I’ve taken classes with perhaps a 100 different teachers, from raw beginners to world-famous teachers. It’s amazing but yoga always “works”. It can be challenging to evaluate the quality of instruction: the sequencing, the alignment, the adjustments and the theming. Much of this evaluation is experiential and subjective, really depending on what the student is looking for and expecting. As a student I try to keep an open mind and to be receptive to the teacher’s offerings. Even when I feel disappointed and critical of the quality of the class I leave feeling changed. My mood is often lighter, I feel calmed, I feel limber and different in an un-quantifiable way.
While I feel like yoga works no matter the style, no matter the instructor I do tend to chose highly skilled teachers who teach a vigorous and challenging vinyasa or “breath with motion” style of yoga. Part of how I stay inspired and interested in my practice is by taking working shops with visiting teachers. Recently I took a 2 and a half day workshop with an instructor visiting from Los Angeles. it’s the third workshop I’ve taken with him and this time It was different.
His instruction is always specific, always direct. It’s usually intertwined with an over-arching theme, taken from yogic philosophy, postures are related to sutras, myths and Hindu gods and goddesses. Working on the splits is tied to the Monkey God Hanuman and his tremendous leap from India to Sri-Lanka, a feat of great physical and emotional challenge. This teacher is a skilled instructor of the physical practice and a skilled story-teller.
This weekend workshop was much simpler. The opening meditation was brief and practice began in a supine, supported pose, The next two and a half hours was all asana or posture. There was very little in the way of sadhana, no themeing to speak of and just a smidge of story-telling. The practice was still great, still intense and very focused. I left feeling a little sad, a little empty. I had expected too much.
This made me think of what I teach and how I teach. Obviously I’m not an international yoga star/teacher but I do teach a job which involves a lot of technical information and manual skills. If I don’t access the affective domain am I really making a connection with my students? Yes there will have been a shift, there will have been a change but could that change have been deeper and more profound. I’m not going to incorporate mythology or yogic philosophy into my classes but I will strive to find a way to incorporate some storytelling and connection into the class.
Here are some links to a few of my favourite teachers and some story-telling.