Category Archives: Student Questions

Why I Hate Partner Yoga

 

Stressed business woman, pulling her hair out

I rarely blog about anything controversial. I try to keep my writing and teaching as inclusive as possible, and spouting off my unsolicited opinion doesn’t help anyone. Today, however, I’m going to ignore my own policy. Please bear with me and feel free to chastise me in the comments. 😉

A couple of months ago, I shared an article with my teacher training students about yoga adjustments.  I don’t need to write about that topic, because I agree one hundred percent with everything the Sequence Wiz folks said. So if you want to know what I think about adjustments, please read that article.

Shortly after I sent it out, however, a student asked me what I thought about partner yoga. Against my better judgment, I’m answering her publicly.

I hate it.

Hate is a strong word, but in this case, it fits. My first yoga teacher (who I adored) included partner yoga at the end of every class. I’ve tried to block the experience out of my memory, but whenever I hear the phrase, I still feel a stabbing, ice-pick-sharp pain in my groin and remember people twice my size pressing down on my knees in Baddha Konasana while exerting significantly more force than my forever-injured hips could withstand. Lest you think this was done by a teacher with more enthusiasm than training, please understand that the teacher was well regarded, very experienced, and the co-author of a book on Iyengar yoga.

The pièce de résistance of my partner yoga experience, however, occurred during one of the many end-of-class “partner yoga massages.” As usual, I hid at the back of the room, trying not to make eye contact, hoping that I’d be the odd person without a partner and could graciously sit out the experience. No such luck.  While everyone else got and received shoulder rubs, my randomly-assigned “partner” asked me to rub her gluteal muscles. For those of you not anatomy inclined, let’s just call them her butt muscles. To make matters worse, she groaned in pleasure the whole time I rubbed.

When I got home and shared the embarrassing experience with my husband, he asked a reasonable question: “If you didn’t want to do it, why didn’t you say no?”

I didn’t say no for the same reason your students won’t say no the next time you ask them to do something unwise. No one else said anything, I was intimidated, I liked the teacher, and I didn’t want to make a fuss.

I eventually stopped studying with that teacher—not specifically because of the partner aspects of her classes, but because her classes kept injuring my body. Partner yoga had no small part in my injuries.

Holding hands in tree pose, balancing on top of your classmates, and stretching with arms and legs intertwined may be entertaining. It’s often beautiful.  It may even falsely deepen the sensation of stretching. In the case of true partners, it can beautifully deepen emotional connection.

But asana performed for any of these reasons isn’t yoga.  Not in the true sense of the word.  Yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is the practice of stilling the mind. The poses we do with our bodies should be in service of that goal.  Believe me, when I’m thumbs-deep in the butt muscles of a groaning stranger, my mind is anything but still.

For the record, I do think partner asana classes may have some uses, though I don’t want to teach them. Partner asana classes can help build relationships, increase trust, prepare for artistic performances, even provide tools to support a woman in labor.

But let’s be honest and call it what it is.  Partner-assisted stretching, acrobatics, performance art—even call it partner asana, if you want.  But don’t kid yourself. It’s not yoga.  And whatever you call it, I highly doubt that for most students the benefits outweigh the risks.

Next week I’ll give some guidelines about partner yoga for those who still want to teach it.

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Embracing Distraction in Corpse Pose: Answer to a Student Question

A Whole Life Yoga student asks: “How can I tune out snoring and other noises in Savasana (Corpse Pose)?”

This is an excellent question, and it brings me back to the true purpose of Corpse Pose. Corpse Pose isn’t a time of quiet nothingness. It’s a period of active meditation. Snoring is simply another of life’s many distractions, not all that different from ringing cell phones, rumbling lawnmowers, or annoying music. Our reactions to life’s distractions are more about us than the distractions themselves.

Imagine, if you will, a happy yogini—I’ll call her Judy—resting on her back in a blissful Savasana. The man next to her starts snoring. Snoring is simply a sound, neither good nor bad.  The yogini’s gremlin mind, however, makes it all about her.  Oh good Lord, that man is snoring again. Why doesn’t the teacher do something about it? Doesn’t she realize that man is ruining my practice? Left unchecked, Judy’s mind will reel with righteous indignation, as if one man’s cat nap is some sort of attack on her personally. Judy’s practice may indeed be ruined, but I’m not so sure it’s the snorer’s fault.

Instead of your letting your monkey mind take control over you, why not take control over it? There are many different ways to do this, but one of the most powerful is to simply notice. Not the sound that’s distracting you, but your reaction to it. Do you feel irritation? Humor? Embarrassment? Frustration? Whatever you notice, don’t allow your mind to amplify it. Instead, notice the thought; notice the emotion. Then bring your mind back to the feeling of the breath in your body. Over time, you might that the snoring isn’t nearly as distracting as you originally thought.

Remember, yoga is a symbol of the rest of your life. Do you have similar thoughts and reactions to distractions in your daily life? Would your life be more peaceful if, instead of allowing your thoughts to control you, you controlled them?

If you learn how to remain focused during distraction in Savasana, you might notice a ripple effect in the rest of your life.

I hope that helps.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere!

It’s a Blogiday Top Five!

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of the holiday, I’m taking a blogiday, of sorts.  I’m dedicating today’s blog to the top five posts on Whole Life Yoga’s blog since its inception almost three and a half years ago!  These are the number of times an individual clicked on the link to that specific post, not counting anyone who arrived at it from the home page.

So…Here they are, for those of you who missed them

The Whole Life Yoga top 5: (Click on the link to read the specific article)

What do I take from this?  People obviously want to reduce their midsection, and as I’ve always said, “knees always win.”  I’m excited that numbers three and four were more esoteric posts that go beyond asana.  And #5?  Well, who doesn’t like Cat Pose?

Thanks for your support the last over three years, keep reading, and I hope the posts have helped you.

If you like the blog, please keep reading and tell your friends.  And send me questions or ideas to write about. I’m finding myself overwhelmed with two weekly blogs (this and Killer Hobbies) and the many guest appearances I do on other blogs.  I do Whole Life Yoga’s blog because I hope it helps people. Help me keep the momentum!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

To Sanskrit or Not to Sanskrit. A Pose by Any Other Name…

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

Is this cat, table, or cakravakasana?

A Whole Life Yoga teacher training student asks: In some of the classes I attend, the teacher uses the Sanskrit names of poses; other teachers do not.  Is knowing Sanskrit important for a yoga teacher?

Using the names of yoga poses, whether in Sanskrit or English, is a convenient shorthand—for the yoga teacher.  It’s easier to say “Go into down dog” or even “Do adho mukha svanasana” than to describe how to do a pose correctly.  Knowing posture names does not make you a good yoga teacher.  A good yoga teacher can verbally describe a yoga pose to students who’ve never heard its name.  And when we show off and use the Sanskrit names of poses, most of our students hear “whatchamacallit-asana,” anyway.

I rarely use Sanskrit when I teach. Using even English names creates more confusion than clarity.  I remember telling students in class once to go into Uttanasana (a very common standing forward bend). One of my long-time students stopped moving, looked at me oddly, and said, “Utta-what?”  Other times, English has been equally confusing.  I’ve told students to do bridge, and people practicing on mats next to each other have done two completely different poses.  I’ve said “Do down dog,” and half the class has gone into up dog instead.  The examples are numerous, but one thing is clear: the shorthand may be convenient for me, but I’m not communicating to my students.

In Viniyoga, there’s an even more important concern.  There are literally hundreds of ways to do any pose.  If all I say is “Do warrior 1,” I haven’t communicated anything about proper foot placement, how to use the breath, arm positions, number of repetitions, how to engage the core, visualization, etc., etc., etc.  The beauty is indeed in the details.

Sanskrit is a lovely language.  If you study yoga–whether as a teacher or as a practitioner–you may want to learn posture names and other Sanskrit terminology.  But a teacher needs to know how to describe the form, intention, and adaptations of a pose—in English.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site: Yoga Teacher Training in Seattle at Whole Life Yoga.

Can You Do Too Much Yoga? Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

A Whole Life Yoga student asks: Is there such a thing as too much yoga? I have spent most of the past few years doing yoga two to three times a week. Now, I’m at about seven. I feel like I’ve been more tired than I should be. This past week, I tweaked my shoulder. My overriding thought is that I’m doing too much yoga – that I increased the frequency too quickly rather than building up slowly. What are your thoughts?

You’ve asked a great question, and I’m going to answer it with some generalities and even more questions. Appropriate yoga can be practiced every day safely. Inappropriate yoga done once a week or even once a month can be unsafe.  Only you can figure out the answer for your situation.

Here are some things to consider.

  • Is your practice serving your body or injuring it?  The goal in yoga should never be to achieve a certain pose or increase the level of physical challenge.  The goal should be to meet your body where it is–in that moment–and to use yoga to bring your body, mind, and heart into a place of greater balance. If you find yourself competing, even with yourself, re-evaluate.  Consider interspersing stronger yoga days at the studio with gentler home practices focused on mindfulness and breath. Also consider taking your practice back a notch or shortening the length of your home practices.
  • How does your yoga practice balance the rest of your life? Since I know you, I can honestly say that you have a tendency to take on a lot.  Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating in a way that fuels your body? Are you taking time to do practices that fill your energy well?  The exhaustion you feel may have little to do with your yoga practice, and a lot to do with imbalance in your everyday life. Take a good look at your practice. It should balance the stressors in your life, not add to them. If the rest of your life is “strong” make your practice gentle, and vice versa. Dr. David Frawley has a book, Yoga for Your Type, that shows how to use yoga to balance your Ayurvedic doshas. It might be a good place to start.
  • Is your yoga practice an anchor or an addiction? When I was in my twenties, I had an exercise addiction. The need to exercise strongly, every day, was all-consuming. I planned vacations around it, chose not to socialize with friends because of it, and felt great anxiety when I couldn’t do it. The same can be true for your asana practice. Stop practicing for a few days and see how you feel. It’s perfectly fine to miss your practice, but you shouldn’t feel significant guilt or anxiety.  Remember, your practice should serve your life, not replace it. If your practice is becoming an addiction, then pull off the Band-aid and stop practicing.  In several weeks, start again, but not daily. Find a way to let your practice serve, rather than enslave you.

I suspect that once you reflect on those questions, you’ll have your answer.  If not, e-mail me again with what you’ve learned, and I can be of more help.

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

 

Forgiveness: The Road to Happiness—or at Least Peace

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

 


A Whole Life Yoga student asks: I’m in the middle of an ongoing conflict with a member of my family, and although I don’t usually feel angry, I don’t feel happy, either. Do you have any suggestions?

I need to make a confession: this question has challenged me.  The yoga teachings talk about happiness, but not in the way that we might hope.  In fact, the teachings warn against seeking happiness, because within happiness lies suffering.  Instead they advise us to seek peace.

I’ll admit that I struggle with that, even though I get the point.  Happiness leads to attachment; attachment leads to suffering.  Peace, on the other hand, leads to acceptance, and acceptance reduces suffering.

So honestly, I don’t have any great yoga tools for creating happiness. But yoga has helped me find it, nonetheless.  When I practice yoga, I find peace. When I’m more peaceful, I’m happier. So perhaps a more meaningful goal is to turn anger into forgiveness, so that you too can find peace.

The Buddhist meditation below can help jump start that process.  In it, you offer healing to yourself, someone you love, someone with whom you are in conflict, and finally the world.

If sending healing to your family member is too challenging right now, start with someone less charged, like a rude grocery store clerk or someone who cuts you off on the freeway. Over time, as you forgive and find inner tranquility, happiness may sneak its way back in.

Loving Kindness Meditation:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated or lying position.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it.  Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. When you are ready, bring your own self to mind, complete with all of your strengths, weaknesses, successes, and struggles.  Silently and continuously repeat the following intentions for yourself:
    • May I be at peace. May my heart be open.
    • May I be healed, and may I be a source of healing for all beings.
  4. When you are ready, bring to mind the image of a loved one—someone you care about.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for that person:
    • May you be at peace. May your heart be open.
    • May you be healed, and may you be a source of healing for all beings.
  5. When you are ready, bring to mind the image someone with whom you are in conflict, or someone who “pushes your buttons” in some away.  Perhaps someone who’s injured you in the past whom you’ve not forgiven.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for that person:
    • May you be at peace. May your heart be open.
    • May you be healed, and may you be a source of healing for all beings.
  6. When you are ready, bring to mind an image of the entire planet. Visualize or sense the continents, the oceans, and the shape of the earth as it moves around the sun.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for the earth:
    • May the earth be at peace. May the hearts of the earth be open.
    • May the earth be healed, and may the earth be a source of healing for all beings.
  7. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose.  Then continue with the loving kindness meditation from wherever you left off.  The “blessings” above can be modified to anything that has meaning for you.

I hope that helps, and thank you for the question!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Designing a Series Class–Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

Alicia asks: I’m designing my first four-week yoga series, and I am feeling stuck. I’m confident in sequencing an individual class, but unsure about how to build a series. How much of the series should change week to week, and how much should be consistent? How do you make a series flow as a whole?

Series are fun to teach and can be much more powerful than drop-in classes. With a consistent set of students and a defined goal, a series teacher can build on the learnings of each class, and students often notice dramatic progress. But series classes have an added level of complexity. As you’ve noticed, the whole series must be sequenced, not just each individual class. I have a few thoughts that may help.

“Begin with the end in mind.”

The above quote, from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, sums up my first recommendation best. Ask yourself, “What do I want students to take away from the series?” Then build that intention pose by pose, week by week. Students need to do a pose several times before they understand it. Which poses will most effectively achieve the goals of your series? Those are the ones you should repeat most frequently.

One goal of my Yoga for Healthy Backs series, for example, is to gently strengthen and stretch the low back. So Bhujangasana (Cobra) and Cakravakasana (Cat) are core poses that repeat each week. Students in my recent Energize and Strengthen series, on the other hand, wanted to learn Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand). I spent the first two weeks building up to it, and then I repeated it in the last three classes. Only through repetition could students improve their form and confidence.

Remember the days between classes.

Do you plan to give your students home practices as part of your series? If so, every pose in the home practice should be repeated throughout the series. I recommend teaching a pose at least twice before asking a student to do it at home. Make sure the student can do the pose comfortably and with reasonable form, even when you’re not present to guide them.

If a pose is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

In an asana-focused class, pay close attention to your students’ form each week. If a pose seems appropriate for their bodies but their form is compromised, teach it several times with a focus on correct form. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) is appropriate for most people, and it is an important pose in this lineage. It is also difficult to learn. Teach Uttanasana in every class until students can do it correctly.

Don’t repeat your mistakes.

If you discover a pose is too strong for your students, don’t teach it again. For example, even though Pascimatanasana (Seated Forward Bend) is simple, many people are too restricted in their hips, backs, and hamstrings to do it safely and effectively. I might plan to teach it in a series for fit beginners. But I’d throw it out in a heartbeat if students didn’t have the strength and flexibility to do it safely.

Be willing to toss your plans in the trash.

Sometimes your best work isn’t appropriate for your students, so try not to get attached. You may need to change your design significantly after you see how students respond to the first class or two. When I develop a new series, I start with an overall goal and a weekly outline of sub-goals. But I only design the first class. Each subsequence class is developed after I teach the class preceding it. What seems like a good idea in theory is sometimes a disaster in practice. I almost always simplify my original plans.

I hope that helps, at least as a starting point!

Namaste

Tracy

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.

Staying Balanced when Teaching Yoga–Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

A Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate asks: Is it possible for a teacher to absorb the energy of her students? I recently worked with a client who is currently in an emotionally dark place. She felt better after our session, but I felt worse. I even cried later in the day, for no apparent reason. Have you experienced this, and if so, how do you protect yourself?

The short answer is, yes! Yoga tools impact the human energy system, and in teaching them, we open ourselves up to our students’ energy fields. This feels great when students are in a balanced place. It can be challenging when their energy is stressed or sad.

Private work is even more problematic. Private clients allow themselves to be much more intimate and vulnerable than students in group classes. As a yoga therapist, I’ve worked with clients struggling with severe debilitating diseases, clients recovering from trauma, even clients who were in the end stages of terminal disease.

To say, “It isn’t easy” seems more than a little trite. But honestly, I don’t have a simple answer. When I started this work, I actually felt guilty. I thought I should feel worse about my clients’ situations. But I quickly realized that I can’t do this work unless I keep some distance. Otherwise I’ll be on a quick path to burnout and depression. I had to give myself permission not to take on my clients’ pain. The Yoga Sutras agree. According to the sutras, yogis should practice active compassion without joining the suffering. Once we take on the pain of our clients, we’re of no good to anyone, especially our students.

The best way for a teacher to keep that needed distance is to actively practice yoga and meditation herself. That seems obvious, but for some reason, teachers often stop practicing. They even kid themselves that teaching is their practice. Wrong answer! When we teach, we should be 100% focused on the students in front of us. Our personal practice, on the other hand, should be all about us. So if you aren’t currently practicing, start.

Second, I firmly believe yoga teachers should take periodic breaks from teaching. I take a six-week teaching sabbatical every summer. I still work at the studio, but I refuse to teach a single yoga pose. Instead, I focus on filling my own energy well. How full is your energy well? If it’s sucking mud, maybe it’s time for a break.

Third, sometimes our reactions to people around us are symptoms of something already happening within us. I recently wrote an article about Daurmanasya (Depression), which is one of the symptoms of an inner obstacle. So is Svasaprasvasa, which means disturbance of the breath, including uncontrolled crying, as you describe. The sutras list a number of actions you can take when you’re up against an obstacle. Review sutras 1.32 – 1.39 and consider adding one or more of those tools to your daily practice.

Finally, remember to spend time doing things that make you happy. If you’re sensitive to negative energy, you’re likely sensitive to positive energy as well. Nothing picks me up like time spent with puppies or upbeat friends. Others are refueled by playing with children. Still others by gardening. Spend time re-connecting with the touchstones that bring you joy. Allow them to refuel you, just like you do your students.

I hope that helps!

Namaste

Tracy

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.

Measuring Progress in a Viniyoga Class—Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

Hayden, a Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate asks:  A student asked me today how he could measure his progress in my drop-in classes, since they vary so much week to week.  He mentioned, in particular, other yoga classes that always contain sun salutations, and how, if you do them regularly, you can tell that you are getting stronger. But since I don’t want to do regular sun salutations with my class, how can I design drop in classes so that my students are experiencing growth and can see it?  This seems easier to do in a series.

Hi Hayden!  As is usually the case, I don’t have any quick and easy answers to this question.  Gary (my teacher) always says that real progress in yoga practice can best be measured by your relationships.  If your relationships get more stable, your yoga practice is working, and vice–versa.   He also often says that if he were forced to measure the “accomplishments” of his teacher training graduates, he’d evaluate the level of their neuroses.  Remember, according to the sutras, physical prowess was never the intent of yoga practice.  The intent was clarifying and calming the mind.

However….

Viniyoga is multi-faceted.  It can have an orientation that is developmental (Siksana), like my Energize and Strengthen series, therapeutic (Cikitsa), like Yoga for Healthy Backs, or spiritual (Adhyatmika), like my New Years Day workshop.

Physical practice is indeed easier to measure in series classes, as you have the same students over and over again throughout a defined time period. A drop-in practice is trickier, as it’s designed each week based on the students present in class. But drop-in students can still pay attention to how they feel in common poses over time.   There’s absolutely nothing magical about sun salutations.  They are simply a series of specific postures done in a flowing manner. You can measure physical changes in any posture that is taught over and over again.

The trick is to teach the same posture over time and ask students to pay attention to how their body responds to that pose.  For flexibility, seated postures work well. They block escape valves so progress can be more directly seen.  The lateral adaptation of janu sirsansa, deep twists, or regular old pascimatanasana work well for this.  For strength, poses such as plank, caturanga, half squats, arm balances, or all of those lovely prone postures work well.  Progress in those poses would be measured in how many repetitions a student can do or how long they can stay in the pose while maintaining a smooth breath.  For endurance, any flow done repeatedly over time works well.  Breath adaptations in asana and pranayama practices provide effective measurements of breath development.

But the bigger question, I guess, is why is the student practicing?  What do they hope to gain?  And why are they so concerned about measuring themselves? Remember, external measurements are really antithetical to the goals of yoga practice.

Finally, as a teacher, you need to decide who your audience is.  Each class you teach must meet the individual needs of the students present.  This is no easy task–believe me, I know. You may find over time that you need to segment your students into levels, such as beginning, intermediate, and advanced.  Otherwise you won’t be able to adequately meet the needs of anyone.

But above all, please remember, that emotional stability is much more important that any external physical measure.  External measures are more about ego than real growth.

I hope that helps!

Namaste

Tracy

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.

Finding Your Teaching Voice–Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

A student and yoga teacher asks:  I teach yoga at a health club, and I was recently given feedback by my supervisor.  She recommended that I “add a higher element of fun and joy” to my yoga classes, and said that I need to be more “light and bubbly” like the other instructors. Any thoughts on this? What should I do?

This is a tough one. The trick is integrating the feedback without compromising who you are as a teacher. Each venue you teach at will have its own style and energy.  Teaching at a health club is not the same as teaching at a yoga studio.  Teaching at a studio is different than teaching at a mindfulness center, and so on. 

Students also appreciate different styles in yoga instructors. Some like calmer, more introverted teachers, while others prefer ones that are more energetic and extroverted. It can be tempting to try to match people’s expectations—to morph yourself into a chameleon-like being that blends into her environment but is never herself.   You have your own unique personality and character—your own voice, if you will. It is critically important that you remain authentic in your teaching.  In other words, don’t try to be someone or something you are not.  If you do, you will come across as fake and your students won’t like that either. So, the trick is finding a venue and audience that matches your teaching style, while continuing to enhance and build that style.

That said, I do think many yoga teachers are too langhana, meaning they tend to speak softly and in low tones, with a meditative kind of energy.  This is great if you work in a mindfulness center—not so great in a fitness center.   And if you are on the shy side, you may back away from interacting with students, which may be part of the problem.  Here are some things I would recommend trying.

  • Connect with your students before and after class.  I’m notoriously bad at this, but try to get to know your students’ names.  Certainly get to know them as individuals.  And check in with people after class to see how the experience was for them. This is especially important with newer students, who may have questions but not feel comfortable approaching you.
  • Continue this connection during class.  Try to have a personal moment with every student at least once during class.  This can be challenging in larger classes, but is a worthy goal nonetheless.  This connection can range from eye contact and a smile to working on the finer points of form.  Of course, there’s a balance here.  You have to intervene enough to make sure the student knows you’re present, but not so much she wishes you weren’t.  😉  You’ll learn that balance over time.
  • Smile. A lot. Your voice and presence transform dramatically when you smile.  Most of us tend to take ourselves, and our classes, way too seriously. Plus, if you smile, your students are likely to smile back. Smiling students are less likely to strain and struggle in challenging poses. 
  • Use your full vocal range.  Yoga teachers tend to speak softly and in a monotone.  This works well if you’re guiding your students toward meditation or trying to lull them to sleep.  It doesn’t work will for fitness-oriented classes or classes in which you’re trying to build energy.  Vary your vocal volume and pitch to match the energy you are trying to create. 
  • Be present for the entire room.  Way too many teachers teach from the front of the room only.  Move throughout the class; instruct poses from different sides of the room; stand near the back as well as the front.  This will make you a more vibrant presence for the entire class, regardless of where students have placed their mats. 
  • Remain committed to your personal practice.  Many, many teachers become stale and teach by rote simply because they aren’t practicing yoga themselves.  To teach yoga, you have to practice yoga.  If you’re not consistently practicing, start again.  Take classes from teachers you find inspirational, and continue your practice at home.
  • Know when to say when.  Not every teacher is a fit for every class or venue.  If you feel like you can’t teach from an authentic place, then that venue may not be right for you.  In other words, sometimes the best choice is to walk away.

I hope that helps!

Namaste

Tracy

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.