(This is the second of a 3 part series. You can find Part 1 here on Practice: The Personal.)
While many of the insights I glean in my life of practice get shared in my life of teaching, for me, the practice of teaching is something different. And given that I am an asana teacher, I teach a lot of asana. This simple fact often gives others the impression that asana is my primary practice. Asana is one of many practices that help me. And asana happens to the doorway through which I am teaching these days. But I have always needed more than asana to stay in the game of self-inquiry and I have always used more than asana.
From spiritual teachings to inner insight to asana techniques, I endeavor to refine and improve my craft of teaching. I study the subject of yoga and also the subject of teaching and learning. I am passionately interested in growing my skill-set and improving my work as a teacher.
And truth be told, there are things that I teach that not everyone likes. There are methods of teaching that not everyone enjoys. I can’t tell you the number of people who come to my workshops who found me on Youtube doing advanced poses with my local peeps who are very upset when I harp on their down dog when they first meet me. They came to learn tricks in handstand and I am stuck on down dog. I get it. I am sure it is very frustrating for them.
And, rest assured plenty of people would rather I do fewer demonstrations and give shorter explanations and more than one person has said they wished I would just flow them through it all.
Again, all that is perfectly understandable, but it’s not how I teach.
Since good teaching to me is a “first-things-first” kind of thing, sometimes being in alignment with my desire to be a good teacher is at odds with what my student’s preferences are. And while I am not as rigid as some, I do have my ways and those ways do not work for everybody all the time. That much is obvious to me. I have been at this a while now, after all.
But here is the thing— I watch the students who study with me improve. I teach people with very different capacities, interests, and lifestyles and I watch them all make progress.
So we are clear, not everyone who comes to me for a class or a workshop becomes a student. I am talking here about those students who are invested in learning from me. When curiosity turns to interest and interest turns to commitment and commitment turns to investment then something pretty amazing happens for both of us. In my experience, the teacher-student relationship transforms both the teacher and the student for we are held in each other’s grace and we grow together. The process is not for everyone. It cannot be rushed because the yoga can not be rushed. It is fraught with perils and problems. In the same way that it takes time to build a personal practice and to stabilize flashes of insight into living wisdom, it takes time to develop trust and rapport with our teachers and students.
As I was saying— as annoying as some of my teaching style might be for some, the ones who stick it out make improvement. So while this part might sound arrogant, I simply mean to say that I think my methods work because I have seen them work.
And it is not just poses. What inspires me more than any arm balance or back bend is how people’s faces soften over time and how, once a student is invested in the process of learning with me and with the community, they open in beautiful and surprising ways. Posture means both outer position of the body as well as inner attitude and so, as someone’s teacher, I am watching for both.
Photo credit: Andrew Cebulka
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