(You can thank me later for that Olivia Newton John earworm ;) )
In a recent podcast I listened to about teaching yoga online, long-time teacher Jason Crandall said something to the effect of “This unchartered moment is the time to get out of your box. If you’re passionate about adding something to your classes or shifting how you teach, what better time than this.”
These words hit me. Teaching yoga is a passion of mine. Much like a visual artist, or musician, teaching yoga is for me both a creative outlet and a medium through which I connect with my community in a meaningful way. And, teaching yoga is a service I offer to others. So when I get excited about the evolution of my own knowledge and practice, I sometimes hesitate to shift my teaching for fear of alienating or turning away my current students. What if student X or Y stops coming to my classes because my classes aren't as complicated. What if student Z no longer likes my classes because they aren’t ‘yoga’ enough?
Jason recognized this fear, admitting that yoga teachers will often continue to teach in a way that they think supports the desires of students, even to the detriment of their own development and creative evolution…or the wellbeing of students.
I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 20 years and teaching for the past 7. Over this time, my personal practice has changed dramatically. Where I once sought out stretchy, fluid flows most days of the week, I now retreat from them in favor of strength and stability workouts. My teaching has shifted as well, as many of you have witnessed, albeit subtly. Lately, I’m feeling the need to make a bigger shift.
It’s sobering to recognize that the discipline that has healed and helped me so profoundly has also been the source of most of my chronic injuries and pains. I love the physicality of yoga, and I see the issues with it. Many long-time students of yoga have experienced injuries stemming from repetitive stress and over-stretching. Combined with postural imbalances that our daily routines promote, a typical vinyasa practice has the potential to exacerbate instability and set us up for injury. For many of us, our introduction to yoga is through the asana practice. So it’s discouraging that when done in excess or without a foundation of strength and stability, yoga can add to our dis-ease and discomfort.
One of my students told me the other day that one of the things he really likes about yoga is the dignity it offers the body. Yoga, as a holistic discipline, is subtle and powerful and profound. And when approached skillfully, honors and respects our whole being. As a teacher, I believe I have a responsibility to honor the yogic traditions and honor the unique and complex body you inhabit.
I’ve had the opportunity during these last couple months to really look at how I show up as a teacher. (Literally. Watching a recording of yourself teaching a class is both an educational and supremely uncomfortable experience.) So if i’m going to be pushed out of my comfort zone during this time, I might as well dive right in and embrace the messiness.
I invite you all, in your own way, to do the same.