Yoga teacher training involves a lot of confrontation within a safe, supportive environment. As we’ve read through a variety of books, responded to those with reaction papers and verbally processed the lessons we’re learning on and off our mats, the members of my trainee tribe have opened up to one another. We provide grace when an individual struggles to offer it to him or herself.
But that’s not the environment we’ll teach in. Most yoga classes I’ve attended have been warm and welcoming, but I know I won’t often walk into a room full of people who already know my idiosyncrasies and care for me anyway. It’s just as likely that I’ll encounter students who have never taken a yoga class before, and that they’ll be side by side with those who are plenty comfortable moving through sun salutations with little direction.
Our homework before the next training weekend was to teach two 60-minute classes. That’s a fairly open-ended assignment; we could teach each other, or we could teach a class of only one person. (Our instructor specified, though, that our student must be human. No cat yoga for the purposes of this assignment!) I decided to challenge myself by inviting any of my friends to attend these two classes. I’ve also got a number of friends who have expressed interest in trying yoga, and so offering a free class is a way to invite them to try the practice I so love.
That’s how I found myself in front of a motley crew of yogis yesterday afternoon. The class included a couple of people who have practiced before and a couple who had very little experience with yoga, plus a young child. (He brought a book in case he got bored. That’s my kind of kid!)
I spent the days prior to this class determining what I wanted to include, considering modifications for some of the more challenging poses and building a playlist that would help me gauge time. I ran through the class mentally several times, and practiced it myself before the students arrived. As a result, I was comfortable making some adjustments as I went, removing a particularly challenging pose and substituting something more restorative.
Teaching a group that’s not training to be yoga teachers also brought other issues to my attention. If I teach a predominantly beginner class, I might want to break poses down in even more detail. Little things that I’m accustomed to, such as whether the tops of your feet should be flat on the ground or your toes should be curled under, become challenges for those who haven’t seen upward facing dog before.
I’ve got plenty to learn, of course, and I’m grateful for the friends who helped me process these lessons yesterday. I’m still listening to my yoga class playlist and reflecting on how much fun that first experience was! You can find a modified version of the playlist on Spotify; Atoms for Peace and The Beatles aren’t available through that format, so later I’ll add an iTunes playlist where you can buy each of these songs. The class was a heart-opening sequence that peaked in camel pose, and I tried to reflect that in my song choice, at times through the music and at others based on lyrics.
Join me for another round on 2 p.m. Sunday at Desert Island Supply Co. Can’t make it this week, but want to stay up to date on future classes? Sign up for my yoga mailing list.
Today’s subject line is from the Dixie Chicks’ “I Hope,” which appears on their 2006 album “Taking the Long Way.” It’s still my favorite.