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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Should a Yoga Teacher be Required to do the Pose?

Is it necessary for a yoga teacher to be able to do the poses he or she teaches? This is a question that was presented to me in a discussion with some yoga teacher candidates. This is indeed a good question because if a teacher cannot, for example, do the down dog due to some physical disability such as loss of legs, should he/she refrain from teaching students to do such a pose? 

The question requires us to balance the art and science of directing yoga students with speech with that of demonstrating the pose. It seems as though that yoga teaching requires the teacher to be able to eloquently and intelligently impart direction with both speaking and demonstration. 

When I teach yoga I am usually doing the pose while talking, but not always. Sometimes I am walking around lightly adjusting students while talking. Some teachers I know hardly ever do the poses while teaching and do a marvelous job. 

However, with that being said, we must take into consideration who is being taught. Needles to say, all students are not the same. They come in all sizes, ages, and abilities. Not only that, a student can have off days and on days with varying degrees in between. Putting all of the variables together a teacher can never count on having the same class from one day to the next.

A teacher must be able to "feel the class" so to speak. Feeling the class, in the classic sense, means being able to pick up on the students' energy levels and capabilities for the moment. This, for the most part, takes experience and some of it can be taught.

Carefully listening and talking to as well as watching students before and during the first five minutes of class is prime time for picking up on their energy levels and capabilities. Simply asking  students how they are feeling is the easiest and most typical way of picking up on their overall well-being but it is not always reliable. Many students are reluctant to complain or give suggestions in a group setting.

On the other hand there are subtle signs or signals that any teacher can pick up on in a one-on-one situation such as the student's voice inflection (tone, accentuation, stress, cadence, rhythm) and mannerisms (out of the norm gestures, way of walking, facial expressions,etc.).

The not so subtle signals are a little more difficult to interpret by the teacher. Such signals may be said to be more esoteric, in other words, more abstract and hidden from view. These signals are what I refer to as the wave vibrations that are given off while the class is underway. 

A teacher cannot be taught how to pick up on these wave vibrations; the skill must be acquired through continued practice of teaching. Being "in tune," so to speak, to the various and ever so mild nuances of students may take several years to develop. 

Probably the best way to develop the ability of tuning in to students wave vibrations is to learn how to be totally aware of one's own self, others, and the immediate environment. This type of awareness requires an astute attention to detail in all aspects of body, breath, and mind as well as actions of other people and the multi-faceted aspects of the physical environment. This is no easy task. It requires full attention to detail in the present moment. This is total awareness. Total awareness as been discussed several times on the blog.

So, back to the original question. Should a yoga teacher be required to do the pose? The answer is - it depends on the teacher. If the teacher is attuned to the students' abilities, needs, problems, and well-being before and during class and also has a good knowledge of how to do the pose, then there is really no need to do the pose.


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