Thursday, March 17, 2011


In the past 24 hours, I have been to two amazing yoga classes. First with Justin last night, and this morning with Missy. Being in teacher training, I am trying to pay attention to what makes an "amazing" class - you know those ones that blow your mind and leave you with perma-grin?

Let me back up a minute to where we are in teacher training. We are learning the basics of calling out poses and flows. Center For Yoga (where I am learning through) takes a slightly different approach than other places. They seem to cater to the more advanced yoga student and get them into the asana, assuming the newbies can look around and learn that way. This means you say enough to let them know where to go, but don't harp on every single detail of the pose. CFY teaches that breath is most important, and whatever the student is doing is perfect, as long as they are in tune with their breathing. Therefore, we are being taught to call out 3 things for each pose - the breath (inhale/exhale), the body part that is moving, and the drishti (where to look).

For example:

  • Inhale your arms up over head, look up
  • Exhale, fold at your hips, look down

You would think this would make it easy, right? We just have to give a tiny snippet of explanation - who couldn't do that?!? That was my thought until I started doing it.  Since we are working on the Sun Salutations, we are doing things at the speed of 1 breath 1 movement. I don't know if you can tell by my blog, but my thoughts tend to ramble. So here I am trying to lead a Sun Salutation A and the poor students are holding their breath because my words are still going on a pose they got into 30 second ago already! Ugh! I am having the hardest time being brief and just saying enough to trigger the student to think "I know what to do." Instead I'm touching on every part of their body and where is should be and what it should feel like and blah blah blah.

So back to what an "amazing" class is. My recent observations are that these teachers don't even think about calling out the poses - it comes so naturally for them. What makes the class great is the supporting elements - the stories they tell, the knowledge they impart while we're holding Cresent Moon for 15 breaths, when they turn up the music and when they turn it off altogether, the rise and fall in the tone of their voice, the dramatic pauses, the knowing what is long enough to bring us to our edge but not so long that we give up. These are the things that leave me feeling I had more than just a simple exercise class. It is almost like they are performing a scripted play, because everything flows together so seamlessly.

If I cannot even get the rhythm of calling out the poses, and that isn't even on the radar of what makes a class great, can I really do this? I feel like there are so many more subtleties and I'm really starting to wonder if I can live up to my own expectations of what a great yoga teacher is. The ones I enjoy are performers - I am not. They put together amazing flows - I blank and come back to the Suns when practicing at home. They make it seem like what they do is not something learned, but rather who they are and always have been. Do I have a shot at this? Can I ever learn to do what they do so effortlessly, when a simple 10 breath sequence leaves me flustered?

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