One of my goals for 2016 and beyond, was to learn yoga from experienced teachers. In an effort to work on this resolution of mine, I decided to reach out and conduct a mini interview with some of my favorite teachers! All the teachers I interviewed have extensive knowledge in asana, anatomy, meditation, yoga philosophy and more. I am fortunate to be living in close proximity to these wonderful, strong, humble and knowledgeable gurus. Each one has made a special imprint on my practice. Their blessings and support of my yoga journey are invaluable.
Whether you’re a newly minted teacher or a seasoned one, I hope you are able to gain something from this post.
Now, onward with the deluge of knowledge!
Question#1: You always have multiple levels of students in your Hatha classes. How do you handle teaching a class that has multiple levels of yoga practitioners? What advice would you give to new yoga teachers who encounter a situation like this?
I like to set the stage for every class to be more exploratory in nature vs. fixed. This translates to asking a lot more questions vs just telling students what you want them to do. An exploratory based practice allows students to BE in their bodies during asana practice vs simply DOING based on directive cuing. This type of cuing naturally addresses all levels and layers of practitioners to work at their own pace and ability.
My advice to new (and seasoned) teachers..examine your cues closely and be very clear and honest about the intention/purpose for each cue you give. When you watch your students close enough, you will see where many traditional directive cues are being mis-read by all levels of practitioners and are adding tension into the body without the balancing quality of ease.
“Lengthen your tailbone” for example, is translating in many bodies to a posterior pelvic tilt and tense glutes when the cue was originally intended to help students neutralize the pelvis. Consider this…if the purpose of telling someone to “lengthen their tailbone” is to get them to find neutral pelvis, why not just say “find neutral pelvis?” If your students clearly do not know what “neutral pelvis” is, even some advanced practicers do not, take a minute to explore and teach them. Obviously this goes well beyond the pelvis and can be a really fun way to re-explore your own practice and set the same stage for your students.
Susan began her Yoga journey in 2000 after taking a course in Eastern Culture and Philosophy at Bradley University where she also studied Elementary Education. Susan completed her 200 hour Teacher Training in 2006 with Jimmy Barkan and Lisa Goodwin, and her 500 hour training in 2012 with Stephanie Keach, among others, at Asheville Yoga Center. Since finding her yoga path, Susan cultivates a deep interest in living her yoga beyond the mat. Her mission is to encourage, empower, and support each student to do the same. Susan is the director of InnerLight Yoga School and currently continues her studies in a variety of settings. She is greatly influenced by teachers such as David H Wagner, Angela Farmer, and Sally Kempton. Susan has been a huge part of my yoga journey as she was the one I trained under for my yoga teacher training. Thank you Susan for your knowledge, kindness and patience.
Question #2: How has your teaching evolved over the years? Do you notice a marked difference from when you first started teaching to now? If so, what is the difference?
Just as every practice on our mat is an invitation to evolve…to unfold… to develop not only physically, but to peel back the layers of mind and emotion and allow us to touch our true nature, so too is this the opportunity for us as yoga teachers when we step into the studio to teach. As I reflect on my personal evolution as a teacher of yoga, I see several ways I’ve grown or gotten clearer and more effective. First, with six years of teaching yoga under my belt, along with continued study, I’m more confident with the technical aspects of teaching such as hands-on assists, verbal cues, and specific recommendations for modifying or deepening a posture. Far more profound, however, is that I am simply more comfortable in my own skin and, thus, am able to have my attention on those I’m teaching and not so much on myself. The internal dialogue of “Am I pronouncing that Sanskrit word correctly?” or “Do they wish I was ___x___ (any other teacher)?” or “Do I look fat in this outfit?” has quieted tremendously with time and experience. The ability to be more fully present with those I’m teaching is a lovely experience. With this has come greater awareness of and appreciation for each individual student and what they bring into the studio with them. Perhaps things at home or at work are a little challenging, or they are working through loss, or they are feeling inadequate in their practice. To be “in the world” of my students and to provide a space of non-judgement where they can tap into the transformative power of movement, music, breath, and mindfulness is a wonderful thing. I simply didn’t have the experience to do that as a new teacher. Bottom line: my evolution is not about knowing, it’s about being. – Alyson Colwell-Waber, E-RYT 200. Alyson teaches Vinyasa yoga at StudioVibe, Cary.
Alyson is a professional dancer, educator, and passionate yoga practitioner. She holds a BS in Physical Education & Dance Education and a MFA in Dance. Alyson founded the dance program at Meredith College where she teaches dance technique, functional anatomy, mind-body integration, and yoga. She is trained in the EmbodiYoga teacher training method led by Lisa Clark, David Beadle, and Gauri Johnson. EmbodiYoga merges the Iyengar tradition with an understanding of movement development and functional anatomy. With this as her foundation, Alyson has developed her approach to teaching yoga that integrates breath, supportive alignment, extension, the joy of movement, and an appreciation for the unique body wisdom we all have. Her aim is to create a class environment where students can explore, deepen, and expand on what they love about yoga. Alyson is one of the main reasons I became a yoga teacher. Her ability to transport her students to a calm state of mind via her creative yoga asana sequencing is incredible. She will always remain a huge source of inspiration, knowledge and influence on me.
I think this post ranks very high on my Most-Favoritest-Blog-Posts-Ever list. I keep reading and re-reading what my teachers have said.
Stayed tuned, as I will be posting part 2 of the series next week with more teachers’ thoughts on yoga-related questions.
Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.