Slow Down, Shut Up: I want to teach like me

Now that I’ve been at this thing for 6 months, I’m starting to have a sense of what I like to do, don’t like to do, who I am as a teacher and who I’m not as a teacher. I’ve been adding more vinyasa classes to my schedule; it’s interesting, because vinyasa was the first class that I really **loved**. When I started doing power yoga, I thought it was hard, but as I began to do it more often, I really enjoyed the challenge of finding calm in the tough postures. And yet, I feel compelled to do my own thing. The teachers who have inspired me (and continue to inspire me) are amazing, but I am not them. As I step forward in teaching, I want to teach like me.

Minneapolis is an amazing yoga city; it’s also a **very** vinyasa-heavy town. So one of the things I wrestle with is wondering what I can do differently when I teach vinyasa, what I can do authentically. I love the jump backs. I love trying challenging poses. But I remember the first time I went into headstand feeling surprised that nothing had changed. It was another pose. It didn’t awaken me. It didn’t bring me a new level of consciousness or open my heart to others. I was pleasantly surprised I got up there, and then I came down. But if I had expectations that it was going to make me a “real” yogi (and let’s be clear, I did), I was sorely disappointed.

It’s been my experience (and I’m told a lot of new teachers have the same experience) that I parrot back the cues either that I’d been taught or that I’d heard teachers use. I mean, you have this room full of people waiting for you to tell them what to do and it’s hard enough to remember all the body parts in postures. It took me a while to have the mental space to think during teaching. As I’ve had more practice, I’m starting to explore when to include breath cues, what other ways I can use words. And when I can use silence. Am I speaking just to speak, or does what I say have a purpose?

Sequencing as well has been something I’ve thought a lot about. I’ve started with what I’ve been taught, influenced sometimes by sequences that others have done, and have found a general format that works. Within that, there’s a lot of room to be creative. I’m starting ask “why” put this posture here (for reasons beyond “my sequencing book told me to”). Why not put another one here?  What is it that I hope for? And how does this relate to point of class, philosophically or anatomically?

I bring one or two small things to share in a class. For example, in a recent class I discussed bandhas and focused on the principle of bringing mindfulness to the posture, especially from within. I’m starting to focus more on including that in classes. On teaching the yoga in addition to the asana.

So with that, I am on a journey of finding myself and letting go of striving to be the teacher I think I should be. When I ask for advice, teachers tell me to be authentic. To teach something that’s authentic to me. Which also means recognizing what I think a teacher “should be”. And in vinyasa, I will admit, I think a “real” teacher has bangin playlists, fancy sequences, can get the entire class into advanced postures, transforms at least 2 lives and guides the entire class to the highest level of consciousness during savasana. And of course, had 200 likes on the Instagram post announcing that class, and is an ambassador for two or three yogawear clothing companies. They probably include postures I don’t include because I have read enough evidence they are unsafe. And of course, they give each student 4 deep adjustments that don’t necessarily help alignment, but sure look cool and feel great too.

Ummmm…. Let’s be real here. That’s not real yoga. That’s not real life. And that’s not me. I don’t always see the point of doing fancy sequences every time. Is the point to demonstrate something? Something beyond my ability as a choreographer? What if I thought about the things I bring to the table?

  • Knowledge (and continuing education) about safety in movement.
  • Knowledge of breathing techniques and philosophy.
  • Awareness of variations and props that might be more effective.
  • An appreciation for meditation, quiet, and growth.
  • Jokes and puns so bad, you can’t help but smile.

If this practice is truly about the journey within, the acceptance of what is, then my teaching has to be a reflection of that. Two of my teachers and I were talking about the idea of “slowpower” during a yin class the other day. So why wouldn’t I apply the same mindset I have in teaching other styles to vinyasa? What if I focused on what matters to me: safe transitions, alignment, meditation and philosophy? What if the class was more than gymnastics, and were simpler, more straightforward, and effective (at bringing students to the experience of yoga, rather than the experience of crossfit)? I don’t mean everything has to be gentle or slow (though I think those are advanced practices in this day and age), but what if it was, as I approach other classes, a chance to pay attention, move with purpose and journey to the Self? Without pretenses?

All I know is that in trying to show up as someone else for the sake of being liked, I miss the opportunity to show up as myself. And how can I **ever** hope to share a practice of awakening to what is while I’m hiding behind the costume of a SuperYogi? Being registered as RYT doesn’t make me a real teacher; nor does teaching a fancy sequence, going fast, or doing what I see others do simply because I don’t know if people will like what I want to do.

There are other classes for the party trick poses and top 40 playlists (and I’m glad they’re out there). But I am not that teacher. If I play music at all, it’s here to facilitate the experience I am setting. There are other classes to get all the feel-good adjustments; I am not that teacher. If I touch a student, it’s to guide them to engage muscle more effectively, find a different fit in a posture or to simply acknowledge their presence as a human being. It’s not because some online article said that this new pelvis adjustment is all the rage and in high demand. There are some amazing feel-good adjustments that have truly made classes transformative for me. But just because that’s how someone else teaches doesn’t mean it’s how I should do it; nor does that mean it would even be effective if I did.

I want to teach like me so I can learn and grow along with my students. I’m here to guide you to you; to help you learn how to help YOURSELF feel good and build postures from the inside out. I’m here to teach you to show up and pay attention. And to stay safe while you do it. Yoga doesn’t have to hurt; it does mean doing work. I want to encourage students to find a reason to practice beyond “foot behind head is the goal”, getting more Instagram followers or “no pain no gain”. So let’s slow down, come back to the breath and get to it.