Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teaching Flow, part 2

In my previous post, I asked the question on how do you teach "flow". Sara responded in kind with some more great questions that after some thought I decided to post about.

"I am curious to know how you find the time in the class to break down a pose. I liked what YogiClairebear had to say about making it a sort of "mini master class."

In Hatha class I take time to break down 1 or 2 poses per class but also flow through other postures without lots of focus.

Also, I usually demonstrate multiple levels for each pose and them go back to the "easy" level so students feel ok about choosing to pick level one or two and not push too far. How do you demonstrate?"


While all styles of yoga draw from the same poses, how they are put together varies tremendously. For this discussion, I'm going to focus on the three styles I'm familair with: hatha, vinyasa, and ashtanga.

Because a vinyasa or power/ashtanga class is based on movement, to stop a class and break down a pose can be disruptive mentally and physically. In David Swenson's weekend workshops, he often compares the ashtanga sequence to a train starting out on a journey. Once the train is rolling, you don't step off with the expectation of getting back on again. If you get off, move to the closing postures and savasana. To clarify, you are working toward a moving meditation and by stepping off the mat to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, wipe your face, etc, you are disrupting your flow. You've lost your mental focus and perhaps have cooled down the body.

In addition the vinyasa/ashtanga system, the idea is as the body flows, it will "find" the pose over time. Because the poses may only be held for a matter of breaths, there is not so much "breaking down" of the asanas. However, there is A LOT of verbal cuing: hands here, feet here, shoulders here, etc. There is almost no time for an instructor to go around to each student - rather, a good instructor will scan the class and pick one or two people to quick talk to or lightly adjust.

For me, the amount of demonstrating I do will depend on the class and more importantly, *who's* attending that session. In my Ashtanga classes, if it's the core regulars, I can focus on verbal cues, verbal technique and individual attention as they (mostly) know where they should be working. In my YMCA vinyasa classes, I do more demonstrating as the group changes significantly from session to session.

For the demonstrating, I use the cues, "Level 1, start here; level 2 move here; level 3 if your body is willing today; and if you are one of my Level 4 folks, move there - and I won't demonstrate Level 4 but rather stay in Level 1 or 2.

On occasion, again, depending on the group composition, I may actually structure a class around technique. This then turns the session into a hatha class, but ya know, that's okay. A bit o' change does the body good!

Whew! I would never have thought trying to describe how I lead a class or the concept of "flow" could be so in depth. Facinating.