Saturday, March 19, 2011

Less is More ala Teaching

I have a very dedicated group of individuals in my Monday Astanga class, and I try to be cognizant that sometimes they too need a break from the same routine every. single. Monday.   Yes, yes, I am very well aware that Traditional Astanga is done six days a week, minus full moon/new moon days.  I fully admit I do what I call a Contemporary Astanga - the full sequence, less Sanskrit counting, and no chanting.  Those items would not (and have not) gone over well up here.  I've attempted introducing a Mysore class and I have been met with great resistance and a fair amount of groaning and eye rolling.  Note to self: don't irritate the students.  I would like them to come back...

picture from the web
Recently, the group was smaller than usual;  blame daylight savings and spring in Northern MN.  Folks want to be outside after work, not in a studio.  It was all folks who have been with me for well over a year if not longer.  A good opportunity to do something different.  We slid our mats so two rows were facing in and began...  

We started our sun salutations, and I joined the group with the intent of just warming myself up before moving into the standing sequence.  I've very hands off in the first five sunsalutations as it is - that is for the individual to settle into class in my opinion.  Not for me to run around yammering at how they are doing this or that wrong.  This night, I only cued the inhales and exhales.  We moved.  We flowed. It was...fantastic.

In 'teacher mode' I do very little "hands on" adjustments; flow class doesn't lend itself to a lot of hands on breaking down on an individual basis. However, I do a LOT of verbal cuing. Or verbal cuing with a visual demo. Which means, I tend to talk a fair amount in class. Tonight would be: Less Talking, More Moving.

I decided to keep going, just cue minimal as possible and let people move. This group knows when to take modification.  I wasn't worried.  Let them enjoy what it feels like to expand as they come up, and to fold mindfully, to spread their wings in warrior II, to move through a vinyasa, to switch sides without waiting for my cue to say "and now the left food moves..."   

It was difficult for me to not talk so much, but the concentration I felt in the room was wonderful.  People were focusing on their breath, less on the person next to them, even less on what I was doing because I wasn't standing at the front watching them like a hawk.  They were just moving and breathing.  As it should be.

We did pause briefly to work on two poses, but it didn't seem to interrupt either flow or mindfulness.  We had time at the end for a full headstand, long savasana and meditation.  Rarely do we get to do mediation; I'm usually pushing a 5 minute savasana as it is and not infrequently I need to omit headstand to keep class on time.

The look on their faces at the end was delightful - the contented smiles as they said Namaste to the people across from them.   What has been even better are the postitve comments I've been hearing since then.  One gal admitted to me that this was the first time she had seen me do the sequence in the three years she's been coming to class.  I thought, there is a lesson for me; maybe some folks need to know on occasion that I can do more than stand up in front of class and talk and strike a pose. 

So Less can be More in teaching as well. 


Eco Yogini said...

ohhhh... sometimes i really LOVE these classes. Silence and practice together.
The beautiful thing about teaching is that sometimes you can make an executive decision about the class that students may otherwise not have chosen for themselves... but love once they experience. :)

Change is good.

(ps- i understand your co-worker,plate, issue. Something similar happened to me while at work- co-worker claimed she didn't want to have to wash all the plates in the bathroom. So we got compostable paper plates. but i brought my own fork and plate for myself. Small steps. :) )

shinyyoga said...

I love this! I too have been aware of my talking/cue-ing in class, and I do a lot of it.. I was also given some great feedback this week to explore that and explore more silence. I speak a lot when I'm nervous but to let students discover how they feel (rather than us guiding them and letting them know how they should feel at all times) is just as important.

Thanks for this xx

Sara said...

Mmmm. Sounds like a great class. And a tricky balance to find the right amount of silence and instruction.