10,000 Vinyasas

Tag: teaching

Yoga Update

by on Nov.04, 2009, under Acro Yoga, Yoga

My knee has been deemed safe to practice, although it still hurts when I take it to lotus, and my right rotator cuff injury, which I haven’t mentioned until now, has started healing with the help of daily exercises, and I’ve continued to enjoy my acro-yoga practice. My progress so far: my handstand has gotten slightly better, my kickovers from backbend have gotten much better, and I’ve started practicing scorpion from headstand. Nice…the practice is intense and demanding, which is what I normally like in my exercise. I subbed quite a few classes last week, and really enjoyed that. My teaching has gotten much better, at least in my own eyes. I have a number of people who come to my classes with regularity, which is quite nice, but it’s also fun to teach to people who aren’t familiar with your own style. And that’s the news thats fit to print…

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Acro-Yoga!!

by on Jun.17, 2009, under Yoga

Attended my first class today, and was just amazed at how much fun I had. Made amazing progress with handstand, which up until now, I have had great trepidation about. A very nice two hours. I will most definitely be returning and deepening my practice with this. My back and shoulders are sore already, but in a good way. Thank you, Ana, and Yoga Shala, for introducing me to this.

(yoga notes) Had 2 (!) people in my morning class today…ended up doing much more practicing than I anticipated, but it was still good. The head of group fitness at the gyms I teach at mentioned that she’d had some favorable comments about me, so that’s nice to hear. I sure wish I could break free from work next week and attend David Williams intensive teacher training in Austin, but it is just impossible. There will be more opportunities.

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A Powerful Class

by on Jun.10, 2009, under Yoga

One of my recent classes achieved an attendance of nineteen people. Quite a record for my teaching so far, and an energy level I had not encountered before. I was very active, running around the room and adjusting people, as well as giving directions. I got some favorable comments as well, so the energy from these carried me for quite awhile. I am beginning to realize that I do have something to offer as a teacher of yoga; helping people is quite gratifying and very much in the spirit of yoga. Not really sure if I would actually be informed if people were complaining; either I’ve not gotten negative comments, people who would’ve done so are voting with their feet, or negative comments are not shared with fitness instructors as a matter of policy at the gym I’m teaching at. I did overhear some comparisons to the way other teachers phrased some things (yes, again, the bad yoga teacher), so I suppose I’m going over well so far.

On the injury front, I visited a yoga studio today whose owner is a physical therapist. My knee, apparently, just has some bursitis, and will take a long time to heal, but she gave me some hints that will help rehabilitate it. Added Nydia’s Yoga Therapy to the blogroll.

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A New Challenge

by on May.05, 2009, under Yoga

Well, I’ve done it again, I suppose; volunteered to take up a class that had a longtime teacher, who taught in a most idiosyncratic manner, and one vastly different than mine (or, all the yoga teachers I’ve experienced). I had no hesitation in raising my hand to teach this class, since it was at a perfect time and place for me, and resulted in a free gym membership (you need to be teaching three classes to qualify). I attended the class last weekend and to say it was different is to understate it by a mile. Ab work, no vinyasa flow to speak of, some really odd placement of poses (e.g., headstand after barely warming up), and just a lack of intensity to the whole thing. 75 minutes long, but I never broke out into a sweat, which for me, is quite unusual (I sweat more than anyone in any class). I have to admit, I’m really kind of puzzled as to how to begin with this class. They obviously loved their former teacher (they had a small reception afterwards to honor her last day), but my sense was that it was one of those classes that had stagnated since the instructor had no compulsion to make any progress with them. Just a guess on my part. I’d really like to get off to a good start with this class, which means honoring the experience they had with their prior teacher, but at the same time taking them in a different direction (I pretty much have to, I can’t teach what I saw on Sunday). A delicate balance, and one that will require some more thought, I’m sure.
(Update) After teaching this first class, I feel somewhat better. I did sense some resistance at the new “format,” but I thought overall, it went well. Resistance to change is to be expected; we all have trouble with it. Yoga provides us with a method of dealing with change. Being present at every moment helps. I’m generally feeling more and more comfortable with teaching, although yesterday’s improv promotion at the local gym caused a few moments of panic, when I realized that I had much more time than I thought. Oh well.

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Things Not To Say When Teaching…

by on Apr.25, 2009, under Yoga

Here’s a couple I heard in a class last weekend (and no, I’m not making this up):

“Lock the knee”
“Do this exercise every day until we see each other again. If you don’t want to do this, maybe you should find another yoga teacher.”

Pretty cool, huh? The first suggestion increases the chance of injury, the second is just flat out hostile, demanding and intimidating, all at once. This actually gives me hope that I will be an ok teacher, if only because I’d never contemplate saying stuff like this…

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The Yoga Wheel: Two Teachers

by on Apr.23, 2009, under Yoga

Tonight, I had the opportunity to sub for my first yoga teacher. It was an incredibly satisfying experience, more so because it made me completely appreciate how much I’ve progressed in the last 2 1/2 years, and also, because, of course, it just seemed so symmetrical, like I had returned to the beginning. I was first encouraged to try yoga through the recommendation of someone in a cardio class I was attending (and still attend), and this teacher’s gentle, low-key approach was the ideal way for me to start, given that I had very little ability in yoga. As I’ve said before, yoga has a way of making you quite aware of your shortcomings, and I did have many. At first, I was satisfied to complete one yoga class per week, but after a few months, I began trying other classes, and making more progress. After my first power yoga class, I remember thinking that I could really become strong if I kept going once a week…how little did I know. I actually “outgrew” that class later on, and in my search for more intensity, came upon Ashtanga, which to me was the most fearsome and forbidding style I could practice. I was lucky, I think, to connect with a teacher who presented the style in a very non-threatening and accessible manner; as we know, not all teachers are suited for conveying this style to beginners. Of course, the benefits of practicing Ashtanga are now clearer to me: it makes you very strong, very flexible, and you begin to glimpse the power and the serenity of yoga. It inspires you to continue to practice and learn. I am so grateful to my teachers of yoga; I’m sure this sounds maudlin and ordinary but it is not. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that yoga has multiple levels, mentally, physically, and even perhaps spiritually, and these are revealed through time and effort. Once again, namaste!

Ps. I should also mention that one of my peak experiences in yoga has been when I persuaded my first yoga teacher to attend my Ashtanga teacher’s class. A strange quirk in space and time allowed the two to be facing each other, with me observing closely on the side…it was, well, interesting.

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Teaching Ashtanga

by on Apr.16, 2009, under Yoga

As you may know, I’ve been practicing Ashtanga yoga once a week for over a year now. My first teaching experience at the local gym got listed on the schedule as Ashtanga, for some reason (I haven’t inquired why), and it caused me to reflect on the difficulty of introducing this style to beginners. An ancient style of yoga, Ashtanga was originally developed, in my understanding, for teenagers, and this is probably true, since it is a physically demanding, aggressive style that requires quite a bit of flexibility and strength. Hence, the difficulty of introducing it to adults who are new to yoga, and indeed, may not be in the best physical condition to begin with. In the first series (primary series), there are multiple poses and multiple variations of poses, particularly seated forward bends and twists, along with standing balance poses of ferocious difficulty, headstands, backbends and binds, interspersed with vinyasas requiring jumping into seated and jumping back into chaturanga. Some poses require full lotus to fully attain, and really can’t be modified to include a beginner’s more limited range. The other day, I asked my Ashtanga teacher how to teach beginners in the style. His response was that there were, in fact, two different schools of thought. The traditional way was to start at the beginning of primary series, and stop when a pose could not be achieved, work on that one until mastery, and then proceed to the next one. The second approach was to work out a modified set of poses from the primary series and build up strength until more poses could be added. In my opinion, the first method is actually more suited for a traditional yoga environment (a studio or ashram) where, by self-selection, you have a group of highly motivated students who are not going to be discouraged by the repetition and difficulty at the beginning. In teaching at a gym, in contrast, students are not as motivated, overall, to keep trying to attain proficiency in a style which may appear forbiddingly difficult at first. It’s this reasoning which led me to adopt the second approach in teaching my first class. I had seen firsthand the unsuitability of trying to force a fast paced aggressive style on a beginning mixed level class, and I thought I could design a routine which would incorporate the spirit of the primary series while allowing someone who had little or no experience with yoga to be successful. So far, I’ve gotten good feedback on this approach, so I suppose I would call it a qualified success in the environment I’m teaching in.

More yoga notes: I bit off more than I could chew this week, by agreeing to sub for someone the day after I had a trial setting. 99% of the time these settings don’t go anywhere, but this time I ended up having to start the trial and had to get a sub for the class I had agreed to teach. It was quite stressful to deal with both of these situations at the same time, but I did find another sub at the last minute. I’m eager to get more teaching experience now that I have a more demanding power yoga class to teach–the expectations are a little higher. Been hearing better things about the bad yoga teacher, so maybe all the feedback she’s gotten has caused her to change…perhaps I was too quick to judge.
Update (4/18/2009) Was able, for the first time, to achieve PINCHA MAYURASANA (headstand with forearms to floor) at the wall, just for a few seconds, but still…progress. In the mail today also was a check for teaching my first two yoga classes–an entire $46.00. Of course, the money is really kind of irrelevant; I’m doing this for love of yoga, not money.

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The First Yoga Class

by on Mar.26, 2009, under Yoga

Well, this is certainly a milestone. I never would have imagined, in my wildest dreams, that two and a half years ago I would now be teaching yoga. In fact, yoga, quietly but firmly, took over a great deal of my exercise life since then. I ran long distances for many years, participating in many races, did a few short triathlons, completed four marathons, swam, biked, worked out with weights, kickboxed (ok, I still do that), but yoga was a vast unknown to me when I started. And did I ever have “disabilities” when I began practicing yoga–no flexibility, balance, little core strength, and more. Yoga is humbling, in that it lets you know your body’s limitations quite early and often. You can work to overcome these, and sometimes you can make little or lots of progress, but it’s still something you never finish; there’s always a more difficult pose or variation, and your body resists your efforts to attain perfection. That, in fact, is what makes yoga such a lifetime practice. I can see now that one of the attractions of yoga to me is that it allows you to do things that you never imagined you could. Over and over again (this means not the same poses, but different ones). Now, I have the opportunity to teach other people some of the things I’ve learned.

My first class: had five people, two of whom had never done yoga before, was harder than I realized (worked up a sweat), was not perfect (not nearly), had some great moments (and some less great), and overall, was a success. I have a good time slot (5:30 in the afternoon), and although some of the other aspects are not ideal (well, we’re in a gym, after all; some pounding on the walls from the cardio class next door is inevitable), I think this will be a good start. Still having some difficulty finding the correct words to put people in the poses, but I’m sure that will improve with more practice.

Namaste!

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The Bad Yoga Teacher

by on Mar.13, 2009, under Yoga

messageartwork20091When I started expanding my yoga practice by attending more classes, taught by different teachers, I benefited from a wider range of teaching styles and yoga philosophies. I used to think, optimistically, that I could derive some value from every yoga teacher. Alas, but predictably, there came a time when I began to be more discriminating in my perceptions of quality in yoga teaching; differences, however, were still mostly tolerable. Not everyone will benefit from every yoga teacher, and you naturally tend to gravitate towards whomever appeals to you most, whether in philosophy, style, or demeanor. Of course, there is also the Indian concept of finding a guru who can lead you through your yoga experiences. I’d make a distinction, though, between the teacher whose style is different than what you prefer or are used to, and an outright poor yoga teacher in general. It’s been an interesting experience, of late, to have observed such a bad yoga teacher in action. I had not attended this particular individuals class until recently, but when she began teaching at a local gym I began to hear people I practiced with commenting negatively on her teaching. It seemed that she tended to push people until they injured themselves, was the gist of the complaints i was hearing. Another instructor made a face when mentioning her, and said something to the effect that “she won’t last.” I didn’t know what she meant at the time, and still didn’t until she was assigned several more classes at another branch of the gym and I attended her class. I immediately understood what that instructor meant: a negative energy emanated from this woman; although she said the words I was accustomed to hearing in a yoga class, her demeanor was aggressive and demanding rather than calm and reassuring. True to the complaints, she did push people into positions that they may not have been ready for. One other thing I noticed that was unique to this person: she tended to complain to the class about certain aspects of teaching at the gym, i.e., she wanted to teach a longer class, the gym wouldn’t allow her to teach head or handstands, etc. Not only were these comments inappropriate to make to students, I found them unprofessional and most certainly unyogalike. As it turned out, she actually reportedly caused the injury of a student, who came to class complaining of back pain, by attempting to lift the student out of a backbend into standing. More complaints from students to the management resulted in this individual losing at least one of her classes at that gym. After experiencing the bad yoga teacher, I want to tell my students, when I start teaching, not to let me or any other instructor ever try to take them somewhere their bodies don’t want to go. Not complaining to my students really should go unsaid….

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The Advantage of Yoga

by on Mar.11, 2009, under Yoga

It occurred to me today that, thanks to my yoga practice, I’ve never in my entire life been this strong and flexible. I mean, for goodness sakes, I’m 48 years old, and my muscle definition is unbelievable, at least to me, and of course, I’ve had extensive experience looking at myself in the mirror. Then I think about the workshop I attended a few weeks ago led by a 61 year old man, who had practiced yoga for 35+ years; his strength was several magnitudes greater than mine. This isn’t a comparision (remember, there are no judgments or competition in yoga, unless you practice Bikram), but rather an illustration of the possibilities of the benefits of yoga. Of course, there’s much more to yoga than just physical strength and flexibility, but those are what most people readily perceive. Yoga was originally developed (in my understanding) to allow one to meditate in a sitting position for many hours at a time without distractions from a poorly conditioned body, and as physical and mental exercise, it’s excellent (obviously, I’m somewhat biased here, but it’s a bias developed after engaging in many other physical activities for many years and choosing yoga, to some extent, over these previous ones).

Milestone: today I received something I hadn’t gotten in over 20 years: a job application…to teach yoga at local gym. After the inevitable background check, my career (hah!) in yoga teaching will begin. Let’s take that to wherver it goes…

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Yoga Teacher Training

by on Jan.14, 2009, under Yoga

Underwent Yogafit teacher training last weekend–8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  Kind of long, but somewhat informative and interesting. I suppose it’s one way to teach yoga, although I did notice some similarities with the primary series sequence (by this I mean the order of warm up, standing poses, balance poses, floor work, relaxation.  Of course, I can also see that their insistence on the absolute safest way to do the poses is overkill, except perhaps when teaching very unfit people (seniors, perhaps).  I do notice that the classes I enjoy the most (or are the most challenged in) are the ones where the instructor doesn’t assume that the students can’t do the poses; she just launches in and expects everyone to try to follow. This seems to be true in most fitness classes generally. At any rate, I just have to figure out how to get this community service requirement taken care of.  There seem to be several ideas floating around about it at the moment.

(Update)  I have now a schedule to teach 2 classes a week, at a local school district fitness center.  First class is Tuesday.  Progress!  On another note, I did attain headstand in today’s Ashtanga class, but was unable to pike.  Maybe next time; just the headstand is satisfying, but not confident.

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Teaching the Yoga Class

by on Dec.29, 2008, under Yoga

Went to a yoga class the other day, and the instructor didn’t show up (rather, the substitute didn’t show up).  This happened once last year, and the same thing occured: I ended up leading the class.  I did notice that my Ashtanga training came in handy this time, because I went through the first sequence of the primary series (at least, what I could remember) and then went into some other, less connected poses, while trying to choose ones that my three fellow classmates could handle.  A most valuable experience, since my teacher training starts in January. I did feel much more “professional” this time—thanks, Ken. Next, I need to work up a series of classes to give me a better idea on how to structure an hour of yoga.

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