Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Randomly Asked Questions: Teaching from Behind?

You know, if you look back over many of my childhood photos, many of them are pictures of my mother, sister and me walking away from my dad - pictures taken from behind. It's rather funny, honestly, and I never knew why he did that. Now that I have a little boy, I can see how that happens . . . he usually runs ahead of us, and so we mostly see him from behind!

Of course, in yoga class, you are on mats and not walking away from me, and I'm marching around like John Wayne or something, poking you on occasion and working on my stand-up (or march-around) comedy routine. So why am I usually behind you?

Well, it's one of the easiest ways for me to see a large group of people, scan them and get a sense of where the alignment of the posture is. From behind, I can see what's happening in each student's body, and make a mental note so that I know what to focus on as the class moves forward. I also scan the class from certain sides of the room, too - for postures like triangle pose - where I can best see what you're up to.

Also, when giving assists, I usually come in from behind because I like to pretend that I am a ninja.

Typically, standing behind a student is the most stable position from which to assist. Usually, the student is in a stable position, and I'm gently entering the space to make minor adjustments to improve the alignment structure of the posture so the student can get the most benefit. It's very difficult - and often very intrusive - to approach the assist from the front. It's also distracting.

A side benefit of all of this "being behind you" stuff is that other, more subtle cues are happening. First, I'm deemphasizing myself as much as possible. Yoga is not about me, what I can do or what have you. Yoga is yoga, and yoga is what you do on your mat with your body. I'm just guiding you through the process and teaching you the skill of how to do yoga. It actually belongs to you. And, second, at the emotional level, I'm behind you 100 percent in your process and your practice. I'm there to support you, exactly as you are, where you are, right now in this moment, as the teacher. I'm backing you up, and that is all.

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