Notes For New Yoga Teachers

Since I’ve started teaching yoga I’ve learnt a lot about how to teach yoga. Here below are some of the ‘highlights’.

NB: Even though I’ve just started teaching yoga I did study and teach Tai Chi Chuan for thirteen years previously, so these observations are quite well established.

You’ve got to prepare

It doesn’t have to be much, but you should at least know what you’re expected to teach when you first start out.

I thought my first assisting class would just be observing, with maybe a little help correcting. Instead I was thrown in at the deep end, teaching the shoulder stand, plough, bridge, wheel, fish AND bow! I was totally unprepared for all that, panicked a little, went too fast, spoke too softly (and too hesitantly), and in general did quite bad. This really shook my confidence.

Practice with a friend if you can, but if you can’t then at least go through it all mentally before the class begins. It’ll make all the difference.

Be critical of criticisms

After my first class I received some feedback from one of the students that nearly put me off teaching completely. They were trying to be helpful, but they just ended up making me feel stupid and incompetent.

This was in contrast to the feedback I got from the teacher I was assisting which was simple and positive.

I came to the conclusion that you should only take teaching advice from other teachers. That a student (one that has no experience of teaching) can only tell you how to teach them, not other people.

Only a teacher understands the unique challenges of teaching a large group of people. Taking advice on teaching from a student is like taking marriage advice from a single person (ie: great if you want to stay single).

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Students who have been coming to class for a while will assume they know what’s coming next. Now often they are right, but little do they realise how unskillful such assumptions are.

When I did my TTC we had a class where the swami, during the double leg raises, suddenly switched from “both legs up” to “right leg up”. Now this was kind of random, but I just figured he had something different planned, so I stuck my right leg in the air and waited. Then I heard other students complain, him question them, them ‘correct’ him, him laugh off his ‘mistake’, etc. All the while my leg was in the air. I had received no new instructions, so I just waited patiently to be told what to do next. At which point the swami said quietly to me “Good Keshava.”

Assuming you know what’s coming next is a dangerous thing. It means you’re not in the moment, adapting to changing circumstances, but in the future thinking about God knows what. It’s like pressing the button at a pedestrian crossing, then crossing as soon as the light changes. You can assume the cars will stop because they have to, but it’s wiser to wait and make sure they do before proceeding to cross.

If a student does their own thing in class it can feel a bit insulting, but really they’re the ones missing out. They’re missing out on the instruction being given, on the feeling of being part of the group, and on the corrections that will help improve their yoga. Try to bring them back into synch with the others, but if they persist just leave them to it and concentrate on the ones that are listening to you.

Of course, if the whole group is going off in different directions, then you have to put your foot down. But if you do, then do it with love.

Yoga is for ‘adults’

Most people’s experience of learning is limited to when they were at school. Or to put it another way, when they were forced to go somewhere they didn’t want to go, to do things they probably had no interest in. Who among us, age eleven, thought “Ooh, chemistry!” Or maths? Or art? Or geography? Or PE!

Unfortunately this experience influences how they approach any classroom for the rest of their lives (ie: with reluctance).

Now many students, myself included, go to class to be pushed. They want to be made to hold a pose for longer than they would do at home. To go deeper, lift higher, and twist a little further. But there’s a difference between that and the student that gives up without trying.

Injuries aside, it’s up to the student to be responsible for their own practice. A teacher is there to guide them and help them advance as much as they can, not force them to do something they don’t want to do. They have to be adult about their yoga, to push themselves with or without outside influence, otherwise they won’t get the full benefit of the class.

Correct the group to correct one person

Singling people out in front of the group for corrections can be damaging. A student with low confidence can be embarrassed by being told what they’re doing wrong with everyone watching.

Correct individuals quietly, one on one. They are more likely to take on board what you have to say.

Or if you don’t have time (or if more than one person is making the same mistake) correct the group as a whole without reference to an individual. It saves anyone any embarrassment, and it’s likely everyone will benefit from whatever correction is being given anyway.

NB: In the same vein, when you’re in class and you hear the person next to you being corrected, listen and see if what’s being said applies to you. Chances are it might.

Enjoy yourself

Laugh, smile, make the odd joke now and then. It elevates the class to a whole new level.

Recognise the difference between important and serious. Yoga is important, and should be treated as such, but it should never be taken too seriously.

How anyone can you take something where you stick your bum in the air seriously is beyond me anyway.

“Life Is Pain, Highness.”

“Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. Y’know what it’s like when nothing you try and do works out? That’s what it’s been like for me.

(Y’know what, I’m not going to go into the whole thing now. It’s just a load of blah blah blah, and really, who can be bothered?)

The giveaway is over. The entire time it ran a whopping six people entered. That in itself is a little dis-heartening. Add to that the fact that some of them didn’t even qualify for entry as they liked a post but didn’t follow, or something like that, and it all starts to get you a bit down.

Anyway, the winner is Dr Lucy Pike. She’s the one who suggested the cleanse I did the other week, and she happens to be the only new follower I got out of this whole process, so I’m glad the prize is going to her. Well done Lucy.:-)

I had thought there was more interest in my blog, but I guess I was wrong. It’s certainly been a clarifying experience for me though. I had been trying to drive interest and build up a readership, but now it just seems like “Why bother?” At least now I can stop worrying about trying to do a post every week and instead get on with other things.

I’m either doing or crossing off for good everything on my perpetual To Do List. I’m not booking a climbing course so why have it on the list? If I do it I’ll do it. Same goes for learning german. If it hasn’t happened yet it probably won’t (and since my ex is seeing someone new now the only reason I was going to learn german in the first place is gone).

I’m just so tired of the muddle, so I’m throwing everything out! The only two things in my life now are teaching yoga and writing my book. Everything else is out the window. It means there’ll be less blogging from me, but it seems that won’t impact many lives, so that’s probably no great loss.

Hopefully greater simplicity will bring me greater happiness. Hopefully looking inward for joy will be more profitable than looking towards the outside world. It’s been a difficult few weeks for me but I’m trying to make the best of it.

Found Philosophy

It’s amazing the places you can find inspiration if you just keep an eye out for it.

I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory. It’s my favourite show on TV at the moment. But as well as the comedy gold going on during the show, I’m also a fan of the producer Chuck Lorre’s ‘Vanity Cards’ at the end of each episode.

He’s been doing these since his first TV show Dharma & Greg, when you had to record it on tape and press pause to read what it said (they’re only up for a moment). And he’s continued to do them all through his other series – Cybill, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly, Mom, and (most famously) Two And A Half Men.*

*It was one of his Vanity Cards, that ended with the line “If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed”, that caused Charlie Sheen to have his now infamous “tiger blood” meltdown.

I like the cards because they’re fun, silly, offer insights to what the studios will and won’t allow (a character dressed as a nazi with a swastika one their arm, no; a character dressed as a nazi with a smiley face on their arm, yes), and quite often they contain little philosophical gems that really make you stop and think.

Take this one for example from TBBT Season 9 Episode 19:

Vanity Card no.524
© Chuck Lorre 2016

It is a basic tenet of Indian philosophy that we are all God pretending not to be, in an effort to amuse ourselves – in the same way that we watch the greatest actor on stage and, even though we know it’s an act, we get drawn into believing anyway (a little something I picked up from the philosopher Alan Watts). This is why we put our hands together in prayer position when meet a fellow yogi, or indeed say goodbye, to recognise the God within them, and in doing so recognise the God within ourselves.

Things like that are easy to forget, so it’s nice to get a wee reminder out of the blue now and then (like at the end of a TV program).

You also get random reminders popping out of Christmas crackers too.

cracker yoga philosophy

How’s that for a bit of yogic philosophy? Not what I was expecting on Christmas morning I can tell you. But what more perfect time to be reminded of the alternative to the excesses of Christmas eh?

And here’s one I just came across whilst looking for links for this post:

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ~ Alan Watts

Particularly relevant for me as writing this post is what I’m doing when I should be writing my novel! Always the reminders are there to keep us on the straight and narrow, if only we have the eyes to see.:-)

**You only have until tomorrow to enter the Yoga Bum Giveaway. Chances are good of winning the prize as, after ten days, you can count the number of entries on one hand! I personally thought there’d be more interest in winning free stuff but apparently not. Anyway, when I get up tomorrow morning it’ll all be over, so get in there now if you want to be in with a chance of winning.**

Two Out Of Three

Plans are afoot for some epic fun in the summer. I’m going to do the Three Peaks Challenge.

If you don’t know, the Three Peaks Challenge is when you climb the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in twenty four hours. There’s a lot of driving in between, and at least one of them your descend in the dark, but if you can do it I’ve no doubt there’s an enormous sense of achievement to be had.

Actually, individually, I have two of the three peaks in the bag already. Mount Snowden I did last summer,

Snowdon Summit Headstand, UK
Snowdon Summit Headstand, UK

along with Scafell Pike,

Scafell Pike Headstand, Scafell Pike, Cumbria, UK
Scafell Pike Headstand, Scafell Pike, Cumbria, UK

so obviously I’m really keen to add Ben Nevis to the list and complete my headstand collection.

NB: Scafell Pike is a new upload. Number 78 in the series. Hope to add a lot more this year, maybe even getting to 100! Wonder where I’ll be for that one?

**There’s still time to enter the Yoga Bum Giveaway Competition. Win yourself some choice yoga goodies, just a few clicks away! Check out the Giveaway Page for details.**

Win With The Yoga Bum Giveaway!

As you may or way not have noticed, Yoga Bum has been undergoing a slow but steady refresh over the past few weeks. Now that that’s finally done I thought I’d do a wee giveaway to celebrate.😀

yogabum giveaway

The prize is, as you can see in the picture, a small brass Om to hang on your wall, a Krishna Das CD for you to listen to, and a scented eye pillow to help you relax. All three items will go to one lucky person, and winning them couldn’t be easier.

If you’re new to Yoga Bum all you have to do is become a follower by clicking the button on the right hand side of the page, and then Like a post or leave a Comment (just as a way of saying ‘Hi’ to everyone) to be entered into the draw.

If you’re a regular follower it’s all about the sharing. Share and Like a post, or Share and Comment, to be in with a chance of winning our excellent giveaway prizes. You’ll find buttons at the bottom of every post for things like Facebook and Twitter and that.

And that’s it really. It couldn’t be simpler.

Don’t just restrict yourself to the most recent posts like Be Friends With Yourself either. Check out the 30 Day Hip Opening Challenge, or have a look at my trip to Hobbiton; there’s all kinds of stuff in the archives for you to try. Need more inspiration? Check out the new What Have You Missed? page too.

The competition is open to everyone, and the closing date for entry is Friday the 8th of April 2016. The winner’s name will be drawn out of a hat, and they will be contacted soon after to arrange delivery. Also, unless requested otherwise, the lucky winner will be announced on Yoga Bum the following week. All decisions are final.

Good luck everyone, and thanks for playing.:-)