November 14, 2016

How to Shake Up our Yoga Practice (for Teachers & Students Alike).

yoga pose head hand stand

I’m a yoga teacher. But I’m also a yoga student.

In my real life, I work for an elementary school, meaning I have summers off. From June to August, I have the opportunity to be more of a student than a teacher. I can take a class in the morning, afternoon, or night, or maybe all three. Whenever. I. Want.

And I love it. It’s the best part of summer vacation.

In doing this, I have come to realize how wonderful it is to experience different teachers. Even if they are my friends. Especially if they are my friends. So, I thought I’d share my top 10 reasons why it’s important for us to mix our practice up.

Number One: Different is good. The yoga tradition is ancient and vast. So vast that a teacher certification, while a noble accomplishment, cannot possibly give us enough knowledge to touch on every aspect. There is so much to learn from over 2,000 years of teaching and most of us have less than a hundred to learn it all. The path each teacher takes after certification is as individual as the teacher.

The individual teacher’s motivations and values are the determining factor in their class style. Each teacher’s focus is different and it comes from their own light—what has spoken to them through their yoga, and their own personal interpretation. And that’s a beautiful thing to see and be inspired by.

Number Two: Special teachers for special needs. We are all different, as people and as yoga teachers. No two are alike, and no two teach alike. Some teachers focus on alignment, others focus on mula bandha, and still others ride the breath. Some are peppy and talkative, others are slow and keep their instructions brief.

You may find a certain teacher resonates with you more than another, or, depending on your mood, you may want a different kind of class from one day to the next. Having a “working knowledge” of the teachers at your favorite studio will make it simpler to decide what will benefit your body and soul based on your particular need.

Number Three: Some teachers swear (really, they do). Yes, teachers are human. They are real. They may say “left” when they meant “right,” or forget the sequence they put together and have to teach on the fly. They are not enlightened, or possessing of special spiritual powers. And the more you meet, the more you can celebrate that they are all guides sharing your journey, doing the best they can, just like you.

Number Four: The students are different. Most teachers have “regulars,” folks who are there more often than others. They are there likely because of coinciding schedules, but, schedule or not, you need to like your teacher to keep going back.

So…the class reflects the teacher, who can be as different as, well, another teacher (see number two). It’s cool to meet new yogis. You can learn as much from a fellow student as you can from the one in the front of the room, trust me. (Note: while you can learn from fellow students, we should always be practicing asteya. In yoga we honor our own body and don’t compare. And it is possible to learn from others without berating ourselves, with practice.)

Number Five: We force ourselves to move inward. By trying something new, you are faced with the unfamiliar, but you always have the familiar that is within you. Your light is always there, no matter who you practice with. It is unchanging. Changing the outer stimuli reminds us of this.

Number Six: We learn new ways to express a pose. Every teacher has a different way of explaining a pose, what to focus on, mentally or physically. Because we are all different, we teachers, we feel poses differently. And we teach from our experience, either what we’ve personally felt or what we’ve seen in our students.

You may just walk away from that class almost nailing crow pose because of a few tips you hadn’t heard before (thanks, Tracy).

Number Seven: It shakes things up. If you’re in an emotional rut, go take a class with a new teacher. Someone once said, “Do something every day that scares you.” Going to a new class takes you out of your comfort zone. And it creates a little crack in the mind that allows strength and self-reliance to seep in.

Breathe that sh*t in. (Oh, my…did I just swear?!)

Number Eight: Teachers like to have things mixed up, too. Because students are also our teachers, we instructors have much to gain by our classes being “mixed up,” by different faces, different bodies, different needs. Thanks for coming.

Number Nine: Some teachers actually like people (really, they do). Especially new people.

Number Ten: We are happily reminded how wonderful yoga really is. We’re reminded of how it brings people of all ages, sizes, ethnicities and religions together and we’re all cool with those differences.

And as yogis, we know that no matter who we practice with, or who that person is in the front of the room, we always feel better after yoga. We walk out as different people. And different is good.



Author: Beverly Gray

Image: Aral Tasher/Unsplash 

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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