Monday, June 27, 2005

Yoga class reading, 6/27/05: If God Invited You To A Party, by Hafiz

I'm usually groggy for half an hour after I wake up, and prefer to gently ease myself into consciousness: stretching, yawning, showering, wandering back and forth between the bathroom and the bedroom, forgetting what you were going to get in the first place - I'm sure you know the drill. But I've never woken up faster than I did this morning - this morning that I was scheduled to teach a 7am yoga class at Studio Serenity - when I saw the clock flashing 6:44. There wasn't time to wonder why the alarm didn't go off, to brush my teeth or wash my face; I sprang out of bed, pulled on some clothes, ran downstairs and jumped on my bike as I was still blinking sleep out of my eyes.

The class went well though - four people showed up, which is good for a Monday morning (which we've decided is a bad day for a 7am yoga class, as the start of the week, and will probably switch back to Tuesday or Wednesday next week).

This teaching diary is a bit self-indulgent, I'm afraid - I've been trying, with this blog, to only include entries that might actually be useful to a reader, whether related to an activity you could do, a poem/author/resource you might enjoy, or an insight into life I've had that has actually helped me and which might conceivably also help someone else. Nonetheless I'm gonna keep posting them, because I think it'll help me to look back on my teaching - and perhaps there's some other yoga teacher out there who might be interested in the musings of a new teacher.

I've already started to notice my habits as a teacher - ways of teaching, certain poses and turns of phrase, certain asana sequences, which I tend to use frequently and especially when I'm a bit tired/distracted/not in the moment. I don't think it's a problem to have habits, but I want to stay aware of them and avoid getting stuck in a rut. For example, my standard warmup sequence begins in an extended child's pose for the centering meditation - then I ask students to stretch and begin waking up their spine - then a few variations on downward dog and thread-the-needle twists. Last week I made a conscious effort to change this up, beginning in corpse pose and asking students to do a meditation locating their heartbeats and tracing it through their bodies. It's something that really worked for me in a yoga nidra workshop I took, but I suspect it requires a certain level of body awareness to be effective and I'm not sure if my students got anything out of it.

After a warmup I usually do one round of sun salutations slowly, with some hip-opening movements in the lunges especially, and then a few rounds more quickly - and I always try to include a few rounds of sun salutations where students move on their own, without my voice instructions, to help them feel more independent and to deepen their meditation.

Keeping track of time is a constant challenge. For example, I realized today at 7:55 that we were still doing standing poses and the class was almost over, so I quickly took the students to the floor for a few backbends, an abbreviated shoulderstand, side twists, and then corpse pose - without time for any other interesting seated poses, abdominal strengthening, or long hip openers. When I first started yoga teacher training I was intimidated by the idea of filling a whole hour with choreography, but it turns out that my major problem has been making the classes fit. It seems that with every class I teach, I resolve to finish the standing flow earlier and give more time to seated poses - but I haven't managed the balance yet.

One of my students seems very fit, and she must enjoy yoga because she has a two-month unlimited pass and always comes back to my classes, but I feel challenged teaching her because she performs all her poses quite limply, without seeming enthusiasm or building any heat. Her breath always seems quite shallow; her warrior poses have a very short stance, hardly bending the knee at all; and in general she just doesn't seem to push herself in any of the poses. I'm struggling with how to push her, or even whether it's appropriate to push her, as I say things like "Exhale and sink into your front knee a little deeper, allow your breath to carry you through this very active pose..." But I suppose I shouldn't worry about it too much; she's got good regularity in her practice, coming to class 3-4 times a week, and I'm sure that she will make her own discoveries at her own speed.

I included a Warrior II -> Side Angle -> Triangle transition today, which I think is an interesting alternative to the regular way of coming into Triangle from a standing position. Neva gave me a good Trikonasana adjustment in her morning class on Saturday - apparently I don't lengthen the bottom side of my waist enough, which requires a bit of shifting the hips around - so I should practice it more at home in order to understand the pose better when I teach it.

Some of my other favorite things to teach in class: Tree pose with an arm flow: inhale raising them to the sky and exhale open them out - this really helped me focus on the breath when I was a beginner; a Cowface or seated twist transition of keeping the feet in place, lifting the hips, and circling 360 degrees around the feet (fun, and always such a surprise when you get there with the legs reversed); a vinyasa involving rocking on the spine all the way up to a standing pose. I've really got to get more seated poses in, though. And I should start teaching Dancer with the use of a strap.

I also want to start weaving better philosophical themes and meditations into class - but that's quite hard to do and can seem pretty hokey if it's not thought out well.

My reading this morning was an old favorite, since I was still feeling rather flustered from my hurried start.

2 Comments:

Blogger everyseven said...

Oh dear, I think I have failed in my mind, at Hafiz's question. I pictured the party, at God's ballroom, and my first reaction was one of beauty, to see the world and everyone in it that way, which I think is how in general I see the world and people. But then I pictured one person, a woman with whom I have such misunderstandings, and I pictured how I would treat her in God's ballroom, and I still felt the anger and misunderstandings. Ouch. I definitely have some spiritual growth left to do, as always...

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

10:57 AM  

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