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Apparently there’s this teacher-y thing that happens when one starts teaching yoga. Which I didn’t notice until I’d taught my first class. Teaching is a doing and a demonstrating activity, but also requires observation skills and an ability to translate what is observed into words and actions. Teaching relies on gut instinct, too.

I did a spot of teaching belly dancing about six years ago, but I never really noticed it then. This teacher-y thing.

And so far, I’ve had a grand total of five bods through the door in two different classes (if you remember, no one showed up to the first class!). Not a lot, but seems like that’s enough to get things going.

Had a bit of a plan for last Saturday’s class, based on some of what I’d observed my students doing the previous one. Not that I can expect too many repeat customers. I do have one though. She came back this week and I was excited to see her! Also, this week I had a guy join the class, all coughing fits and mis-matched socks and truckloads of concentration that prompted me to say: Soften the face, the belly, the arms, the hands, the heart…

I don’t ask where these people come from exactly. I know they or their social worker or someone has read an ad placed in various drop in centres around St Kilda on my behalf. I figure the rest doesn’t really matter as long as they’re happy to turn up and do a little breathing and moving with me.

So even though it wasn’t the same line up of students (I hadn’t expected it to be), my class plan was inspired by the previous class.

First part was simply planning to do less. I mean, we didn’t get through my entire class plan anyway, so it was time for a readjustment in that respect. This is a very beginner-y group, after all.

The second part was getting people to do some work at the wall. Asking them to start noticing their body a little more, and which part of the feet they’re placing their weight on. Insides? Outsides? Ball of the foot? Heel of the foot? Is one hip higher than the other? Is the spine a bit twisted? Are the shoulders rounded forward? And doing some sanding asana at the wall to really accentuate that awareness by seeing what touched the wall as they moved. Or how their weight distribution changed.

So that was cool. Then I introduced the class to sun salutations. A basic version that drops the knees to the mat and then into balasana before coming forward into upward facing dog. Gently does it with people that find down-dog and touching their toes to be challenging!

But I also had to create a REALLY modified version of sun salutes for one student (full disclosure: a friend of mine who was there to pad out the numbers). She has quite a nasty case of carpal tunnel, and also, arthritis in her toes. So too much weight on the wrists or the balls of the feet is just not good for her.

Just like Linda’s and Rachel’s recent posts on the myth of “perfect asana”, I wanted to find a way for my student/friend to experience sun salutations without all sorts of crazy pain.

What we devised between us (I needed her feedback to ensure it was doable) was sun salutations that used forearms instead of hands and kneeling instead of feet. So down dog was like balasana but with hips in the air (thighs at a 90 degree angle to the floor) and forearms reaching forward. Sphinx replaced up-dog. Transitions were on her forearms and knees, too. The rest she could manage. And as long as there was a focus on the breath and finding a flow to the movement, it worked for her just fine!

Funny thing is, she’d been to my practice classes when I was doing my teacher training and had never mentioned how much physical pain she was in. She didn’t think of explaining it to me until afterwards. She also didn’t think of not doing what the person leading the class asked her to do, regardless of her physical discomfort.

Which is interesting in itself. Students won’t always be honest about how they feel/what pain they’re in for unexplained reasons. That’s a good to know, right?

This teacher-y thing I mentioned? Well, it’s all of the above. To summarise, seems like it’s a sort of hyper-awareness of one’s students. Of what their needs might appear to be – which won’t necessarily be what is actually needed. And a responsibility to help people explore, learn more about their body and themselves in the process.

Also, I realised that mirroring (saying “take your left leg back” while demonstrating with my right) isn’t as hard as I’d previously thought. Well, sort of. As long as I look at the limb I’m talking about, I can manage to say the opposite one!

Finally, here’s something else I noticed. As a teacher, it’s very easy to infect the class with my state of mind. So, if I’m all about concentrating on saying the right things, not screwing up, and being precise… then I’ll have a very focused and probably quite tense group of people on my hands. But if I loosen up, and add in instructions like: Now take both the left and right corners of your mouth and turn them upwards…

Then they’re gonna have a bit more fun. And so will I. Yeah. 😀

~Svasti