Yoga Class: How much talking is too much talking? ~ via Lindsay Jean Thomson

Via on Sep 28, 2009

Less Talk More Yoga

Less Talk, More Yoga.

“Oh. No. He. Didn’t…” the wide-eyed, gaping mouths of the audience seemed to shout (albeit silently) as the officiant preached the unholy trifecta of self-promotion, divorce and death at a wedding I attended recently.

As with most things, I couldn’t help but to relate the Father’s diatribe to…yoga. Have you ever been in yogasana class in which the teacher spends the first 10 or even 20 minutes talking about their personal life or the Divine-Goddess-So-And-So? Me too.

Like many people, my yoga practice started with the physical (asana) and developed from there. Now, as a teacher, I know how challenging it can be to incorporate and honor the other limbs of yoga into an asana class in a way that is accessible to the students—without interrupting the flow.

For me, a brief, heartfelt explanation or personal anecdote can help convey empathy as well as yoga philosophy. But the discussion shouldn’t overtake the asana practice if that’s the focus of the class. I offer my students the opportunity to ask questions so that they can pursue their yoga practice on and off the mat in the way that interests them because it’s not about what’s right for me, it’s about finding what’s right for them.

Students, teachers: How much talking is too much talking?

Lindsay Jean Thomson is a talker, no doubt about it. In addition to contributing to elephant journal, she has a blog, tweets and teaches in the great city of San Francisco at International Orange and yoga mayu.

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12 Responses to “Yoga Class: How much talking is too much talking? ~ via Lindsay Jean Thomson”

  1. Makes sense. The most important thing is to know your audience, I think, and tailor the class to them.

    I've seen other blogs where Yoga teachers are coming under fire for not honoring Yoga's spiritual roots in their classes–for turning it into just a workout routine. This, in fact, is probably one of the top two or three topics for debate in the Yoga blogosphere.

    My answer is give the class what they came for, whatever that is, but even in an exercise class, take a little time to make sure they're aware of the larger context of Yoga, so they can explore that on their own or in more traditional classes, if they choose to. I think that's pretty much what you said above.

    I am the beneficiary of this approach. I started Yoga to improve my flexibility for tennis and ended up in Yoga philosophy, partly because my teacher spent just a little bit of time on philosophy in an otherwise rigorous exercise class.

    Thanks for the blog.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • Abby says:

      The skill involved in teaching really great yoga class is weaving the philosophy through the asana and letting students find their way to their own realisations.. Mindless blather about Kali etc means nothing… But bringing students to a place ( in a sweaty, work-out-y full on immersion way) where their minds are suddenly clear enough or sharp enough to appreciate a well-timed epithet or feel their own karma burning off or WHATEVER… Is the gift that you can't teach on a 200 hour class, it comes from many years practice, absorption and yes, maybe a whole lot of charisma ( a la Mr Life, for example)… In general, teachers should STFU a bit more, and trust that the yoga does the job, without them having to recite a litany…

      • Abby says:

        I mean 200 hour training.. Doh

        • Abby says:

          As for the debate about not teaching enough philosophy in class, the way I see it, teaching yoga 'philosophy ( and which particular branch of that huge spectrum of philosophies are we talking about?) in class is not my job. My job is to teach a physical yoga class, yoga being the uniting of the mind body and breath.. Mindful movement, intelligent movement, shapes that don't harm or hurt your body, but increase your sense of well being.. I don't feel the need to chant to Hindu Deities or talk about the yoga texts.. I'm there to help people get present in the here and now.. Call it a work out if you like, I think of more as a "work in" no philosophy there but perhaps related to notions of existentialist French thought a la Merleau Ponty… The body being the vehicle through which we perceive and experience the world…

  2. Sevapuri says:

    Having a theme in a class helps me as a teacher to stay focused on what i say to the students. Themes can use a story and more impotnantly can be woven into the fabric of the asana practice. Verbal prompts can be important ways to bring students back into focus durning the class and the philosophy can be intoduced in ways that make it practicle for students to intergrate into their practice and day to day life. I use sayingd from famous yogis saints spiritual teachers.
    There was a well know teacher in my town who would teach a class then people could stay back for some chanting after chanting peole could stay back for a phiolsopical discussion if you made it that far there was a beautiful indian dinner made by his students, it was a long night but it felt so rich and full

  3. That sounds like a great approach, seva.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  4. Lindsay Jean Thomson Lindsay Jean says:

    thanks for all of your wonderful feedback!

  5. words are useless, especially when spoken, and more-so when typed. yogasana teachers should simply sing mantra. om mani padme hum… :)

  6. I like that, Whitney.

    Bob

  7. ARCreated says:

    I think this too depends on the level of the practitioner…not to be TOO generalized but I find that I "need" to say more for beginners and less for more advanced. sort of like newbies sometimes need more guided meditation in savasana (I know I did) and as you progress you love the silence more. I do agree about the "personal" stories though…I had a teacher that seemed to forget you were in a pose and tell a personall story…I kept thinking "does this have a point? will it end? I would have been better off in silence…instead I was clock watching 'cause I wanted her to stop talking :) I guess relevancy is important

  8. annie says:

    Simple:

    25% alignment
    25% philosophy
    25% breath cues
    25% SPACE
    :) that's how i roll anyway

  9. ARCreated says:

    I take a class like this…I LOVE it…we sing along with the play list and help each other with poses, years ago I would have been appalled LOL but now it is so "kula" I think it can be a bit intimidating for newbies however it fosters a deep sense of belonging. We watch out for each other.

    I do tend to teach classes depending on who is there..and I always have a theme…always

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