7 Yoga Teacher Disconnects.

Via Philip Urso
on Dec 27, 2010
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How Fear, Posing, and Yoga-Speak Make for Lifeless Teaching

With your experience and with all the tools you’ve learned, your class could be wild, spontaneous, and alive. Instead, it somehow feels dull—even to you. You find yourself mindlessly running on verbal scripts and looking at the clock despairingly. Perhaps it has started to feel like a job to teach; you dread it.

If this is how you feel, imagine how your students must feel!

As a teacher of teachers, I’ve found that many experienced yoga teachers disconnect from their students in the following seven ways—and guess what? These ways all come down to fear. What makes it worse—they don’t realize that they are doing it.

1) Yoga Teacher Voice.

We’ve all experienced this irritating phenomenon: class starts, and suddenly the teacher we were just having a perfectly normal discussion with a few minutes ago in the lobby starts talking in an altered, hushed, “spiritual” voice: the dreaded Yoga Teacher Voice. A fake spiritual voice is the first sign that there is a disconnect happening between the teacher and the class. The students are now getting someone acting as a yoga teacher—not the authentic teacher.

Why do teachers do this? In a word: fear. Many average yoga teachers would rather be inauthentic than risk looking bad. They are willing to sacrifice connection with their students, being relevant and real, and actually being inspired (not to mention, inspiring) in order to protect themselves from the risk of (gasp!) making a mistake. They want to appear spiritual at any cost. But they mistake the verbal trappings of spirituality for actual depth. They wear a fake halo of their own imagination—a halo made of fear.

A connected teacher, on the other hand, realizes that their students’ transformation is more important than how they sound. They are willing to risk looking bad, unspiritual, even weird, in order to be animated by their love and passion for yoga and how it has helped them. They are willing to be dorks, if that’s what it comes down to. And guess what? That energy of realness and passion comes through in their voice and language. A real yoga teacher sounds the same when he’s teaching class as he does when he’s talking to you about television or burritos. His communication style—not just voice but body language—comes from an authentic place that’s fun, free, and easy—especially compared to the exhausting work of trying to act like a spiritual teacher all the time.

2) The Blinding, Irrelevant Script.

When I coach experienced yoga teachers for the first time, I almost always have to point out that most of what they say is irrelevant. Look, it’s risky to stand in front of a class without knowing exactly what you are going to say. Instead of taking a chance, teachers often go overboard and memorize a script of the whole class before it even happens. We’ve all been in these classes: repetitive platitudes and flowery phrases take the place of the teacher actually paying attention to what’s happening in front of them. As a student, you hear your teacher giving alignment cues that have nothing to do with what you’re actually experiencing in your body: “Press down the outside of your back foot!” But I already am? Huh?

The easiest way for students to deal with this sort of autopilot script is to tune out. The teacher—disconnected and not really seeing the students—is so caught up in remembering the next line that he doesn’t even notice real life happening right in front of him. He is so blinded by his script that he neglects to refine his words for the actual class situation, which of course blocks any possibility of spontaneity, any expression of connecting with the students now. His relevance as a teacher is accidental at best. All he cares about is getting through the script.

Take a wrecking ball to your script! The one piece of advice I give all teacher trainees is to destroy their script. It’s scary, yes. Most scripts I’ve heard take up the whole class. I challenge teachers to see how few words they really need to effectively move the class. Can they move the class using only five minutes of words? Essentially, I ask them to take 80 minutes out of their 90-minute class script. They are free to see what else is needed, what is relevant to say, in each moment. Using minimal but effective words becomes a living experiment. They soon discover that teaching a script is hard, boring, and exhausting, and without a script it’s fun, spontaneous, and easy.

Once you drop your script, you’ll have cleared space so you can see your students and be relevant. But additional disconnects are lurking and will try to fill up the beautiful silence with new irrelevancies…

3) Anatomy is Not Yoga.

Yoga teachers are often secretly afraid that they simply don’t know enough to be credible. To compensate, they become pseudo-experts in anatomy. Yes, having an in-depth knowledge of anatomy is an asset for a teacher, so there is nothing wrong with being knowledgeable about the body; however, teaching anatomy is not in itself teaching yoga. You can teach your students about the psoas muscles and their fascia until the cows come home—it doesn’t mean you’re teaching yoga.

The insecure teacher overly explains anatomy in each pose in a misguided attempt to appear competent and credible. But overly detailed anatomy lessons are boring to many students. They serve only to make the teacher appear inscrutable, distant, and disconnected. The students tune out. Most importantly, the teacher loses a wonderful opportunity to use the body to draw the students out of their head into presence.

A competent and connected teacher loves learning, and knows how to distill information in his classes. While teaching, he converts his anatomy knowledge into short directives that immediately result in more stability and relaxation, a deepening of each pose, and an experience of presence. His own study and practice are a lab for this. He constantly refines. His connection to his students deepens; they trust his words because they almost always result in palpable experiences.

When you string a bunch of knowledgeable anatomy terms together in a way that alienates your students, guess what? You just created a new script. No good. Distill your anatomy knowledge and pull it out when it is needed; don’t let it drive your class. Make your words relevant, not “smart.” If you can do this in an authentic, connected way, your students will actually want to follow you.

4) Sanskrit is a Foreign Language.

Sanskrit is a lot like anatomy-speak. Have you ever been in a class where the teacher called out a ten-syllable Sanskrit pose and everyone just looked around, left in the dust, confused by the teacher?

Guess what? Your students don’t speak Sanskrit; they speak English (or Spanish, or whatever language they speak, but probably not Sanskrit). Teachers who talk in a foreign language come across like showoffs. This is a sure-fire way to disconnect from students. This disconnect is annoying and easily avoided—use your Sanskrit sparingly.

Now, if you happen to be a brilliant Sanskrit scholar, you may indeed have a beautiful way of illuminating relevant yogic ideas by explaining the Sanskrit meaning, history, and context. If you are connected and have a passion for Sanskrit, you can use it to inspire your class in relevant moments. Otherwise, please use the English names for poses. Teaching yoga is about communicating—not showing off.

5) Buddha Babble.

So many teachers begin or end their class with canned spiritual quotes that I’m pretty sure the yoga public has stopped listening to altogether. This teacher is doing his best to look spiritual… but try actually being spiritual for a change. Imposing irrelevant quotes by the Dalai Lama or Pema Chodron are a vain attempt to appear smart and deep.

A connected teacher doesn’t need to lean on Buddha-speak because he is devoted to his own spiritual practices. In the moment, while teaching, he might feel inspired to recount an episode from his own life that carried a lesson. He distills it to a relevant point, maybe even a short powerful quote, and then, wham! Spontaneous connection.

6) Humor.

Planned humor is awkward and almost never works. Worse, it’s embarrassing for the students. Connected teachers let humor arise if it wants to—spontaneously and organically. Don’t be that tired old dad re-telling the same horrible jokes over and over in hopes of getting a cheap laugh.

7) Uninvestigated “Spirituality.”

Mediocre yoga teachers accept unblinkingly anything that simply sounds spiritual. They are willing to blindly accept anything vaguely spiritual-sounding without investigation, and spew it back out to their students.

Have you ever heard any of the following phrases from a supposedly equanamous yoga teacher?

“Make sure you vote so we can get that horrible Republican out of office!”

Tell me, does this really sound yogic to you? Strongly-held political or social opinions may seem like they come from a good place, but they are often rooted in hatred. Yoga teachers who use their classroom as a pulpit to get publicly frustrated at people who do not follow their hallowed causes—be it left-wing politics, veganism, anti-Walmart sentiments, or local leash-laws—are only promoting anger. They’re the ones at war—within themselves. They are actually teaching hate.

“That other kind of yoga is not even yoga!” Teachers from different yoga camps love to bag on each other, subtly or not. They each believe that theirs is the right kind of yoga. Strangely, the Yoga Alliance website lists 500 different styles of yoga, and it doesn’t rank them in order of “realness.” So, why do some teachers feel they have a right to keep the “my yoga is better” controversy alive? You guessed it: FEAR. They don’t want you skipping their class to go to the one down the street.

“Take off your shoes, the studio floor is sacred.” Do you roll your eyes at teachers who insist that the studio space is “sacred,” the statue is “sacred,” the asana is “sacred,” the breath is “sacred”? I do. Because I don’t think they know what they are saying. Do they really believe that the divine has declared this studio space more holy than the retail space next door? Does God look more favorably on a yoga student than on a runner? Is a statue more sacred than a person? Doubt it.

Making one space, one person, one philosophy spiritually superior to another is historically how war and genocide have taken hold. It’s one thing to ask students to respect tradition and therefore take off their shoes; it’s another to believe without question that the room is “sacred” and scold them with anger.

Disconnected teachers have lost their inspiration and are motivated by fear alone.

Teachers who only care about not looking bad are basically just teaching fear, and teaching fear is hard work. It’s harder to use a fake voice than to just let your passion flow; it’s harder to memorize a script than to just see your class; it’s harder to teach med school anatomy than to just see a relevant cue; it’s harder to manufacture spirituality and humor than to just let it show up.

In these cases the “me” mind that only cares about protecting the teacher’s ego has taken over the yoga class. The “me” mind doesn’t trust, and insists on being in charge. It compulsively manufactures every moment of the class in order to keep everything under control and protect itself. Its one driving motivation is to not look bad. It peeks out fearfully through its tiny senses and sees the world from a narrow, “please like me” perspective.

When the “me” mind takes over, it blocks the divine mind. The divine mind waits patiently by, letting this demi-god of “me” stomp its feet and bluster aimlessly about as long as it wishes. The divine would never impose itself, so it waits until it is called upon.

The answer:

Destroy your script. Relentlessly become a beginner again, for the rest of your teaching years. Question every word. Everything. Establish a system for receiving honest feedback on a regular basis. Without this, you are adrift in fear.


About Philip Urso

Yoga Teacher Philip Urso loves to train yoga teachers how to teach exhilarating and unscripted vinyasa yoga classes. He co-founded Live Love Teach Yoga Teacher Training School with fellow yoga teachers Deborah Williamson and Stacy Dockins. His two 5-star podcasts on iTunes — A Crash Course in Miracles and Yoga Classes, Live Love Teach — have over two million downloads. Philip studies the dynamics of love and fear and teaches practical, reliable and lasting methods for choosing between the two. His Elephant Journal column explores these very themes. More info at PhilipUrso.com


41 Responses to “7 Yoga Teacher Disconnects.”

  1. AshtangaGlow says:

    Being an effective yoga teacher means opening to what is. Anyone who has taught yoga more than once knows that the "script" or the "planned class" often proves totally irrelevant when the practitioners enter the room. By opening to what is, indeed, the mask falls, as Kathi says above, and as teachers only then do we truly offer our presence to the students. What we know, regardless of its depth or extent, is of no use if it doesn't translate into actions that develop awareness within the student.

  2. Sean O'Connor says:

    Philip –

    Great piece – thank you for taking the time to write it / right it.

  3. Joe Sparks says:

    When are people ready to be teachers? When they can do a good job, when they can be models, models of effort, not models of not making mistakes, but models of correcting mistakes when they are made. Those who are open, whose patterns are not operating on pretense. We have to to take a look at people's motivations: are they human motivations, going against timidity and fear, or are they irrational motivations, trying to fill a " frozen need" in some way by being a teacher. If we do this, we have teachers available.

  4. Elena B. says:

    What a passionate article, Philip! Yeah, we all wear masks to hide our fear and we spend most of our lives assuring each other that our identity masks sit on straight. Even if our masks look becoming but they serve us not… (A sigh)

    Sorry for using a quote, but I simple cannot say it better:

    “Take yourself tenderly by the hand. Reach you hand to others only as you become secure in your self-loving. Never offer a hand to another in fear. If they are in terror and you feel a resonating fear in yourself, walk away. Your task is to choose love, not to serve the fear in others – an important distinction. Welcome to the graduate course. You are both professor and student.” (Emmanuel’s book of Love)

  5. yogadarla says:

    great article! oh and take off your damn shoes! the yoga room floor is clean!

  6. Dawna says:

    Fantastic piece on teaching yoga; one of the best I've seen this year. The thing about the voice just killed me – my own pet peeve when trying to find a teacher (vs doing my own practice). Yes, let's use our real voice, on all levels!

  7. Charlotte says:

    Thanks! I think the ability to be real in front of a class takes time and introspection. Twenty-four years ago, I spoke with the "yoga voice," and felt a need to project an appropriate image. That pressure lifted after my meditation practice humbled me so thoroughly that I realized that the facade was not only draining my own energy, but that it was far too shallow to be a real teacher.

  8. monkeywithglasses says:

    Wonderful article, thanks so much. I am thrilled to hear someone else shares my view of teaching in Sanskrit. I teach a Yoga Sutra class in English. Why would I want to teach you a somewhat complicated philosophy in something other than your first language?

    I do agree with yogadaria above: nothing worse than stepping barefoot onto a yoga floor full of grit. Ick.

  9. Thanks, Philip. Great article.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  10. Anietie Ukpe says:

    Truly enjoyed this article! For me, who is a lover of anatomy, I have worked with trying to find that natural balance of educating and informing my students without it being an anatomy class. I also do have to say, that starting out as a teacher and teaching Ashtanga Vinyasa almost three years ago, having a script to follow was easy and safe for me. Going from that to teaching a style that is more my own was very scary because the repetitiveness of the previous style was familiar and easy in a way. But, I have learned to teach from just being inspired by my students or something that has moved me and to share that knowledge in my class. I always want to continue to remember to do that.

  11. YesuDas says:

    Thanks for the great article, Phillip. Re. #2: I taught college music for ten years, and the first time I taught an honors class, I prepared extra diligently; I had every class session planned down to the small details, with a meticulous Power Point to accompany every one. One day near the end of the term, having had an inspiration in the shower that morning, I rushed into class and announced that we were going to dispense with the planned lesson. I told them about the idea that was exciting me, and we discussed it for the rest of the period. At the end, the students said it was their favorite class of the semester. From that time forward, I regarded lesson plans more as suggested scenarios than prepared scripts.

    I think you've nailed it, here, Phillip: fear makes us tighten up and cling, while a little aparigraha toward our self-image makes everyone concerned much more relaxed, receptive and able to learn.

  12. Given my chronic ear problems, the "yoga voice" is probably my biggest yoga teacher pet peeve…because I've found myself in way too many classes where someone is speaking to a large roomfull of people at a volume more appropriate to an intimate conversation in bed.

    I've often been struck on a couple of occasions when I've run into a yoga teacher at a coffee shop, and have been very pleasantly surprised to find a perfectly down-to-earth person I could enjoy talking to, instead of the blissed-out space cadet experiencing a continuous spiritual orgasm they tried so hard to be in class…

  13. Squirrel says:

    Great article; I've seen all of these disconnects in action, in myself when I teach and in others. The best teachers I know don't necessarily have the most extensive training under the most famous instructors; they're the ones who are present when they teach.

    #6, planned humour – definitely my downfall. I keep coming up with witty, funny things to say when I'm not teaching, but they just sound canned by the time I get to the studio. I've realized if I don't come up with it on the spot, it's just not going to work. Jokes are like egg salad; they just don't keep well.

  14. Tamara says:

    I agree with all except the use of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient vibrational language that actually helps to unlock our bodies during the pose. It IS yoga. This language is ancient and requesting a yoga teacher to not use it is like asking a doctor to explain your surgery in baby talk. "we're going to fix the big bone in your leg so it doesn't hurt anymore". To me it smells like the very conservative belief that if you're in our country you better speak our language…while we're the only dummies in the world that only speak one language. A bit arrogant to ask yoga to dumb it down for us and only speak in "our" language. Great article. I agree on all other points!

  15. Rerun says:

    I think you kind of missed the point of that point then. 🙂 I think he was implying that you don't have to use the sanskrit terms as a way to show off how much you know; and that even without the Sanskrit terms you are still practicing and teaching good yoga. But I agree with you! Gimme all the Sanskrit you can gimme, just follow it with english so I know what I'm doin. All positive paths lead to the same place.

    But then again what the heck do I know… I'm only human

  16. Charlotte says:

    I agree with you about the admonishment in favor of using English instead of Sanskrit. Way back in the '80s, Sanskrit names of asanas were what we learned. I use Sanskrit names not to show off, but simply because those are the names I learned in the Iyengar system. I enjoy learning about other languages, and would love someday to understand Sanskrit much better than I do!

  17. Tamara says:

    You're right. AND, i agree. Give me Sanskrit and gimme english too so i can feel like I belong and understand! Thanks for the follow up response. Great article.

  18. […] Here’s a very good post from elephant journal by Philip Urso on 7 Yoga Teacher Disconnects (whom I will be taking advanced teacher’s training with in Feb. […]

  19. Blissful Girl says:

    I am an anatomy/yoga dork right now. I don't get in depth with anatomy, but there are things I've learned that helped me accept my own practice and limitations, which I know can help others in their practice.

    Sanskrit, why not? We have to keep our skills sharp and the more seasoned students like to start getting familiar with the Sanskrit names as their practice evolves.

    The most valuable feedback from my students is that they come to my class so they can #1) get strong and flexible and #2) simply show up and listen to my instructions and truly be present with themselves in their yoga practice. (both equally important to them)

    I think the above guidelines are helpful for teaching. However, if people keep coming back to your class week after week and start to bring their friends and family along, you must be doing something right! So don't change it if ain't broke! Enjoy!

  20. Vanita says:

    I agree with Tamara. The Sanskrit name is the name of the pose. I learned them in Sanskrit and my teacher teaches in Sanskrit. I teach in a hybrid of Sanskrit and English. It honors my lineage – something that I believe makes me a better teacher.

    I'll never know how many people left because they were turned off by it. I'll bet they found their way to the right class for them if they did.

    I've attended YJ conferences with many different teachers and I can't think of a single teacher who didn't use the Sanskrit name of the pose – at least part of the time.

  21. Ben Ralston says:

    Great advice to all yoga teachers!

    To those that are arguing the case for teaching in Sanskrit I say NO. Examine yourself, and be honest – to what extent do you use the Sanskrit terms to make yourself look good: because I am sure that 99% of your students have no idea of any of the Sanskrit terms, and would rather hear something that they can relate to.

    Teaching yoga is all about transmitting the essence of an ancient wisdom – transmission can only happen when there is a transmitter AND a receiver: when the students ‘switch off’ because the teacher is not being absolutely real and present, there is no more transmission, and the class becomes very, very dull.

  22. Colin says:

    On the Sanskrit thing: when you learn anatomy you learn Latin names for our bits and pieces. This is not done to show off, it is so that we have a universal language for the body. A femur is a femur everywhere you go. As yoga is a truly transnational phenomenon I believe a universally accepted language for the postures is a fine idea. For example, why create confusion by having one pose with four names (Baddha Konasana, Cobbler's Pose, Bound Angle, and Butterfly Pose) when we could stick with one. Since the Sanskrit name is already the most pervasive internationally it makes sense to stick with the Sanskrit universally.

    Besides, learning new languages opens your mind. Its good for the yoga!

  23. Colin says:

    On the Sanskrit thing: when you learn anatomy you learn Latin names for our bits and pieces. This is not done to show off, it is so that we have a universal language for the body. A femur is a femur everywhere you go. As yoga is a truly transnational phenomenon I believe a universally accepted language for the postures is a fine idea. For example, why create confusion by having one pose with four names (Baddha Konasana, Cobbler's Pose, Bound Angle, and Butterfly Pose) when we could stick with one. Since the Sanskrit name is already the most pervasive internationally it makes sense to stick with the Sanskrit universally.

  24. ARCreated says:

    ben…wow first time we disagree on anything 🙂

    I think people learn it…I always say first sanskrit and then english, just like my teacher did in the beginners class. I sometimes make jokes about it and let people know that they don't have to be able to say it to do it or "fun to do and fun to say" but in the end not using sanskrit just diminishes the experience for me as a student so I share that with the students. I also disagree on about some of the anatomy stuff. I also do personal training and my job is to make independent educated students. I might not always use the "fancy" name…but dang straight I explain what is supposed to be stretched in a pose…adult learning has a WIIFM state…people tend to need to know why in order to do well. IE, if I tell a student to bend their knees in a forward fold I am probably going to explain hamstrings and tendons…it's their body they should KNOW about it…

  25. ARCreated says:

    AS a matter of fact I had a small lunch class today and we ended up with an almost purely anatomy lesson based on questions and the students were so appreciative to not be treated like they can't understand anything, that they have info to use outside the classroom…and just like sanskrit I might say periformis and then explain what/where that is…these are grown intelligent humans that are connecting to their bodies they have every right to benefit from our knowledge that is what we are there for…come to think of it I don't know if I agree with much of this article at all LOL…but I have my own blog to write 🙂

  26. ARCreated says:

    OH I do agree about the script thing…I can't even imagine teaching from a script how can you possible flow with where the class takes you? I feel that way about planning your flow and not deviating from it…I feel we need to be responsive to who is in the room and their needs.

  27. Philip Urso says:

    I love all the discussion!

    Sanskrit: I do suggest teachers use Sanskrit but "carefully," to connect, not become aloof. I use Sanskrit with English BUT, if I sense an experienced class knows Sanskrit, I often just call it and watch for confusion. Confusion is a big disconnect. I agree that Sanskrit is the language (a primal one!) and may have innate power of itself.

    Same with anatomy, is it relevant or confusing? Do you use it to give an experience or appear competent? What exactly is relevant depends on who you are teaching and where you want to take them. If you are present to them, you will see their tolerance and interest level.

    My suggestion is be relevant. Clear, basic alignment is totally relevant to beginners. They are really tuned into it, so call the pose and watch. Let them tell you how much. It’s like a conversation. You call the pose, they respond by trying it, you help, (as needed).

    You can teach presence through certain types of alignment cues: the ones that result in a palpable and immediate effect in the students' body. This is always relevant. If you love anatomy and have alot of training I suggest that you practice DISTILLING it into short, powerful, clear directives that take their awareness out of their heads and into their bodies. Avoid over explaining, that puts them in their heads, give them an experience.

    If you want to get your class present, focus their awareness on what is happening now: breath and body (dristhi and sound can also work). Thoughts are always indirect, “about” now, but not now, based on past experiences, reliving yesterday’s pose.

    If you teach more complex poses, i suggest breaking them into steps. The key is to make sure that the first steps are accessible to all. Then watch as you add next steps. It's a total disconnect if you are giving steps and everyone has given up! But if people have achieved step one and two, they are tuned in closely to see what might be next for them, not feeling disconnected but feeling what's possible. That is valuable teaching.

    The whole point of no script is to teach to what you see and to make room (in yourself and students) for the unexpected, living quality always there in a transcendent class. The intuitive hit? You will never get it if you’re not connected to the class and reciting a script or overly explaining something that is not relevant to their experience of presence. (Plus this way of teaching is easier and more fun!)

  28. […] teachers, perhaps without realizing they are doing so, hold Iyengar’s photos in Light on Yoga as a gold-standard by which they judge and re-align their […]

  29. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by swamidad, Abby Hoffmann. Abby Hoffmann said: [email protected] http://bit.ly/eykyEY […]

  30. beck says:

    Completely agree. Keep the Sanskrit please! But if you are working with new students, spare them the awkwardness of having to look around the room to see what everyone else is doing, help them out! I'm in favor of including the English name for poses too, and perhaps it would be skillful to explain to them what the Sanskrit means so that eventually it won't sound like gibberish but it will do what it is meant to do… communicate the essence of the pose on a sonic level.

  31. beck says:


  32. Michelle PS says:

    I love what you have said here. You are so very clear about authenticity. This is also the most freeing instruction I have ever received as far as teaching methodology. Thank you.

  33. Anne says:

    After teaching for more than five years… THEN going back to to my teacher training… this is such a great affirmation for my tendency toward human speak, spontaneous humor and always being a beginner. I have feared in the past that my inability (unwillingness?) to put on "yoga teacher voice" or call out Sanskrit made me less connected or spiritual somehow – and am now realizing that being ME is what makes me an effective teacher. Love this!

  34. Olivia says:

    Resonated on a lot of levels and made me want to look up your TT.

    Particularly the degree to which people come to speak in these ways because of fear. So how do we deal with that first, as the main issue? I am about to start teaching and one of the reasons I took the TT was to play with fear, stop being dominated by it, or work with it creatively. I loved the article and yet…. now I am a little more terrified of teaching my first class again. But, if I never do anything for fear of making a mistake, I won't ever do anything, or learn. So I need to risk screwing up.

    Re anatomy and whether it is to be equated with yoga – my TT has a lot of anatomy in it and we are strongly encouraged to instruct people using fairly detailed alignment principles. Yes it can be off-putting though it has also been interesting to see how to attempt t weave the physical and the spiritual. It can also go horribly wrong and sound ridiculous. In fact, in that school, it seems to me that anatomy is equated with yoga; the perfect alignment being seen as a perfect metaphor for the perfect spiritual self (or non-self).

    I like Pema Chodron! Love her actually. I would just say…. my spiritual bull detector is not turned on by whether or not she or someone similar is quoted but by whether any quote is woven with authentic sharing.

    Now that you have expended a lot of energy describing what 'not' to do, how about an article on the opposite (7 things to do)? You make valid points re the hate underlying a lot of political dogma. I love the pointed critique articulated here, but remember teachers (well anyone, obviously) merit a good dose of compassion along with the criticism.

  35. eatsmarterfeelbetter says:

    interesting – the teacher I learned from talked about our "yoga voice" as the voice that is uniquely ours and not what we thought others would believe it should be. I'll have to thank her for that. When I started teaching, I was the new yoga teacher who had to have the script; oh how quickly we learn that the script is meaningless 🙂 For a while I kept a written outline with me "in case" and I have since abandoned it altogether in favour of responding to the energy of the practitioners, mostly because I had to anyways lol! Sometimes my all levels class is vinyasa inspired, other times more restorative in nature, sometimes focused on foundation and alignment if there are beginners, other times more advanced if my regular power yogis show up. I figured out really quickly that all the planning I was doing went right out the window; so I've left the script behind and instead found immense freedom, creativity and joy in teaching!

  36. ilfauno44 says:

    Great article, Philip.
    There's a guy in my class that looks a lot like a 45-yr old Richard Freeman. Good-looking dude, father of 3 with a subtle sense of humor–it's intimidating at times. I adopted the mentality that I am teaching Richard Freeman, so I have to be genuine. I never used canned scripts, but I also own a fear of looking like a complete sham (I will use metaphors for attention, like "breathe into the muscles surrounding the sacrum," but I'm assuming the class knows that they aren't actually sucking breath down there….). But that willingness to be vulnerable, exploring, and even wrong on occasion is where authenticity comes from.

    Now, can you get EJ to fix your bio so it doesn't bleed over your pic?


  37. martinyoga says:

    this guy is too much. how can you 'teach' an "exhilirating and unscripted" vinyasa yoga class. some things you CANNOT teach. according to the Gita, you are 'Called' to be a Yoga Teacher, pulled by the nape of your neck ~ and no matter what tragedy or hardship befalls you, no matter how hard to try to seek other veins of employment, you are inexplicably and magnetically drawn back to your mat where students show up in droves.. or one Student shows up for your unsought-after Gift and it Changes their Life. you are asked to Live your 'Spirituality' and 'Ethical/Moral Character' in a Fishbowl… in front of the public eye. you are elevated to a Goddess and trashed as sub-Human all in the same day. you do what you do as an ART, not as a 'script' or 'unscript'. you do what you do because it consumes you with the Fire of LOVE and CARING for the Fragile Nature of Humanity ~ attempting to eak a Life out of the Garden, suffering constantly, and, frequently, in more than a little existential fear. if you are truly 'Called' to Teach Yoga, when you stand next to Energy that is Blocked (in someone's hip, shoulder or heart) you FEEL It In Your Own HEART. your Hands Move On Their Own, receiving guidance from an unknown but very powerful Source… in order to Open Channels of Freedom, Health and PHysical Joy… where they have been closed up for decades, breeding dis-ease. often you are the only 'cheerleader' and the only compassionate companion willing to 'sittin with' whatever the BLOCK may be, with the pain and 'desire to run' that surfaces when one comes, initially, to a true experience of Hatha Yoga (Yoga is not all fun and games, people. It is a Medicine that only Heals if you are willing to re-touch, with the Breath of Grace, the original site of Woundedness – be it Body, Mind or Soul. That's why they call it: 'Peeling the Onion'. Your Genuine 'Unscripted' Yoga Teacher will be one of the few who can stand the stench while easing you thru to the Other Side). really, WHO else is going to touch you with HANDS OF LOVE – at precisely the place where you first shut down – and Nourish/Encourage/Lovingly Chastise You into BREATHING AGAIN…. with NO JUDGEMENT (as You have enough of that for yourselves)… all the while holding Shared Tears in her eyes, no Stranger to Earth's Special Pains. a Real Yoga Teacher, that's who. maybe not that young thing in a fancy leotard. maybe that young thing in a fancy leotard. all I am sayin, is maybe Look Deeper. it's frequently hard to tell initially, who is the 'called' or 'uncalled' before you. from my own experience over 34 years of taking Yoga Classes, I say look for the Teachers that are asked by the Universe to endure incredible hardship on a myriad of levels… across the board in terms of their Life Experience. watch how she/he deals with the 'Underside' of Life over Time. you often don't recognize a Real Teacher til she's gone. POOF! following the Inner Voice that leads her to the next set of Humans who feel they may Be Ready to Learn to Let Go. in the wake of their farewell, you will find yourself in wonder at how her heart never hardened… never became bitter from the bitterness that can be Life in the confines of Time/Space & Graity. nope. She remained NOW, or at least she knew how to 'get there', and you saw it in her Smile and in the Light in her Step. genuine. earnest. real. on the Path, no matter what may come. no fake persona. a human being a human, but breathing thru it ~ rather than holding her Breath in Fear. Yama/Niyama/Isvara Pranidhana. Ethics/Morals/Devotion to God. om tat sat. om shanti. om shanti. om shanti. namaste

  38. yoganieuwwest says:

    All of what you say resounds with me. The script is a big point of discussion in the yoga teachers' world. For teachers, I think a script is useful to start with, but the teacher must completely understand what they are saying (this process begins during teacher training ideally) and watch the students to see what can be left out as they go along. A script only acts as a guideline to start the teacher off and help them communicate clearly an action with words. Especially for non-native speakers of the script they have learned.

    Continuing practice, teaching and attending classes by master teachers will help new teachers gently let go of the script and simply use words minimally to guide and inspire the students. Eventually the script falls away just as fear does as the teacher has the courage to use their own voice… So nicely put in this article.

    I also love the part about yoga styles and how discordant it feels to hear teachers put down other yoga styles as if there is one 'right' style. It smacks of religious fundamentalism… The most 'rounded' teachers I have met are very open to all styles and take from them all what is useful to their own practice and teaching…

    Love the balance expressed in this article, how with wisdom based on your own knowledge, a teacher will naturally express what will help the students, based on their own real experience and understanding. That is teaching. And every teacher has something unique and valuable to share in their own way and is on a learning path just like their students. That is what will ring true in their teaching.