February 28, 2011

Teaching Yoga in a Cyber-age: Keeping Connectivity and Distance.

There have been a couple of fantastic blog posts lately about what makes good teachers.  Some of these have been in response to the Newsweek article about egocentric types who tend to give yoga a bad name, and others a reflection on teaching yoga. Both styles of posts have been making me think a lot about what it takes to make a good teacher, what I love in the teachers who inspire me and what drives me cuckoo. Indeed, one of the best aspects about the increase in the number yoga teachers is the fact that there is some style/person/approach out there for everyone.

For me there are two very important aspects of teaching that are required for me to return to any teacher’s classes:  1.) they share with you a bit of themselves 2.) they don’t over share themselves.  Ah, herein lies the rub, dear readers.  One of the hardest balances to keep while you are standing in front of a class is the ability to be truthful to who you are without making the class all about you.  This challenge is a very difficult tight rope to walk, and one frankly the majority of yoga teachers are unable to traverse without falling.  I hate classes where the teacher is disconnected from the students and you leave feeling like you have no idea who they are, and I also am not a fan of classes where I feel like I know too much about what is going on his/her life outside the studio.  When yoga students step into the room it is their time to work out their characters and their plots and not to follow the path of yours.  Yoga teachers have to watch whether they tip the balance towards themselves and away from those they are supposed to be teaching.

When I teach I often sprinkle stories that have happened to me into my classes, thoughts, inspirations or just moments that have affected me.  I offer bits of my personality and truth, but try to keep lots of specific details of my personal life outside of the classroom.  I do not feel that discussing an argument with your significant other or sharing how you cried about something is really pertinent to a class or to the students that are there to practice yoga.  Most of the time these intimate details can be transcribed in a way that are less, well, detailed and more universal.  I think it’s possible to share yourself without actually telling all about yourself.

As teachers it is really important to steep your class in your truth, your approach and yourself.  But it is also really important to make sure you don’t open the pages of your personal book too much and show the students all your stories.  In the social media world of today it is easy to connect with your students and fellow teachers in the blogosphere, on Twitter and on Facebook.  While these connections are fabulous and offer lots of learning and sharing opportunities, I am often wondering if sometimes the line between our stories and others can become blurred.  For teachers it can be hard to maintain the control of your own personal path/stories/issues when connecting with students outside of the studio.  At the same time knowing what is going on with students off the mat can enhance your ability to teach.  The line between distance and connectivity is all of a sudden very fuzzy.  The web has opened many doors of communication for teachers and students and yet there are also new walls that have to be constructed around ourselves.

How as teachers and students do you navigate the amazing tools we have to connect outside of the studio while maintaining your own space on the mat? Can you create a community and still create a self when there are so many ways to learn about each other and to share?  When does line between connection and over sharing cross?

Does the ability to have a cyber closeness with your teachers/students enhance your practice or does it make you want to engage in a 100 yard dash away from that class?

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Nancy Alder  |  Contribution: 2,600