August 29, 2011

The Book every Student & Teacher of Yoga Must Read.

Teaching Yoga  is one of those books that must be mandatory reading for anyone in the yoga field. Not just for teachers, but also students.

Donna Farhi presents information in a way that holds the reader responsible and puts our own internal process under the microscope.
It challenges our assumptions, intentions and boundaries to the core, especially in part II, where things get down to business to a level I have not seen anywhere else.

In Part I she explores the relationship of Student and Teacher and goes over the projections that live on a student’s mind.  How the teacher can be ‘created’ in a student’s mind universe as ‘healer’ ‘priest’ ‘parent’, even ‘lover’.

All of these archetypes of perception can create some pitfalls for a teacher, and navigating the deep emotional waters of a transformative process like yoga presents colossal challenges.  Donna addresses each one of them with simple examples that help clarify the issues.

In Part II she goes over Ethics:  Among others, she has specific chapters on:

  • When to Send a Student to Another Teacher
  • Class Numbers
  • Adjustments and Touching
  • Power of Words
  • Boundaries
  • The Ethics of Money  – One that I particularly liked
  • Refunds
  • Teacher Training
  • Pitfalls of Fame

How down-to-earth can you get? Her examples make me shiver sometimes, as in the case of a student who would interrupt the class constantly, make questions that seem more like a monologue rather than get to a point or add to the class material,  and always arrive late.

Hm, makes me wonder if I ever rambled on questions or tried to be the focus of attention… I think I have, oh dear! Guilty as charged.

Her chapter on the Ethics of Money clarified a lot of things for me as in, for instance:

Westerners in particular seem to have convoluted ideas about it “not being spiritual” to talk about or be clear about financial matters (such as written contracts) or to insist that people make good on their financial agreements.  I would contend that this is incorrect understanding of what it means to be spiritual.  Conducting one’s business clearly and fairly is one of the highest spiritual practices

She draws from her own very vast and long experience of teaching at retreat centers abroad, while travelling, while exhausted, while feeling resentful at times, and shows how it is possible to keep the teacher’s health and finances in sight and be even more generous with the teaching by establishing healthy and strong, very strong boundaries.

Part Three has a Workbook for resolving ethical issues.

She opens this part with an example of a difficult situation and then gives a model of how to work it through by addressing it: “before”, “during”, “after”,  and “possible outcomes”.

Then she provides some sample cases for you to work through.  Just to give you a taste of how you would be left wondering and thinking, here is one of the case scenarios:

Inappropriate Dress: An attractive young woman begins taking yoga classes at your center. You have noticed … that her yoga clothes are skimpy… her breasts frequently pop out of her yoga tops … and her low-rise yoga pans seem designed to prove that she is a genuine redhead.  Consider an intervention plan for before, during and after the situation…. plan for addressing the general dress code for your class… if you are a center director, also consider the dress code of the teachers”

She has 12 more cases like it (including: refunds, teaching family members, student pressure, lateness, gray zones, etc.)

All in all the book leaves you thinking and coming to terms your own boundaries. With how YOU would handle difficult situations and how YOU would stay sane in a high charge environment produced by deep transformation and loose standardized guidelines.

The book is an invitation to continue the exploration of what it means not just to be a teacher, but also a student!

From the point of view of a teacher, helping a student progress on his or her own journey without getting involved in unhealthy ways is a difficult proposition, to say the least.  Donna helps clarify and frankly all I can feel is gratitude for her work.

If you have not read it yet I highly recommend it.  Would also love to hear what you thought of it if you read it already.

Donna Fahri’s web-page is here.


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