March 31, 2015

How & Why: The Right Questions to Ask a Yoga Teacher.

Robert Bejil/Flickr

Warning: Naughty language ahead!


I teach yoga.

I taught yoga long before it was cool. I taught yoga when people still thought it was weird. I taught yoga in tights and t-shirts and gym shorts, and a mat was just a strip of rubber.

Yoga Alliance made me tally it up when I decided to train teachers and I came up with 35,000 hours of practical teaching experience…and that was five years ago.

I’ve been doing this a long time. And I have moved a lot of bodies and a lot of breath.

So, hey. I teach yoga.

Maybe this is arrogant of me to say (and feel), but it chaps my ass when people ask me what kind of yoga I teach. Mostly because I don’t have an answer. I teach yoga, dude.

But it also makes me nuts because of everything beneath that question that doesn’t deserve an answer. Or because of the tiny little trapdoor of judgment that is just waiting to spring open and suck me through if I don’t answer correctly.

But don’t get me started on that.

Truthfully, it annoys me to be asked this question because it is the wrong question. If you are asking me what kind of yoga I teach because you are looking for a teacher, the information provided by “style” and “type” will not help you determine if I am your teacher. A style is an umbrella—a blanket—that only offers a tiny sliver of understanding about what might happen in my class. So I can tell you anything and you may like my answer and you still  may not get what you want.

The correct questions are: How do you teach yoga and why do you teach yoga?

How will show you my methodology. Why will tell you my foundation. Together, these two questions will give you the information you need to determine if I am a teacher that has something for you. And if your teacher can’t answer these questions with any sort of intelligence, giving you a party-line-new-age answer, please run.

Let me demonstrate:

What kind of yoga do you teach?

I teach Hatha Yoga. Sometimes I teach Kundalini Yoga.

Boom! Conversation over. Unless you ask me to describe these types of yoga, which will actually tell you very little about what you can expect from your classroom experience.

But  try this on for size:

How do you teach yoga?

Well, I come into the room and take a read on who is there and what it feels like. I observe the energy of the room:

Are most of the students resting on their backs?

Is the room very chatty?

Are the students all on their feet moving around and warming up?

Then I ask everyone outright how they are feeling today and get their feedback. I ask if anybody wants to work on anything in particular or if there are issues we can address. Then I take all this information and lead the class through postures and breaths that address situation at hand. If the room feels low and slow, then class is gentle. If the room feels hot and fluid, then we work a flow. If there’s a lot of stress, we do some kriyas and breathwork. Maybe we do a little bit of it all.

But I make sure that everybody gets served by the experience, crafting my sequencing and modifying as we go. It’s a team effort, y’all, and no man gets left behind.

Now with that information, you know what the class might be like. You know how you can fit yourself in and find space to get what you need. Hopefully, you know that you can get on the bus and safely take the ride. But if you don’t, then follow up with this:

Why do you teach yoga?

I teach yoga because the world is chaos and there are always a thousand things happening at once. Life is hard and the world is strange and there is an insane amount of pressure on us all the time. This makes for a bumpy ride and I like to know that there is a science that methodically creates time and space to get away from that and sort it all out.

I teach yoga to help people find the tool that will help them keep on keeping on because that is what yoga does for me. It is the well of calm in the desert of messy and it never runs dry. It never lets you down. And whether it is a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual issue, yoga has a tool that makes it easier to manage.

Yoga makes it clear by making space so you can handle your shit.

That’s why I practice and that’s why I teach.

Maybe that’s not why you practice.

Maybe you practice to work out; I practice to work in.

And now you know we aren’t a match. But maybe you practice because your mat is the only place that makes sense to you. In that case, hey babe, nice to meet you, let’s get down to business, shall we?

I’m open to all kinds of questions about my teaching. Please, please, ask me. Seriously. I love to talk about the practice and the thousands of beautiful facets it holds. I will tell you about my experience, my purpose, my dharma, my evolution, my service, my classes, my schedule, my hopes and dreams in relationship to yoga.

But I can’t tell you what kind of yoga I teach.

Because when it comes to real yoga, there is no type. So, please stop asking me.


Relephant Reads: 

I Got Caught Cheating on my Yoga Teacher.

Things Your Yoga Teacher is Dying to Tell you (But Probably Won’t).

Author: Jamie Shane

Apprentice Editor: Kim Hass/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Robert Bejil/Flickr 



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