Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tools for Teachers: Giving (Even) Better Instructions

Giving (Even) Better Instructions

You're teaching an awesome class. Textbook perfect. Everything's going well. Until that one moment when you see the entire class turning THIS way, when you really wanted everyone to go THAT way. Argh! 

It's a common problem for yoga teachers, and one that's easy to correct with a little practice and a lot of mindfulness.

The Problem: As we teach, we give multi-layered instructions. Turn to the right. Step the left foot forward. Side-bend right. Inhale. Exhale. Nothing wrong with that. The issue is that our students know us ... sometimes too well. They assume we will always go to the right first, for example. Or they just did a sequence on one side, and they assume they know what's next. But they don't necessarily remember the sequence -- or you've choreographed an element into the sequence before repeating it on "Side B" ... but they don't know that and assume they'll go through the sequence to the other side NOW. 

The students are with you one moment; the next moment, they've gotten a step ahead of you.

What's a yoga teacher to do?

The Solution: We tend to give the breath instruction first, and then we add the movement instruction. E.g., "inhale and elongate; exhale and twist left." Breath first, then movement. This works really well most of the time. Except when it doesn't, and the entire class just went the wrong way.

Know exactly what you would like your students to do. Now, plan the movement that's coming up, and give a more nuanced instruction than the one you usually offer. If you need the class to "twist left" next, give the DIRECTION first, and then very quickly add the breath instruction. E.g., "Inhale and elongate; SIDE BEND LEFT ... exhale." Movement first, then breath. 

In this example, the movement instruction comes a split second before the breath. Students will still do the movement with the correct breath, but now, they will be more certain to move to the side you intended, because you caught the potential for confusion just before they move again. You've caught them in the moment before they move -- and that is when you need to give that more precise, differently-timed instruction.

The best place to practice this technique may be on "Side B" of the sequence you're teaching. 

By adding a heightened degree of mindfulness, and precise movement and breath instructions, your students are likely to follow your lead even better, making for smoother transitions and a more elegant teaching style.

Try it and let me know how it works for you!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Of Passover, Easter, and ... Yoga?

On the eve of Good Friday, Easter and Passover, I can't help but stand in awe of the connection between Passover, Easter and yoga.

How's that? Let me explain.

Easter celebrates the miraculous rebirth of Jesus. A dying, and a returning to life everlasting.

Passover celebrates a people's move from bondage to freedom. A dying of the confined and restrained soul, to be reborn as a new nation.

And Yoga? Yoga is the discipline of freedom. Yoga celebrates our diligent practice, and our capacity for attaining "moksha" (spiritual freedom), by giving us a roadmap for going deep within, using Patanjali's Eight Limbed Path as our guide. What dies? Illusion and attachment. What is reborn? Nothing less than the true self.

So, whatever your background or belief, celebrate this weekend, when so many energies flow together in such extraordinary synchronicity. Tell the story of the exodus. Share the promise of immortality. And practice yoga, and dance the dance of "moksha."  Freedom.

Happy Holidays to All ! 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Meet "The Yoga Agent" - Leslie Kaminoff & Ava Taylor

Good for you, Leslie and Ava! You call it the way you see it, Leslie (and yes, you got bleeped, oh well). And Ava, BLESS YOU for creating the space for us yogis to be more free to do what WE are meant to do, while you manage and network so that we can bring our work to those who need our teachings. Shame on those who deny us yoga pros the right to take ourselves seriously, respect our time and energy, and employ those who can support us in getting out there to do what we do. Love you guys!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Yoga for Osteoporosis - A Brief Intro

Hi there Yogis,

The Yoga Alliance has put out a call for presenters for its upcoming Yoga Alliance Leadership Conference, October 25-28, 2012, in Indian Wells, California. 

And I'm going for it!

As part of the application process for being a session presenter, I had to submit a short video clip giving a sense of what I'll be talking about at the conference. So ... thanks to the wonders of my Mac, YouTube, and some double-sided tape (don't ask), I created a 7 minute intro that I'm excited to share with you.

You can find it on my YouTube channel: CharlotteStoneYoga, where I plan to post more videos in the months to come.

Here's the link:

You can also find my Journey Through The Koshas there.

Enjoy, and please share your thoughts on the Stone Center for Yoga & Health Facebook page.

Onward & upward!