Teaching About Teaching

I think I have found a good analogy for the repression in the yoga teacher training world surrounding teaching methodology.  It is like a 1950s parent regarding talking about sex with one’s children: either there are lots of musts and mustn’ts, OR a refusal to discuss the matter at all, believing that when the time comes all will come about naturally without any need for any prior discussion or education in the matter.  So, yoga teachers are ambling into classrooms thinking either there is nothing to know about teaching except their subject, or they come with a rigid prescription of how to control the classroom environment absolutely.  This is what I would call the patriarchal missionary position of teaching.  The teacher decides what is going to be taught, is exacting in requiring the students to follow along with the commands, the teacher comes into the room last, leaves first, and generally cultivates no intimate, authentic relationship with the students (that is except the inappropriate intimacies such power disparity and repression inadvertently breed).  He is on a pedestal to which students are not encouraged to aspire.  In this type of teaching ethos, neither the teachers nor the students realize there are a myriad of other ways of approaching teaching.

Do we really want yoga teachers who are ill equipped to navigate the subtleties and complexities of facilitating groups of people?

I would like to dedicate more time this year to working with teachers and teacher trainers discussing the magic that can happen when we place ourselves within a circle of teaching and learning – when we come prepared with something to offer, but are open to where the energy of the group takes us – when we cultivate an openness that allows for a co-created journey, and yet assume the responsibility of the facilitator – when we allow ourselves to be equals with the rest of the circle, while understanding the importance of appropriate professional boundaries.   Facilitation is a sophisticated art that we can explore in teacher training through implicit approaches like modelling, as well as explicit dialogue discussion around the benefits and challenges of various approaches to issues that arise in the canvas of the classroom.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Crescence Krueger
    Dec 28, 2010 @ 00:13:25

    I like your analogy, Chetana! Both sex and relationship are feminine aspects of Life so, of course, they are denied within the patriarchal teaching structure that still predominates within the Yoga world. Despite the fact that so many teachers and students are women! Information can be passed on to another in a myriad of ways but the heart of yoga, the whole reason to practice, is to come into relationship with everything and this connection to Life begins with the connection between student and teacher, in my experience.

    Celebrating how distanced you can be as a teacher through teaching larger and larger classes and being “professionally” and “spiritually” detached from the people you teach, Yoga is lost without anyone realizing it. In the absence of love, a kind of glamour shimmers in the empty space instead.

    Real teaching is indeed a “sophisticated art” and it brings everyone into a place of receptivity that is alien to our social experience and individual sense of self. This receptivity is essential to experiencing Yoga, so let the dialogue begin!


  2. Shanti Roopa
    Dec 28, 2010 @ 03:55:07

    Hari Om!

    How refreshing it is to awaken to an article full of “yes you can”. I thank you Chetana for this very true and informative approach to teaching that we as teachers must have. I agree with her fully. I love the freedom of the energy that we search and find together as a group during the yoga session. Each session unfolds another truth. Each student teaches us the teachers something. Praise is always easy to welcome, but praise should be as welcomed as a critisism.
    I will always keep VishvaJi in my heart as the most inspiring teacher that I have had during my 30 years of yoga practise. He said:” The most accomplished yoga student/teacher might be the guy sitting in a wheelchair”. It explained there and then everything to me.
    Humility and ego-lessness are two factors that must be worked on as yoga teachers move along in their own Sadhana. Karma Yoga is a great tool for this.

    Many Shantis to all of you!


  3. akhandayoga
    Dec 28, 2010 @ 14:57:42

    Thank you Shanti Roopa and Crescence for your lovely comments. Crescence, I love your poetic description of how glamour takes the place of love in over-filled yoga classes with a remote, ‘celebrity’-type teacher.

    I’m excited about being able to offer a class at the Toronto Yoga Show in workshop design for teachers! It will be great to dialogue in that kind of professional forum, and hopefully more here too.


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