At the 13th YAA teacher training workshop this weekend, I was challenge to think of the roles we play in our lives. Soon to be, I hope, yoga teacher will be one of the roles I play. And what does that mean?
Melanie, the workshop facilitator, reminded us newbies that when we are teaching yoga, we are yoga teachers. We must be cautious that we keep to our role (and our scope of practice) instead of ‘playing’ other roles we play in our lives.
It got me thinking.
Will I be able to take off my exercise physiologist hat when I teach yoga?
I suppose the mom hat will be off as well as the sister, daughter, wife and friend hat will be off too. But there is an obvious link to what I do as my profession to some of the responsibilities of a yoga teacher. The most glaring is the physical body aspect.
It might not be a total removal of the exercise physiologist hat as I won’t be able to deny proper biomechanics and alignment. But, I do like the idea that “you are responsible for you” and giving yoga students the reigns when it comes to how they practice on their mats. My job will be to guide students not dictate what they should and shouldn’t do. I suppose I already do that in my job yet, it will be a bigger part of my role and tool box as a yoga teacher.
Lending to the discussion on being a yoga teacher, we also discussed the intermingling of the word “restorative” versus “Yin” versus “therapeutic” yoga. Thinking I would dabble in these forms of yoga, it was a great discussion on the differences and not the interchangeable use of the terms.
Restorative yoga is to provide support and relaxation. Hence the word restore. This practice is not only for the physical but also for mental and emotional restoration. Yoga students are placed into asanas that allow for letting go and rest. No pain or discomfort should be present. I personally love this type of practice particularly at the end of a busy week or when I am feeling overwhelmed. It would be a gift to provide this practice to future yoga students!
Now to Yin yoga.
This yoga practice I am not as familiar with as most of my practices have been at home in the privacy of my computer screen. I am intrigued to learn more about ‘taking students to their edge’ and holding an asana. We reviewed the basics which include picking a pose, taking the pose to the ’edge’ and then being still, both mentally and physically. In past practice and also in this workshop, it is emphasized that the ‘edge’ is sensation not pain. So differently than restorative yoga, Yin yoga isn’t necessarily a relaxing process.
The final type of yoga, that is clearly different than the rest, is therapeutic yoga. Although it might be relaxing and/or take one to the edge, therapeutic yoga’s sole purpose is to focus on a specific condition or what I heard someone say this weekend, “issue in the tissue”. It makes complete sense that an asana practice could be suited to a specific condition and/or focused on a specific part of the body. This type of practice is very intriguing to me working in primary healthcare. I see people daily who are dealing with a chronic disease and/or injury. I had always seen myself teaching this type of class.
On a final note, that wraps up my workshop experience, was again more about logistics that anything else. Melanie provide wisdom and insight on class planning. I had never thought about structuring a class in this fashion but it makes so much sense. Here’s the gist:
Think of the climax, peak portion of your class; essentially what you are working on. It would include the main asana you wish the students to do in class that day. Your goal is to lead yoga students to that peak thoughtfully that they can successfully (whatever that looks like) complete the pose. After the peak, it is your job as the teacher to slowly take them away from said pose. What a brilliant way to formulate a class!
This workshop, although very focused on restorative asanas, I gained so much more insight into being a teacher and how I can teach than the physical pieces themselves.
I have written briefly about yin and yang with yoga but it wasn’t until this week when reading, Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers, that my understanding of the two concepts expanded. Rather than me trying to summarize what I read, I will just directly quote what Sarah provides as a great overview in her book. She writes “…a skillful yoga practice can allow both sides of our nature to be inhabited, the receptive, allowing side (yin) and the dynamic engaging qualities (yang).”
...the yogic term for any physical-based practice, Hatha, reflects [yin and yang] these two distinct yet unified energies. Hatha can be broken into its two parts: ha, meaning the warming, sunlike manifestations (from the sun god Surya); and tha, meaning the cooling or moon elements (from the moon goddess Chandra). Hatha yoga is a marriage of ha and tha, a balanced equilibrium of yin and yang energies. The terms yin and yang reflect these same coessential opposites.
Sarah continues to write:
"Yang yoga practice primarily targets strengthening and lengthening muscles, which of course also improves the health of the organs and bones as well as the circulatory and respiratory systems."
"...[yin] practice...is mainly stationary and allows many of the muscle groups to soften, while exposing the joints to pressure as the skeleton is pulled apart..."
"Yin and yang are adjectives that describe the way chi manifests itself...". In most cases, each pose can be practiced in either a yin or yang way depending on what physical demands are put on the body. I had never thought that poses could be both yin and yang. It is remarkable how the body can be flexible and yet strong. Depending on how the body is directed, it can focus more on yin or yang. Love it! My yoga practice has now grown in the multitudes!
Now I need to be more aware of what type of direction I am going with each respective session - more yin or yang. I've noticed classes listed as one or the other. I'm excited to try both.
I'll keep you posted as to how it goes - yin and yang,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.