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Posts Tagged ‘classes’

It’s hard to teach other yoga teachers.

Everyone comes to yoga with their own baggage (flexibility, health, stress, et cetera). Teachers have a little extra something, in that they’ve got a way of doing things that they’re used to and may think is the only ‘right’ way. In my experience, most teachers are pretty good about being able to pick and choose what they’re going to use and adapt themselves. It’s challenging though because you’re never quite sure how they feel about the class.

In the class I attended today, there was a beginning student and two teachers (me and another). It was a really good class, in terms of pacing and difficulty. I only had a couple of quibbles – and those come from my own experiences attending and teaching classes.

First, teach the modifications first. It’s difficult (especially for beginning students) to ‘drop down’. Everyone has a certain level of competiton in their nature and if you start with Hard and go to Easy, people almost never take the Easy option. If you start with Easy, more students are likely to stay there when they should. For this reason I also teach that even if your teacher doesn’t offer a modification, if there’s a mod that you like or use – use it anyhow. A good teacher won’t make you feel bad about that.

Second, make sure you’re balancing out the right and left side equally. We worked the right side a little longer in most positions. It happens pretty easily because you start describing what you’re doing and the students are holding the asana while that happens. Then you switch to the other side and don’t stay there as long because you don’t have to explain anything. This is why I wear a digital watch. I can time – to the second – how long we are where we are and make sure it equals out. Not sexy, but effective.

I really did enjoy the class and will probably be going back for more. I’m going to try all the classes to see if they’d be applicable for all or most of my students. The teacher was very nice and approachable and I got a nice solid workout.

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I have to profess serious love for those folks. It’s a pretty consistent mix of regulars and new folk but every week, when they could be sleeping in or doing other things, they show up for my class. Not only that, but they show up like rockstars. Everybody got up for the 70s mix and one student even offered to sing along. Today it was a full room of entirely flat backs in Warrior II and Extended Side Angle. I was completely impressed. PLUS, 3 minutes of plank/dolphin. I don’t expect anyone to stay up for that much time – in fact, it’s why I do it – but these folks were amazing. Everyone had big smiles at the end of class.

Saturday mornings are awesome.

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Wow. Imeem seems to work better on Saturday night – probably because everyone else is out having a life – but Firefox just crashed and now I get to write this post over again. It’s times like this when I wish I’d save a draft sometime.

Here’s the 70s mix I’m currently using in class.

One of the things I like about using music in class, and popular music especially, is that it tells students more about the class than I can convey with words. When you come into a class where a song you loved in high school is playing, it works on a couple of levels. 1. You’ve got a history with the song. 2. The class isn’t going to be as serious as you were afraid it might be.

The corollary to 1 is that a student may have a negative relationship with any of the songs I pick but in my experience number 2 outweighs that. I like quiet classes. I like classes with chanting invocations. But those aren’t the kind of classes I’m teaching and there’s still a high level of anxiety in my area about people ‘forcing’ some belief system on students. Marvin Gaye lets them know I’m not going to do that.

Contrary to popular belief, music (even popular music) doesn’t make yoga a less meditative experience – at least not if that’s what you came for. It provides a distraction which is helpful for some students, though most people let me know that they can’t hear the music once they start to practice. But the beats also provide a breath rhythm that students will work with, whether they realize it or not. And it reminds them to smile, which helps them to breathe.

I’m going to have to work up a mix that has Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer.

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See, I teach yoga but I’m not especially graceful. I’ve got decent balance and great posture, but I’m still clumsy. So today I noticed that the top of my right foot was sore. I couldn’t figure out why (I’m used to miscellanous bumps and bruises showing up) but didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. Until I got to class tonight.

Completely typical for me, I was walking around during savasana on Tuesday – talking through the relaxation process – when I stumbled over my own yoga block. Backwards. I rolled my entire right foot/ankle over and then (thankful that I hadn’t actually crashed to the floor and that everyone still had their eyes closed) promptly forgot about it.

So there you go. Stretching your feet, calves, and ankles can prevent sprains. I’m walking (not limping or hobbling) proof.

I also thought about a bajillion things to post about which completely flew out of my head as soon as I got in front of my laptop. Later tonight I’ll update my imeem playlists so that You Too can rock out to yoga. My next challenge is 80s Hair Band yoga.

In TV news I am not excited about Project Runway this season. I can’t quite pinpoint why. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time watching Cold Case reruns on my DVR when I should be sleeping and/or studying. It’s interesting but I’m not sold on it. Something to occupy time until the summer TV season is REALLY underway.

Music updates later and possibly I’ll link my ‘default’ albums.

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My evening classes are billed as Power Yoga, but I tend to teach them the same way that I teach my Hatha classes (I’ll give you ways to make things harder, choose your own yoga adventure). Tonight I was amped up from making dinner PLUS I dropped in my Hip Hop Yoga Mix. It’s impossible not to have an upbeat, movement-heavy class with that music mix. We did Sun Sal variations, cat/cow, dolphin, table, down dog variations, and lunge variations. Finished with the leg strap series. Everyone worked pretty hard and I was completely impressed by their form.

Some teachers don’t like to use music in classes, which I get, but at the gym it’s impossible not to. I also like that music can serve two purposes: one, setting a tone for the class (see above) and two, providing a focal point for the breath. I’ve got a few mixes I use and a couple of CDs that I normally default to. I’ve been using one disc for a little two long, so now I’m at the change it up point. Hopefully the students don’t hate it. Creating yoga mixes presents some interesting challenges.

For dinner I made chicken souvlaki with tadziki sauce and fattoush. Turned out pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. I’m even looking forward to leftovers.

The Closer was as good as expected. C asked if I watched Saving Grace. I tried. Really. I watched the first episode last season but found their depiction of ‘atheist’ as alcoholic, home-wrecking, promiscuous, chain-smoking, and generally rude and inconsiderate to be fairly offensive. So I don’t watch.

Tomorrow is another Anat&Phys marathon (11am to 5:30pm). I’m not feeling particularly enthusiastic about it but luckily I’ve got a class to teach in the morning. :)

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We visited my in-laws today for dinner. It was my sister-in-law’s birthday so we celebrated with lasagna, artichoke pine nut orzo, chocolate cake, and strawberry shortcake. As is typical, our  the conversation ranged all over – from politics and religion to weight loss and differences between northern and southern culture (SIL recently moved south). At some point we ended up talking about yoga and my SIL mentioned that she doesn’t like going to pilates/yoga classes because she feels big and awkward. To be precise she said, “I feel like a cow and I don’t know what I’m doing.”

That is one of the most common things I hear from students. The hardest thing to do is get in the door – most people are at least a little self-conscious and worried about what limitations they might have. Students don’t generally like speaking up in class and asking questions.

Yogagrrl’s Tips for Finding a Good Yoga/Pilates Class:

1. Go talk to the teacher before or after a class time. Let them know what physical limitations you might be worried about or ask what the class will require in terms of strength/endurance. The teacher’s description may differ from what someone else says or what you’ve seen printed. Find out how they handle questions during class time.

2. Feel free to ask questions about the instructor’s training. You’d be shocked how many people never, ever ask. All the teachers I know are more than happy to tell you about how much and what type of training they’ve got.

3. If your teacher makes you uncomfortable, look for other teachers. It might be that your exercise style doesn’t match up. It might be that they like to have silent classes. You might feel like the instructor is only there to do their own workout. Whatever the issue – a teacher is there to help guide YOUR fitness. There’s someone out there who will match up with you. Ask the teacher to recommend other classes!

4. Once you’re in the room:

  • Nothing should be painful. If something is painful, stop what you’re doing and ask for help. Corallary: if your teacher can’t provide help (alternate positions, props, or otherwise work with you) -find another teacher. Period.
  • Know that everyone in the room is at least a little self-conscious about their own limitations. And everyone has limitations (even if you don’t think you see any).
  • Once you start focusing on your workout, you’ll realize that everyone else is working too hard to pay attention to what you’re doing.
  • Relax.
  • Breathe.
  • Smile. You should be having SOME fun. ;)

Ask other students for class recommendations. Try out as many teachers as you can, because everyone brings something different to the table. If there are modifications that you like/use regularly – you can still use them even if another teacher doesn’t tell you to. It’s cool to keep your mind open and attempt whatever the teacher suggests, but it’s also fine to go with what you know.

As ever, your mileage may vary.

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Not yoga itself, but the perceptions assocaited with it – for example, Christians can’t do yoga because it’s worshipping other gods. Whenever someone says that to me, the top of my head blows off. I can’t help it.

First – yoga is nontheistic. It is a series of stretches and breathing exercises designed to help you become a better person (click “8 Limbs” above). The sutras acknowledge a ‘higher power’ or ‘higher consciousness’ but if you’re part of a monotheistic tradition, insert your deity here. If you’re an atheist, stick with the higher consciousness part. Everyone can find a spot to fit here.

Second – yoga classes are as individual as their teachers. So to say that doing yoga means you have to pray in Hindi is like saying “I don’t like Captain Crunch, so there is no cereal that I will ever like.”

There are absolutely classes which involve chanting (typically in sanskrit and not necessarily as deity prayer though -again – you can insert the deity of your choice). There are classes that have a more spiritual bent. I’m a big believer that if those are the kind of classes you’re teaching, you need to advertise it clearly. That’s true of just about anything – no one wants to walk in expecting A and get D instead. Of course that would be disappointing.

But for example, I don’t even use the word ‘meditation’ in my class. Is that what savasana is? Pretty much. But if it makes you feel better to call it ‘relaxation,’ it’s that too. My classes focus on breath and asana, stretching and strength building. So do most other yoga classes.

I make myself available for students if they want to talk about incorporating a spiritual aspect into their practice, but I don’t make it a part of my classes. I don’t talk about religion, ever. I don’t lecture about the sutras, even though there are koans of wisdom I may use. It’s my goal to help each student have the practice that they want, I’m just the guide to get them there.

So yes, Christians, you can absolutely practice yoga. Stretching and breathing isn’t a conversion process or proselytization. I guarantee that no teacher is trying to make you uncomfortable, so if one class or teacher doesn’t work for you, check around (especially at gyms). There are so many great benefits of yoga that it would be a shame not to try it because of a misconception.

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