When I'm teaching a Yoga class, I find it difficult to strike the right balance between how much talking I should do, and when to let silence do the talking. A lot of that depends on what the day brought and the energy level in the room. With the holiday season now in full swing, kicked off with a Thanksgiving full of gratitude and reverence, there's definitely plenty to talk about. But how much is too much? That fine line will be different for everyone, but for me, as someone who finds it difficult to get upclose and personal in class, I usually find myself talking… A lot! As paradoxical as this may sound, it's not that I don't like talking - hey I teach for a living - but it calms my nerves.
Right now might be a good time to mention that what I love to talk about is alignment. I love anatomy, I can't get enough of it: the mighty Illiopsoas, the sensitive Quadratus Lomborum, the stabilizing Transverse Abdominis… I love to hear teachers speak about muscles and joints; I would drink of that brew any day. Sure it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but spending some time teaching students about alignment isn't to bore them to death or to teach them how to achieve the perfect pose - we all know there's no such thing, and when we get close it lasts a split second, after which the work starts all over again; but rather to raise awareness, consciousness; to help students awaken their bodies and senses so then can practice Yoga for a long time.
As I learn more from my teachers and my own practice, I am trying to infuse my classes with just the right mix of anatomy and finding the space within. That can be challenging and unsettling. And when my comfort zone seems to retract too far away and I begin to feel agitated in an unchartered territory, i quickly spring back to what I'm most familiar and comfortable with; alignment. That said, as much as I love speaking about it, I know it's equally important to allow students to come into their own experience, to feel their practice, without intruding. In other words, I need to shut up! But damn that's tough! Silence? What is my restless self supposed to do while stillness, calm and rhythmic breath are taking place all around me?
The breath. Yes. One of my teachers always says, "it's all just a breathing exercise". But the breath isn't just for students to regulate the heart rate when flowing, staying in any pose for what seems an eternity or finding inner calm in movement and stillness; it's just as much for the teacher. Now, when I ask my students how their breath is, if they are still breathing or to take a breath, I follow my own advice. While they soften their gaze, dive a little further into a pose; or watch the breath as it moves in and out of the nose, I take deep breaths myself, soften my gaze and I shut up. And in those golden moments of silence everything feels right and open, and we all, together, become more receptive to the great gifts Yoga offers . And for that I am truly thankful. (I'm also thankful for that awesome turkey Marc made and the superbly decadent pecan pie I indulged in; and then some, and some…)