I joined the Yoga Foundation course to immerse myself deeper into yoga. Not quite as easy as it sounds because I’m challenged by an enduring pattern of resistance and resistance is tied to my greatest value ‘freedom’.
I was tested when Janet [Janet Bond is the trainer on the British Wheel of Yoga Foundation Course I am about to complete] gave us the task of preparing the hour-long physical part of a 90 minute yoga session. The physical session was to be designed in an arc format starting from the end of the initial relaxation, adding in poses that would support a specific peak pose, the peak pose, and lead back down to final relaxation.
Janet asked us whether we’d like to work in pairs or alone. I blurted out ‘alone’ mumbling something about how we’ll have to do it on our own when we start teaching so we might as well start now.
Now I think about it there was probably a further, deeper motive driven by my obsession with ‘freedom’ and what that means to me. I think I likely resisted working with someone else in case it cramped my style and in my imagination, my freedom.
I also missed out on a bonding opportunity with one other person and that’s interesting in itself, because now I find myself exploring different people in the time we socialise and finding out more.. it will be an interesting journey for we are all going to be each others teachers, [and not necessarily in yoga!] big time, in a course like this, which continues for two years.
Looking back from a logical perspective we were 9 people in the class, and someone had to do it alone, it made complete sense for it to be me. But that wasn’t why I blurted that out.
Tip-Toe Through the Chaos
I know how the creative process works for me. When you read the acknowledgements of a novel you’ll likely find a eulogy from the author to the editor about how they turned their ‘chaos’ into ‘poetry’.
I’ve had 3 books published by Harper Collins and part of the deal was professional editing services – initial feedback from my publishing editor and extensive feedback over several months from a copy editor who challenged, questioned and suggested and really did polish my rough diamond into a gleaming jewel.
I create chaotically – sensing bits of disparate information and instinctively finding ways to pull them together, often randomly, so it’s not easy to keep up with me… And it’s stifling for me to have to be edited, or edit myself too much as I do this. BUT, I love being edited after the flow has subsided.
Janet also alloted our peak pose. Mine was a 3-in-one. Warrior/Virbhadrasana 1, 2 and 3 . First thought was ‘oh no, I hate Warrior 3’. It’s a balancing pose, standing on one leg straight with the other lifted and parallel to the floor while the body bends forards arms arms parallel stretched out in front. Forming a T shape. I have challenges with balance. Ha Ha.
The words of the Stones song came to mind
You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need
Instant Flow … Long Slump
I started the creation that evening when I got home. Sitting in an armchair, I closed my eyes and saw an arc of movement to the warrior poses, easily done and flowing’. Right, I thought, that’s done. Er um.. not quite..
That was two months ago, I think. It could have been three. I can’t even begin to order how I got this finished, because right now, I am still playing with it..
In order to create the arc and facilitate it elegantly in a group, the teacher has to have practised it through layers of learning and depth of detail that is quite scary.
Here’s some of the stuff I did randomly and in no particular order and it is definitely not to be seen as a ‘how to create’ lesson. LOL. We all have to find our unique way…
Sanskrit Sends Me
I wrote it out, in a table in word, with 4 columns. Column 1 was the Sanskrit name of the asana/pose. Part of the experience for me is knowing the Sanskrit names, being able to pronounce them easily and to understand the root structure.
I guess learning Latin primed me for that, even though I didn’t enjoy it.
The next column was for the common name of the pose/asana.
I love the poetry of Sanskrit. I have always been fascinated by language and it’s structure and power.
I like the idea of being able to teach using both names..
I had yoga teachers who did that and I unconsciously learned the names because associating the words with a physical movement over and over puts the knowing into the muscle, using kinaesthetic and auditory input both of which contributed to my ability to re-member.
The notes column was designated so because I wasn’t quite sure what it would be, but I knew I needed notes. It ended up being a dialogue.. sentences that I might speak, things I needed to remember.. far too much for one column on an A4 page.. but that’s how I learn.
That was the technique I used to create my workshops.. Initially I wrote down all the stages, things I wanted to put in, went into free flow imaginary dialogue. I made notes about prompts, ways of saying things.. sometimes whole dialogues that I never read out loud, but it helped install the core of it in me.
After so many years teaching in a flow without notes, because I’ve got a lot of building blocks and know how they work with each other, I’ve now had to go back to doing a lesson plan. You might understand why that feels a little uncomfortable.
BUT, it has to be done.
Teaching yoga is not the same as teaching an interactive, experiential workshop.. it has to be more disciplined to be successful. There are so many new and different things to consider.
The poses leading up to the peak pose have to prepare the body for that pose and the asanas which follow that peak pose/asana should be designed to wind the body down into final relaxation
No follow rules – No qualify
A physical yoga session ideally includes a pose or asanas from each of these categories
The sections have to be timed so that the Peak Pose appears in the middle.
We are required by BWY [British Wheel of Yoga] to design lessons with this structure in this order – the other stuff can come later as we get more confident.
- Demonstrate while the group watches and listens
- Do the pose with the group
- Talk the pose into the group but don’t do it yourself so you can observe
Asanas can flow one from to another or they can be repeated or held. The time they are held can be counted in breaths or in seconds. The number of repeats has to be decided and may vary from pose to pose.
Sequencing, Showing and Speaking Into
The poses have to be sequenced in a way that makes for easy transition. Even if you’re not doing a flow, it makes sense not to go from a lying asana straight to a standing balance pose [to exaggerate somewhat] Contrastingly, there is an ease in moving from seated to standing, from lying to seated and so on.
It is important to be able to dialogue the asana [speak it into the students] without having to do it at the same time. The teacher has to be able to play those moves in their head and feel the effects in their own body so that they can translate it into accurate auditory instructions. That takes practice.
Feel it there?
You need to be able to tell a student where to expect sensations as they go into and work within the pose, like knowing that you will feel a stretch in the hamstrings in a forward bend. You have to keep inviting them to feel their body
It’s also vital to know where people might overstep, move from the wrong part of their anatomy or stretch too much putting themselves at risk of injury. This is challenging because the competitive spirit ground into us in early childhood and reinforced throughout or lives is counter-productive to accessing the deep benefits of yoga.
Symmetry and Equilibrium
Most poses have some kind of counterpose – pratikriya. A counterpose serves to rebalance. For example a backbend might be countered by an asana that folds the back forwards in some way.
If a pose requires twisting to one side or using limbs non symmetrically [as in one leg is bent and the other is straight], it has to be performed on the opposite side as well so that each side of the body gets worked on equally. And, it’s important that students are encouraged to notice how different one side may feel from the other.
While you’re teaching the pose you have to include breathing as well as movement instructions
It’s also important to have a toolbox of variations and props for each pose because bodies are all different and you don’t want to alienate a student because they can’t reach the floor or twist in certain way or balance, especially if they don’t have the ‘perfect yoga body’.
And the session has to be timed. If you run out of time, you’ll leave the class unbalanced…
Sue Grabbit and Run precautions/prohibitions
One reason to do a proper lesson plan is that, given the sorry state of ‘I’m not responsible for anything that happens to me’ and the growing propensity to ‘sue grabbit and run’, it makes sense that, should something go awry and someone wants to blame the teacher, being able to show that you had a properly designed lesson plan and worked with it will be evidence that you are a responsible teacher.
You will also have to show that you asked everyone if they had any issues, even got them to fill out a form to that effect and have designed in modifications for them to work with.
The Insurance folks demand that! And because the aim of the Insurance company is profit their strategy is to do whatever it takes not to pay out.
They’re gonna ferret out every little glitch that gives them excuse to say ‘Sorry you didn’t comply with section 31.400.cx in the agreement you signed so you’re on your own kiddo’.
Back to the Plan
The plan is a work in progress. I have revised, rewritten, written anew that plan so many times.. I’ve gotten so far and left it and it’s still not complete. I am a dynamic starter but I am not a great completer. Sigh. Always that resigned sigh as I’m made aware of yet another thing I know I need to work on.
Overall I am loving this process, the exploration, the discoveries and overcoming the voice that says ‘nah, you can do that later’ and just doing what has to be done.
Janet said this wasn’t a compulsory assignment, ha ha, clever move there, but that it would be useful to do it and offer it for feedback. I’ve started to get into such detail. I think I have to do that before I can come back and reduce my plan to a drawing of an arc and the names of poses and times.
I likely won’t be presenting this to the group given the number of sessions we have left. Janet did say that we could fit it in, but I thought that doing 3 physical sessions in a day might be a bit taxing.
My ego wanted to present and do a good job, to put in all the stuff I think I know I can do.. but a counter voice said ‘Not presenting might be good work for your ego”.
I know I am not trying to wriggle out of presenting. I have NO problem presenting, which is why it might be useful not do it and even deeper down is the thought that I might not do a good job so why try..ah the complexities of layers in the human psyche.I do know I am a polarity responder, I butt against everything.
Update: I was asked to present my session because someone had dropped out. I have two nights before the course and, although not really prepared, I am going to do it.
I am wise enough to know that by opening out and being vulnerable and being OK with that we will be able to enjoy and rejoice in feedback as well as untangling any that might not be well voiced or putting aside something you disagree with for good reason.
And I get my own feedback, I can tell what went well and what stopped me from being as good as I can be and shine my own unique jewel.
I see that in doing my plan I have incorporated two asanas which I am drawn to, they help me get grounded and relax my back..the forward bend and the wide stance forward bend
The great thing is that they work perfectly as counter poses between warriors and the wide stance forward bend when followed by a rise up into the Five-Pointed Star/ and an adaption from one of my teachers – Leonardo [standing like the da Vinci man] Utthita Tadasana to use the Sanskrit name, is easy to learn, powerful and ideal as sandwich material for the Warrior.
The warrior poses are strong, they open the heart and they require groundedness. and balance. they reach out and upwards and they are perfect poses to flow into if you’re trying to build inner power/confidence.
And that’s cool given that I am feeling to revive and regenerate the confidence workshops I used to run and intermingle them with yoga.. so I guess being given the Warrior as my task was absolutely perfect.
And now it’s time I stopped writing, 2,400 words is plenty enough and probably way too much for most people to read.. but if you’ve got to the end here…