“We can’t direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”
A little over a week ago, I endured a shoulder injury leaving me unable to practice for a while. I was (and am still) totally bummed that I can’t practice, but it got me really thinking about the teaching aspect of our training. It’s difficult when you’re not able to practice and feel things in your own body, but there is much to learn outside of the physical practice. With our training just a little over halfway through, I find myself asking the question-
What does it take to be a good teacher?
I’ve had the opportunity to be an observer in a few classes over the past few days and it’s a completely new experience for me. It’s really incredible to watch and listen to skilled teachers lead a room through 60/75 minutes of class. When I’m practicing, I try to pay attention to what the teacher is doing and remember a cue that really worked or a transition I loved, but sometimes I’m so into my practice that I don’t always remember these things when I’m done. I’m in the zone.
Well the last few days I’ve gotten really into the zone of teaching. When I’m sitting in a class and just observing, I can take endless notes and try to assess the room as a teacher does. It’s been really eye opening in terms of sequencing and how much some teachers are able to fit into the span of an hour. I’ve noticed a few things that my favorite teachers have in common: their ability to listen to the room, their balance of knowledge and humility, and their ability to adapt to the needs of the students. As a teacher there are so many things you need to think about and be prepared for- it’s really incredible to watch how different teachers balance all of it.
Breath is so important. Until observing, I’ve never realized just how many breath cues a teacher makes throughout class. One of my teachers said it perfectly the other night, “Your breath sets the tempo for the practice.” As a teacher, you must be really tuned in to your students breath. I noticed the other night when the breath seemed to drop out of the room and within a few beats of this occurring the teacher gave a reminder about the breath and the room came back to life. It’s like a dance. Sometimes subtle, sometimes more obvious- either way, listening and being in tune with the class is so important.
Balance through knowledge and humility. Tonight while observing, I noticed when the teacher almost skipped a movement they had cued on the first side- as she caught it, she kept her calm and gently said, “Sorry guys, I almost left you unbalanced.” She then fluidly cued them through the pose and the class never missed a beat. Even in her humility of admitting she forgot something, she shared the knowledge of the importance of balance in our practice.
Adaptability. I’ve often witnessed that classes can be filled with a very mixed level of practitioners- which could be overwhelming and daunting. I witnessed it the other night and I listened as the teacher gave variations to poses and offered adjustments- taking a little extra time where they could to guide the class and letting the students find things for themselves when necessary. They were present, steady, and supportive while still being adaptable to the needs of the room.
I am doing my best to stay positive and focus on the aspects of training that I can right now- despite how much I would love to be hanging out in a handstand! Even if I can’t physically practice, it’s inspiring to watch experienced teachers guide a room of students. It’s also a reminder to slow down and listen to my body- a good lesson that I seem to constantly be in need of and one that can only benefit me if I am lucky enough to teach one day. Both teaching and practicing yoga offers so many lessons and opportunities to grow. I’m trying to take in as much as I can.