I went to Kripalu for a teachers' weekend with NYC teacher, Kula Yoga Project founder, and Wanderlust co-founder, Schuyler Grant, and she. was. amazing. I'm still processing everything that we did and learned, so I cannot begin to write a cohesive blog post about her teachings [yet], but being at Kripalu with a bunch of teachers did get me thinking quite a bit about who I am as a teacher and why I teach the way that I teach.
When we start teaching yoga (or anything else, for that matter!), we can't help but start by teaching just like our teachers and mentors. New teachers often say the exact same things that their favorite teachers say, they usually have a similar style, similar sequencing, and a similar class structure, and they often have similar preferences as their teachers, because that's what they know, have been taught, and feel comfortable with.
This is not a bad thing and is 100% a part of the process. It's natural, it's how we learn, and it's great.
But, somewhere along the way, I think it's important to start to question why you teach the way that you do--to figure out who you are as a yoga teacher, and to figure out what feels authentic to you.
It's important to be aware of your likes and dislikes, what works for you and what doesn't, why you teach what you teach, and why you don't teach what you don't teach. This makes you a conscious teacher who can speak knowledgeably about why you say and do what you say and do.
Over the weekend, as I listened to Schuyler talk about what she likes and dislikes (from a teaching perspective), and as I had conversations about teaching with many of my fellow yoga teachers, I was reminded (once again) about how different we all are and how that difference matters; How you should always question everything that your teachers teach you and how you should then take what you've been taught and figure out what you believe--not necessarily because you think one person is "right" or because they seem the most "expert," but because you understand the teaching and it makes sense in your experience and because you can explain the why to your students.
Or simply because you have a preference or opinion and you're confident in that preference.
For instance, I have always disliked partner work in yoga classes. Personally, it makes me uncomfortable (as a student), and pairing up causes me anxiety, takes me out of my flow and out of my experience, and makes me self-conscious. It isn't fun for me, so I never teach it. But for some reason, I never wanted to say that I disliked it because that always felt very non-accepting and negative (and obviously, we try to avoid these things in the yoga world).
But then this weekend, when Schuyler was saying how much she hated partner work, I realized that it felt so good to hear someone I respect say this, and to feel validated in not wanting to teach partner work. It wasn't a feeling of "I'm right and you're wrong," it was a feeling of, "Oh, it's okay to not like this and therefore, as a teacher, decide not to teach it." There was no judgment on teachers who do like partner work, it was just an acceptance of my own opinion and it felt really good.
Similarly, as I was sitting around talking with a bunch of teachers who I also really respect, they were expressing how much they dislike specific types of music in their classes (music that I play), and why they feel this way. I understood what they were saying, but I also felt the complete opposite. So, I spoke up for my personal preference and how I feel that music adds to my experience as a yogi, and we all disagreed, and it was okay. We each have our own opinions and preferences and we're all different and doesn't that make the [yoga] world go round?
Although these are both little things, they reminded me that although I don't always say it out loud or think about it, I have developed opinions about what I like both as a student and a teacher of yoga, and that it's okay if I don't agree with every teacher out there.
As someone who dislikes conflict and can be easily-influenced, this was an important realization for me.
Being opinionated isn't bad. Having a preference is natural. And I'm starting to believe that yes, this is a community that is all about acceptance, but acceptance doesn't mean that you have to love everything. It means you try not to be negative and judgmental towards others, and you work to respect others' opinions, but also, that it's okay to feel your feelings and make mindful decisions about whether or not you want to teach one way or another.
And once you form a preference or make a decision, it's okay to feel confident in that decision. But also, remember to be open and not *too* rigid with your opinions, because as we all know, it always comes back to balance...
At least that's my opinion on the subject.
You, of course, can form your own ;)