Monday, September 21, 2015

Northern Japan yoga students, and Chinese amusement parks.

We just got back from the island of Hokkaido from a week-end workshop for yoga teachers - "teachers tune-up".

Prior to coming, we asked the Sapporo students to give us a question each about what they most wanted to learn over the weekend.  I'd planned to narrow the focus to just one pose - side angle, or parsvakonasana, using that postural geography to explore simple and more complex muscular actions that create beneficial results, encouraging relaxed observation and clear cueing.

Many of the student questions centered on how to teach beginners.  Through talking with them (translated by Kumi, of course) I realized that they, like most yoga teachers, had been exposed to a great number of touring teachers.  Though these teachers each offered something valuable, there was little or no through-line to the education.  Postural focus was different teacher to teacher, sequencing guidelines
changed, and sometimes conflicting postural alignment philosophy.

Our host put it well.  She said she felt as if she were teaching yoga like a Chinese amusement park, and through the week-end with us she began to feel that she could teach yoga like a small cabin in the woods, furnished simply.

This was really my goal for the week-end and the reason I narrowed the focus so much.  I wanted to offer not another technique or flashy pose, but to develop critical reasoning faculties in each student so they'd be able to prune their teaching and offer good, simple and effective instruction to their students while relaxing into competency in teaching postural yoga.

Essentially my point was this:  Let's remove the less essential from the teaching and increase the essential.  Find the "niche" in yoga where the student really is, and can benefit.

Hatha Yoga is the process of understanding and performing balanced muscular action over a  pose duration long enough to create a beneficial re-patterning within the tissues of the body.  I left everything else off the table this week-end, and I'm happy with the results.

We yoga teachers have a responsibility, I feel, to not export more confusion.  We have an opportunity to empower people both physically and mentally to take responsibility for their health via a practice they can do on their own if they like, and to think through their decisions and beliefs.

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