Once you’ve been teaching yoga for a while (or anything, for that matter) I wonder if you can ever go back to being “just” a student. Whenever I attend a class or workshop, I find myself watching how the instructor deals with teaching issues, as well as simply participating in the practice. What modifications does s/he offer for Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog)? What guidance does s/he give during Savasana (Corpse)? How does s/he deal with some one who refuses any suggested adjustments? I try to focus on my own practice but being in a class means interacting with a variety of students and I can’t ignore how other people are processing the information the teacher presents.
When I write a lesson plan, I try to imagine how the class will unfold for my students. Where will they need more instruction? Who will have difficulty with certain poses and needs a specific modification? I try to remember my student-only days and think about what made a class the most beneficial for me. I find a combination of words and action—and I’m not sure I could actually say how to create this combination—made the various asana come alive to me both physically and mentally.
I think the most important thing to me, as a student, is sensing that the teacher is tuned-in to the dynamics of the classroom. I want to feel as if s/he is watching how the instruction is being followed; if there needs to be more explanation; if we are getting the benefits of the pose or need to be adjusted; if s/he is willing to adapt the lesson plan to fit the needs of this particular group of students. I want a class to have a plan, but I want that plan to be organic so it can change if it needs to and the teacher is comfortable with going “off book.” And I like surprises: for instance, if the teacher sequences asana in an unexpected way that makes me experience the asana differently than I have before.
I also place high value on a sense of humor, a soothing voice and a deep level of understanding. Although it probably isn’t fair, I want my teacher to have more experience than I do with yoga. I’m not sure I would be happy with a teacher that was significantly younger than me (check out this New York Times article on the subject). I have never been in a class where youth and inexperience factor was an issue, but I’m pretty sure I would be skeptical…
What if your class and teacher are close to your ideal, but not quite? Pat asked last week about getting a teacher to talk less…I’ve been mulling the question, because I think it’s a good one. As a teacher, I want to know if some one is having trouble in the class and if I could do something to help them. As a student, I’m not sure I’d have the guts to comment of such a personal element of the class (good Midwesterner that I am)—especially if it seemed like the teacher was proud of his/her style of explanation. Maybe you could suggest a different approach to the teacher as something the class might try (adding a silent meditation? doing a class without music?) or ask if there are
quieter classes at your studio. I usually vote with my feet, if a class bothers me, but I’m not sure that is the most constructive solution.
What have any of you dear readers tried? How do those of you that teach prefer to get feedback? What do you all think are good/bad traits of a teachers (I realize it’s a personal preference, but I’m curious to hear what students value)? I’ve bared my soul (sort of) about what I like in a yoga class, now let me hear from you. ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved