Between turkey, colds, stomach viruses and writing another article for My Yoga Mentor (Yoga Journal's online newsletter for teachers), GTTSB took a pretty big hit. Sorry it's been awhile.
The article had the working title "Playing with Yoga" and was inspired by a Sept. 2007 YJ article called "More Fun." It was about various yoga hybrids out there (Acro-yog--acrobatics and yoga; trance dance; slack-line yoga--yoga on a tightrope) and I thought it might be interesting to talk to some of these people and see what advice they had for teachers. I was also a bit skeptical, since I wonder how much this kind of combining dilutes the original practice.
I've been convinced, however. I heartily agree with Yoga Dawg that a lot of the yoga community takes itself waaay too seriously. Playing around with asana is nothing new (where would Iyengar yoga be, if B.K.S. hadn't developed all his modifications) and being light-hearted with the results makes it all a bit more palatable to our Western hearts. As I see it, whatever makes it compelling and helps you practice more should be celebrated. It is a testament to the discipline that it can handle all these variations and still deliver strength, flexibility and calm to its practitioners.
I really liked what Leah Kalish of YogaEd had to say about setting a context for asana when teaching to kids. She trains teachers to create an environment where kids are empowered by learning the mind-body connection; they do art projects (make a "centering box" filled with things that help you feel calm and in control), create music (what does good balancing music sound like?), play games and do yoga. I like the idea of creating a context for asana, so that the class has a theme, rather than just doing leg work or balancing poses. I think students of all ages respond well to this and it gives yoga a purpose and connects it to real life, which is very important to beginners.
I usually organized my classes by what part of the body is being focussed on and discuss how the physiology of the body responds to various asana (hip openers open hips, obviously, but also open up the lower back so that ending the class with some gentle twists might be the logical progression from Baddha Konasana, for example). But maybe something even broader might be interesting...what happens to the shoulders when you focus on thighs, how do high energy poses lead to greater calmness, etc. Or maybe even something silly, like how does 70s soul affect the practice (I'm not sure I have the guts to try that out in the classroom, but one of my best home practices ever was to Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra).
What do you think about yoga hybrids and playing with yoga? Do you or don't you? I'm all ears...