Monday, September 22, 2008

Come one, come all, right?

Last Sunday, I taught a yoga class at Bushel and Peck's, the new organic/local food grocery store in Beloit. [And here's another blog I've started about that whole endeavor--too much free time, yeah, right!]

It was a really nice group, the "art gallery" wasn't too echo-y and dinner was delish. We'll do it again in October.

Every time I do a new class, for a different group, I get a little bit nervous, because I'm not sure who's going to show up and what their expectations are. There are usually a few familiar faces, and I always appreciate having regulars out there (so encouraging in their peaceful expressions), but I find myself watching the new people very closely--do they get it? are they enjoying themselves? is something bothering them physically?

Probably, there are times, that a student's bad experience has nothing to do with me--having a bad day, running late, trouble parking--but usually that kind of stuff gets ironed out in class. However, I feel
strongly that a teacher is mostly responsible for a students' experience, and should make sure people are being reached--if they want to be reached. Even a gentle adjustment, can make some one feel like they have been noticed and cared about.

That's why something like this, astounds me. I love Suzi's insight and thoughts about yoga on her blog, and I imagine she projects that kind of energy in her practice. Why would a teacher single her out for such a pointless and ego-driven lecture. (I'm sure she's moved on and I should "put that lady down", but this drives me nuts). When I wrote about yoga and community a few months ago, I also got quite a few comments from people who had been made to feel completely out-of-place in a yoga class. I don't get it...how can you be standing in front of a group of people--your students, for pete's sake--and not notice that some one is having an awful time. Or not feel like you should reach out to them.

Even if it's other students that are creating the bad vibes, a teacher ought to figure out how to cool the temperature and get everyone to focus on the practice. I know I can't reach everyone or that my teaching method doesn't always resonate (which also drives me crazy--but that's my problem), but I want to feel like I tried to connect.

I dunno, maybe other teachers' classes are too big or over too quickly for them to reach out. Maybe there are bunch of cranky students out there, looking for a fight. But, surely, you can see my point...

Whadaya think?

6 comments:

Jennifer said...

I first want to say that I totally want to come do a class at the store, it sounds like a blast! I've done yoga in several different places and I've always been able to connect with something - sometimes it's the teacher, sometimes it's the other students, other times it's the space that I'm in. I do feel it's important (and something you do so well) to reach out - both personally, and physically to adjust the body as needed. I know that there are times when I'm just off and I can feel it but can't adjust myself to fix it for some reason, and you can always see that. I appreciate that. In other spaces I have felt more of a connection with the other students - sometimes it's hard and to see that others are working just as hard as I am brings a great connection. Sometimes it's just the space and the teacher is doing his/her own thing and I don't really feel a connection with the other students but where I'm practicing gives me the tranquility and connection I need to continue. So, as a student, sometimes the connection comes on a different level - one that's not always between teacher and student. However, on that note, please please continue to reach out to people when they seem to be having a hard time - I so appreciate that from you and maybe it just takes others a little more effort to see that - or frankly to do that.

Jennifer said...

I first want to say that I totally want to come do a class at the store, it sounds like a blast! I've done yoga in several different places and I've always been able to connect with something - sometimes it's the teacher, sometimes it's the other students, other times it's the space that I'm in. I do feel it's important (and something you do so well) to reach out - both personally, and physically to adjust the body as needed. I know that there are times when I'm just off and I can feel it but can't adjust myself to fix it for some reason, and you can always see that. I appreciate that. In other spaces I have felt more of a connection with the other students - sometimes it's hard and to see that others are working just as hard as I am brings a great connection. Sometimes it's just the space and the teacher is doing his/her own thing and I don't really feel a connection with the other students but where I'm practicing gives me the tranquility and connection I need to continue. So, as a student, sometimes the connection comes on a different level - one that's not always between teacher and student. However, on that note, please please continue to reach out to people when they seem to be having a hard time - I so appreciate that from you and maybe it just takes others a little more effort to see that - or frankly to do that.

Jenn said...

I teach an occasional yoga class in an actual art gallery. It's proving to be one of my favorite spaces to teach. It's designed to get general community members into the space so I also never know who's going to show up for class. At first that was unnerving. But now I really look forward to those classes wondering what type of practice we'll have depending on who/how many show up. Enjoy your new adventure.

Thanks also for adding me to your blog list. I'm really trying to reach out to the online yoga community more as teaching/living in a small mid-western town can sometimes feel a little isolated when it comes to networking with other teachers.

Linda Sama said...

"Why would a teacher single her out for such a pointless and ego-driven lecture."

because they can. because the show biz yogis are not beyond ego. because no one calls them on it. because many just talk the talk, they don't walk the walk.

nadinefawell said...

Great post, as always, Brenda!
I agree with all of it!

Loved your yoga journal article, too. I have been thinking a lot about the topic of yoga and community since you raised it. I think it may play the same role in our lives as church did for our grandparents.

Kristin said...

What fun - yoga in an Art Gallery. I can just imagine all the great drishti points.

I can relate to your nervousness about not being sure who's going to show up - I feel that way every fall after the studio has thier open house and we get an influx of new students. Then I feel nervous about making them feel welcome as my regulars are chatting and laughing and reconnecting. I'm always asking myself how can I make the new folks feel comfortable in a new class with a new teacher and a slew of regulars?

What I finally settled on was to make sure I greet them, explain the class structure (either one-on-one or as a group) and tell them just to have fun. Then I get them moving (I do vinyasa flow or ashtanga). I don't worry about perfect alignment, I don't adjust them, I just let them move and get used to the class. I don't innundate them with yogic philosphy or chants that could be off-putting. I really just try and let them find their comfort zone while having a safe and fun class.

And if they find that this combination works for them (along with the time slot and the financial aspect), they come back. As I get to know the students and how they move, then I'll start to introduce more hands on adjustments.

But wow - to lecture a person in front of a class?? I can't even imagine. I've had situations where one student seems to resonate wrong with the class (not the right session for that person), but I've always just quietly acknowledged it and kept the class brisk moving while trying to make the session comfortable for the one. But then I don't want focus exclusively on that one person either because the rest of the class *does* pick up on it and it throws them off.

I guess, each situation is different and can only be addressed as it arrises.

Oh! I did want to say, no matter how big a class is a good teacher will always make the attempt to connect with ALL the students - even if it is just with eye contact at the beginning and end of class. That makes a HUGE difference right there.

Thanks for your insightful posts.