Sunday, November 30, 2008

A bit more about Yoga at the Gym

First of all, I hope everyone in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We got back from St. Paul,MN yesterday to a couple of grateful cats and a chill in the air. Today the snow is swirling down and we are on the way to our first Winter Weather Emergency here in Wisconsin. 6-10 inches by tomorrow. Hello, December 1.

The YJ article is safely in San Francisco now, but I wanted to share one of Jason Crandell's thoughts from our interview. He is a regular YJ contributor, but also teaches and is the yoga director at the Bay Club in S. F. I think most teachers that continue to teach at gyms feel strongly about the experience and their role in introducing yoga to the masses (didya see all the comments?!); Crandell is no exception. I ended the article with this quote, and I've been reminding myself of it in class all week:

"It's important that, as yoga teachers, we don't buy into the whole gym yoga thing. It's important that we teach the essence of yoga as we understand it to the people that are in front of us. That really should not be different regardless of where one goes."

I love the concept of teaching the essence of yoga as you understand it. You train and practice in a particular style with its particular rules, but you will teach yoga as an individual in the way that makes sense to you. This allows for difference and variety in all their shades, good and bad, but it is what makes yoga such an interesting discipline. It's a language full of accents and slang, newly coined-phrases and old fashioned words; but, no matter how it is "spoken," there are benefits to be had and awareness to be created.

It's such an honest way to approach the practice and keeps you focused on your own technique, rather than worrying about what is better or more authentic or whether a new student will like it. It encourages confidence in your teaching skills, but also fidelity to your training. No showing off. Teach what you know. Keep it simple.

In these days of myriad certifications, hot yoga bods and "my yoga's better than yours," this is a nice reminder. I'm not saying there isn't always something new to be learned, but, as with any teacher, you should strive to teach the subject to the best of your ability/to the best of your understanding. That's why your students are there and why they stay.

Although, please, no Iron Yoga.


Jen said...

I appreciate many different styles of yoga and respect teachers from many different traditions. When a teacher really captures me, it is because of her ability to be authentic to herself and her understanding of yoga. I look for a teacher with an interesting interpretation not imitation.

shinyyoga said...

Last weekend I held a 2.5 hour yoga workshop with asana, chanting, pranayama, meditation and much more. It was at a gym where I regularly teach and the manager chose to make it a free workshop for all members, just to gauge interest. And was there interest? Heck yeh!

I had 60 people show up and got just as many wonderful emails and messages after the workshop...

Whilst even my yoga teacher was a bit hesitant for me to include chanting and spirituality on the day, my students loved it. I've been teaching yoga in gyms for 3 years and none of the chanting was foreign to them - and with the room absolutely packed to capacity, there was no doubt for the gym manager to see that there was a real interest in yoga.


Linda Sama said...

that's the way I teach, whether it was at the park district or in my house: I teach what's in my heart and that's classical yoga...not "power" yoga, not "hot" yoga, not "yoga with weights", not "yoga-lates". I just teach YOGA. whoever comes, comes, whoever doesn't, doesn't.

I no longer teach in levels and rarely even use "brand names" (except in yin because it is so different.)

Dr. Jay SW said...

My one experience with yoga at a gym was not a particularly good one, though I attribute it to a teacher who I didn't think was particularly good--she didn't very experienced and seemed to make up for that lack of experience with a rather rigid attitude, though not because she was, what I feared, in any way like a "gym teacher" (in fact, though I've certainly heard horror stories, I seem to have been lucky never to have had the feared "I feel like I'm back in 7th grade gym class" experience in any yoga class). Philosophically, she seemed similar to the yoga teachers I've encountered elsewhere. Then, that was a very mellow gym in a very progressive community, but, nonetheless, it always seems to me that what the teacher and students bring to the class is far more important than whether it's located in a gym or an ashram....