I interviewed at a fitness studio recently. Part of the interview included an audition so that my potential employer could see my teaching style. The audition took roughly one hour. I taught to 3 very fit women who are all personal fitness trainers. In preparing for the class, I anticipated their general physical needs and created a sequence of poses that I hypothesized would suit their physical abilities and still synch with an "extreme fitness" environment.
To my surprise, I realized that although each of these women were very strong and very fit, they were beginner yogis! I had planned to teach a moderately difficult flow class with poses that used their obvious upper body strength and cardiovascular endurance...but in moving them through the warm-up sequence, I saw that they support their bodies in a very different way then those used in yoga. I was thrilled! Here I was, intimidated to teach to a group of people whose work and lives revolve around being in the body, knowing body mechanics, fitness, health, etc... and yet I had information to offer them that was of real value. Even before class started, I was able to realign hand and wrist support in her push-up position...a position she and her clients take many many times during a regular work out. She told me right away, 'that feels so much better. I don't feel [the pain] in my elbow." Wow...
I remember my teacher, Sigrid Matthews, telling us during teacher training, "Yoga is a balance between strength and flexibility." This couldn't be more true... I see it a lot when I teach now: flexible people do not use their muscles as much because they can get their bodies into positions with less energy than those who are less mobile. Therefore, they don't hug their muscles to the bones, which can cause stress on the ligaments... Flexibility is not necessarily a sign of strength, just as a toned body isn't a sign of flexibility. My students that day had beautiful, toned bodies, and they were strong in many ways. But it was unwise of me to assume that because they were toned, that they were also flexible or that a move advanced practice would suit them.
A few key points I've been reminded of via this experience:
1. what I think is a plan is actually just a blueprint - I can come ready with a lesson, but I might just have to throw it out.
2.I cannot guesstimate what a class should look like based on educated guesses. I ultimately have to go off of the student's physical status and demonstrated abilities.
3. Even physically fit people can benefit greatly from learning the foundations of hatha yoga and physical alignment.
4. Being aligned in the body-mind dissolves the perception of 'pain'
5. I am a student first and a teacher second
Here's to continuously being humbled and remaining loyal to my studentship!