Finding my center while teaching yoga classes

open awareness yoga

I’ve found my center again while teaching. It took a month.

Since I was in the middle of a (not yin) teacher training when I started my yin class at Liberation, and because it had been almost a year since I last taught a session with more than one student in it, it took some iterations for the pendulum to swing and steady.

Since last week, I realized something. I had been using this class as a way to practice the new teaching techniques I was learning instead of delivering a solid, tried-and-true Yin with Quinn experience. For example, last week I taught a tricky sequence with lots of rights over lefts and twisting and shifting and I got the sides of the body wrong a couple of times. This didn’t cause too much craziness in class, but it took me out of being present and got me in my head, trying to figure out how to mirror and speak and cue right and left every which way. Then, when it didn’t go smoothly, I got in my head about how I was not giving the people in attendance the experience they deserve and do they like me and will they come back and is this good enough, am I good enough?

Tonight was different. Tonight I went with what I knew well. Can you believe I had completely forgotten that I had a formula for a yin class? If I follow that formula, I can express the poses and philosophy clearly and creatively and help draw the class into a harmonized wavelength and relaxing experience. I can share what I practice real-time. As in, I’m not speaking from some memory, I’m speaking from Here and Now. I can’t do this when I’m trying out a bunch of new things. It’s possible when I follow the formula. There’s freedom to be found on this well-worn path. But what about the new stuff? How do I apply what I’m learning and evolve my teaching?

Answer: try one new thing a class.

Trying out one new thing at a time was a brilliant piece of advice from my teacher Amy, and I’m sticking to it as often as I can. I have never been a teacher who mirrored the class. Rights and lefts are hard enough for me as it is. Today, I successfully mirrored one pose. One new thing. Yes, I got in my head, but only for the moment. It went well, I returned to teaching with confidence, and class felt right. The students got the experience I feel obliged to offer, and I improved my teaching. As with every journey, bettering myself one step at a time.

Of course, when I start teaching hatha classes in the YogaWorks style (my teacher training), much of it will feel new to me, so there’s no avoiding that. At least the asanas and practice are familiar, so there is an anchor for confidence to build upon.

But, in teaching yin yoga, I’m glad I remembered that I’m not new. That I don’t have to deprive my yin students of the deeper experience because I feel I need to practice my new techniques and avoid what I’m already good at teaching. A beginner’s mind doesn’t have to mean I forget the experience I already have. One new thing at a time. It’s such a relief.

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