I am on my way home from an awesome weekend at Maha Yoga in Philadelphia, PN. Justicia and Shawn DeClue are the owners of the studio and were great hosts and wonderful, inspiring and FUN company. The weekend was just awesome. We really had so much fun in the workshop and in our time outside the workshop. This was my second time back to Philly and so it was fun to see some people this year who were in my workshop last year and to meet some new folks as well. Almost everyone who came came to every session so we had a very deep and intimate experience. Here are a few scenes to enjoy:
I thought a lot over the weekend about what the difference are between workshops, classes, group practices, webinars and personal practice. I don't know how it is for other teachers or what students expect when they go to a workshop vs. a public class, but I know for me that when I go teach a workshop, it is a very unique experience. Because I do not have the continuity and familiarity that comes with ongoing weekly classes, I do not often push the boundaries of risky poses in workshops. I don't push for major "peak experiences" or for huge breakthroughs as much as I go for an education approach and download information that, if the participants apply to their practice over a year, will hopefully yield some tremendous growth. I mostly try to go deeper into the postures that help unlock the advanced poses, attempt to clarify alignment in familiar postures and to introduce new approaches to poses that uncover hidden tightness, weakness or confusion.
On one level workshops have the luxury of time because we have long classes and 12-15 hours together in a sustained chunk of time. But in another way, we only have 12-15 hours in which to establish a working context, to start to trust one another, to get to work on the poses, to explore the teachings and to open up a door to new possibilities of performance, understanding, intimacy and so on. In one way we have more time than usual and in other ways, we have less.
And in a 90-minute class I do my best to sequnce the lesson around 1 or 2 main points but in a 12-15 hour wekend, I am weaving many threads at a time and my style is less linear than how I teach a public class and than how I train people to teach public classes. When I lead a practice, I am generally trying to move everyone through a sequence and my focus is more narrow and specific than it is with a brand new group over the whole course of a weekend.
I have always suffered these disparities a lot knowing how many public class teachers come to public workshops with a teacher training or teacher observation mindset and will often unconsciously assume how I teach one is how I teach the other. While there are similarities, there are also a lot of differences between how I teach a group of people I know very well for 90 minutes every week and how I teach a room of strangers for 3 hours. And since I care a lot about helping teachers and supporting yoga teachers in and through my work, this potential point of confusion always worries me.
Recently, however, I was at a workshop with John Schumaker and he said to the room of nearly all yoga teachers, "Look, I know how we train you. I know it is considered good teaching to take one or two points of alignment and thread them through and entire class and connect them sequentially to each and every pose so that your intellect understands the connections and it is all neat and tidy. I know that is how we say to do and I do think that is a great way to teach. HOWEVER, be very clear that I am not teaching you that way and I know that I am not. I want you to put your intellect down and get your body matched up with my words and just follow what I am saying from your body, not your mind."
I felt so relieved to hear a teacher of his experience and caliber acknowledge my own dilemma and just say, "I know in teacher training and assessment we teach one thing and while teaching that way is a good way to teach yoga it is not the ONLY good way to teach yoga." I felt so vindicated and freed up as a result. And his teaching was great and so effective for what he was there to do which was to teach and intermediate/advanced asana intensive to experienced Iyengar Yoga students. Had that weekend been the asana portion of a teacher training weekend, well, I would bet a lot of money he would have been modeling his linking skills, his active commands and so on.
Anyway, the weekend was a lot of fun, a major download of techniques, in-depth musings on alignment principles, a lot of work with the forms of the yoga poses high on the agenda and just a ton of laughter and silliness. Don't teach like that in in your public classes, but, well, expect it all in a workshop!
Kelly stayed an extra day to hang out and explore the city where we enjoyed lots of great food, museums and wonderful conversations with the great people of Philly.
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