talking and adjusting

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talking and adjusting

Post by alea »

Hi Bernie- I am a new teacher of Yin Yoga and have a few questions. Generally, I don't talk a whole lot during my classes, as I want to give students the space to listen to their own inner voices (also maybe because I'm trying to get over my shyness :? ). I do give some suggestions at the beginning of each pose, and maybe a few comments here and there. Do you have any comments, or helpful tips on the subject of how much a teacher talks during any given class? I'm also wondering about adjustments: to give or not to give? energetic adjustments, versus physical hands-on. I tend to want to let people find their own way, but am starting to realize they might want a little more guidance (I suppose this will very from person to person).

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"What are you feeling?"

Post by Bernie »

Hi Allison

As always, there is no right way to teach: there are many good ways to lead a class. I believe it must start with your own intentions. Why are you teaching this class? What is it that you would like your students to know, do, get out of the practice? Begin with knowing clearly in your own mind what you want to share today, and then how you share it will flow quite easily.

It is not necessary to be a chatty-Cathy, or to be a mime: some great teachers talk very little while others are constantly sharing information. The style of sharing has more to do with the teacher's personality than their intention. Styles can include the educator (sharing lots of facts), the entertainer (making sure everyone has a good time), the meditator (ensuring everyone stays present), the nurturer (ensuring everyone feels blissful and loved) and so on… Some teachers have only one style, while others can use several different styles depending upon the class' need and the teacher's intention for the day. Beginning teachers might want to focus on just one style until they acquire a degree of facility with it, then branch out into other styles. I would suggest that you just be yourself.

Adjustments can be tricky. I used to do a lot of adjustments, after my original Ashtanga teacher trainings. But then, again, I asked myself what my intentions were. Why did I want to adjust this student? What was I trying to do for her? Was just getting deeper into a pose the really important thing? Today, I rarely adjust anyone. In a yin yoga class, I may see someone struggling to stay in a pose, or someone who just looks really awkward. I will usually go up to him and first ask, "what are you feeling?" If he is feeling the pose in all the right places, and there is no pain, I leave him alone. No need to adjust someone just because my aesthetic desire thinks they need it. If he is in pain, or is not feeling anything, or just isn't sure what he is feeling, I may offer some suggestions as how to get to an edge or reduce pain. Even here, I prefer the student to move himself before I lay on hands. If I do lay on my hands, it is most often as a guide, never as a push or pull. (For example, I may put my hand on his shoulder and say, "push into my hand." This way, they are doing the moving, not me.) My most frequent adjustment is to offer them a prop of some sort: a bolster or block to relax into.

You are correct: this all varies from person to person. Asking them first, "what are you feeling" honours these differences. Combining your intention with what they are feeling will help you decide if this student needs more guidance or not.

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Post by Lorien »

Great points, as always, Bernie!

I would like to add some advice to Allison, based on my very first experience with yin yoga. The teacher was silent almost throughout the entire class, other than instructing the entry of the poses. I was newer to yoga then, and totally at sea! I disliked the practice immediately because of all the silence. (Now, however, I crave silence in yin classes!) I make it a point as a teacher to describe that silence is part of my yin class, and to notice your response to it just as you notice your response to the poses; be okay with the discomfort. That is what my first class taught me.

I used to adjust everyone in every class, and I know some teachers who still do. Then I realized that in addition to silence, I wanted to have the space to witness my own experience. So now I limit my adjustments to prop management, with the occasional soothing touch in child's pose following the deep back bending. I still try to touch everyone (harder to do in larger classes), but it's more for relief than anything else.

Wonderful questions!
Jessica Powers
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Post by Jessica Powers »

Bernie and Lorien have hit most of your major point, Alea, but I'd like to weigh in from an energetic adjustment point. Let's call them assists, though, as the word we use for this is very important...

The first energetic assist I give, I give to the class as a whole as part of the pose instructions: breath guidance. It is constantly amazing to me to see people struggling to release in a forward bend drop inches at once when they move the focus from 'reach the floor' to 'breath in such and such a way' - I have two main ones I use, based off my own findings in self-practice.

The second energetic assist is individually given and just as Bernie says, is usually to check in with someone looking less than easeful - maybe looking around at other students, shifting a limb over and over in an attempt to find comfort or sensation, or doing some variation I've not guided them into or towards and want to make sure whether they have a reason that attends to their safety and the purpose of the pose in the sequence I'm guiding, or I've biffed on my instructions. This adjustment is reassuring them that 1)I'm not practicing, I'm attending to them in their practice and 2)supply them with my belief in their autonomy and innate body-based wisdom. I might offer props, reiterate or introduce them to one of the breath practices or move towards the third kind...

The third energetic assist looks more energetic: I tell students to place their hands on their body and send their breath there. This might be the belly in a supine posture, or an area where the sensation is really intense and, while they can still breath easily, they can see the benefit of yin in training us to be with safe discomfort and challenge without reacting and running away. I also explain how psychologically our body welcomes our own touch, rather than just bricks and blankets, and it increases our self-trust and self-connection, making poses come easier since the body and mind establish a relationship based on cooperation and support rather than dictation and expectation.

My fourth energetic adjustment I do all through class and may or may not initiate specifically with students. As a Reiki practitioner I found that my classes flow easier and with more joy and less effort if I take a breath before going in the room (usually while washing my hands, something I love to do right before teaching) and consciously open myself to the 'universal life-force energy'. I started really using this with my dedicated students when we were practicing new and more complex postures that were really assisted with gentle hands-on assists.

Before running Reiki, my hands on work was adjustments - trying to fix something from the outside looking only at the exterior of my student's form. When I began running Reiki, because it emphasizes self-responsibility and self-healing (the practitioner only supplies more energy, the recipient then uses as much or as little where it will best serve them, all this being on a 'higher self' level and pretty sub and un - conscious) I found that I really couldn't adjust. I was moving from a teacher as power holder to teacher as power sharer, in approaching students I was there to serve their highest good, not their ego (get deeper, do more in the pose) or my ego (get them further, teach them the fanciest variations). Also, I wasn't focusing on the body of flesh and bone, I was looking at how the flesh and bone body reflected and was in alignment, or not, with the energy body. Simple hands on the body, requests to breath into where the hands were, suddenly made HUGE differences to the poses.

I've had numerous experiences where I did a common hands-on assist - pressing on the low back during Balasana/Childs Pose - and had students come up asking what I'd done today because they felt all this energy. I smile as they go on and on about the epiphany and when they pause I say that I did nothing different, I was simply running energy as I always do and the difference today was that they were in a space to consciously receive and be aware of it.

For myself - it made teaching much, much easier. Less work for me due to more support from the Universe. And a way to subtly create a container for the class to be nurtured in.

Honestly, I was blessed to fall into my Reiki Mastery program and I feel very strongly that Reiki or a similar technique in energy education should be in the toolbox of every Yoga instructor. But even if you just consider what you are serving when you are drawn to assist students, you'll be able to alter and enrich the experience by aiming to do so only when it will serve their best interests.

Namaste and thanks for giving me a space to share that! Hope it helps in some way!
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