No Eyes on the Teacher, Please

In teaching the Baron Baptiste-style of power vinyasa yoga, I was taught not to practice/demonstrate while teaching.  This is a very different method of teaching compared to most yoga studios and group gym classes.

New students in my yoga classes often ask, “Why don’t I demonstrate the poses?”  They initially complain stating it would be easier for them to learn if I was on my mat practicing with them as I teach.

Yes, it’s more challenging for to teach via words only but it’s also a much more empowering way for students to find the poses for themselves.  Here are just a few reasons why I don’t practice when I teach.

First, yoga is physical, mental and spiritual training for the entire body including the senses; hence by the yoga teacher not demonstrating while teaching, students are forced to use their ears.  In turn, students can learn to improve their listening skills.  This will ultimately benefit them off the mat.  And really, who couldn’t profit from this in everyday life?

Second, asana practice isn’t about forcing one’s body to look a certain way in a pose.  Yoga asana is about what the pose “feels” like in “your body” and learning to accept your body just the way it is.  I want my students to find and feel their own Crow Pose  (Bakasana) rather than trying to look like me.  There is no perfect pose.  Everybody’s body is different, so Bakasana is going to look different for every student.  Self-acceptance is the lesson to be discovered here.

Third and going back to the first point, a focal point (aka drishti) is needed in asana practice to keep one physically in the pose as well as mentally on the mat.  A teacher practicing in front of the class is a visual distraction for students, which eliminates students from having a true drishti, a true mental and physical point of concentration.

It’s empowering for students when they realize they don’t need a visual to do yoga.  Everything they need is already inside of them.  I’m just guiding them on how to access their own personal power through feeling yoga poses in their own bodies.  Self-exploration is the key.  It’s not about watching the teacher.

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