“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
Prior to teacher training, I very rarely thought about the teacher’s words and intonation during yoga asana. It was just a part of the overall experience, a side-note in the mosaic of elements that make up a hopefully delightful class. Because of the emphasis on how information is conveyed in the particular course I am taking, I have begun to pay attention not only to what is covered in yoga classes I am taking, but the teacher’s prose and their delivery. Negative versus positive words, concise direction versus descriptive statements, overused jargon versus active, engaging words – all of these can color the feeling of a class. So, too, can their tone – does the teacher come across as phony, compassionate, bored, caring, knowledgeable, angry, etc.?
As I practice teaching more and more, I have come to realize the importance of knowing your voice. It is as important as sequencing, location, lighting, and all the other elements combined. Ultimately, the overall feeling of the class is dependent on how the teacher presents – in many cases, the presentation is even more important than the content.
As I grapple with this issue, I have discovered some of the elements that I think are most important in creating a well-balanced led asana practice. Good teachers use words that get you into the postures clearly and concisely. They use inflection to encourage their students to alternately work hard in more difficult poses and relax when the time is right. Great teachers add elements of fun, surprise and playfulness to their classes. They successfully weave additional teachings into class, without turning off the people that are just there for a good stretch or a workout. They also leave quiet spaces for their students to be in their bodies, in the asana, in the moment itself.
Coming to the end of this leg of my teacher training journey, I continue to uncover my own insecurities as a potential teacher and as a current practitioner of yoga. Many of you may understand why a teacher may be concerned about voice, whereas we can all agree that a (good) student is generally silent during class. But even as a student, you must study yourself and understand your intention for participating in the process that is yoga. It is a journey of self-discovery and requires that your practice does not end after you roll up your mat and leave the studio.
As we started teaching each other in class, I found myself questioning why I was even in a teacher training. I never really intended to teach other people yoga. I simply wanted to deepen my own practice and delve further into yoga philosophy and history. Fortunately, that has been a large part of the program. But I have now found that I have nagging questions about what my subconscious intentions were for signing up for a 12-week course that is designed to take people from the back of the class to the front. Literally, the very front. With everyone looking straight at you.
I still don’t know the answer to the questions, but I know I will continue to try to face them head on as I simultaneously look for my voice.