By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
If you have ever seen a master yoga teacher at work, you probably gazed in wonder as he or she created an inviting, calm class atmosphere; put people at ease with a smile, gesture, or comment; or flowed through a series of poses, detailing modifications and potential risks, without a hitch. Although, for some of us teaching yoga comes naturally, there is much to be learned about teaching skills and methods simply by observing others. The best yoga teachers are never satisfied with their own methods, but seek to constantly improve by watching other master yoga teachers in practice. Teachers themselves, then, are nothing more than lifelong students. This is a point that Paulji makes many times.
Yoga teachers in training must learn about the history and philosophy of yoga, the benefits and risks associated with the poses, class sequencing, breathing techniques, forms of meditation, and more. Upon receiving all of this knowledge, yoga teacher interns must then find a way to synthesize it all, and put it into practice. This is where the art of teaching comes into play. Anyone can become very knowledgeable about yoga, or have a passion for it, but not everyone can convey that knowledge to a group of students using effective teaching methods.
Learning is most effective when the learner can observe what they need to do, practice it under the supervision of an expert, ask questions, change what needs changing, and then finally perform the task without intervention. Observation is a key piece of the puzzle, because interns need to grow their background knowledge of teaching methods by experiencing them first hand. By watching experienced instructors, interns learn how to interact with yoga students, how to structure the class to ensure adequate flow, how to handle a diverse group of people, how to encourage students to do what feels right for their body, and so much more.
Observation is powerful because it allows potential yoga instructors to see experienced instructors using the teaching methods they have read about. Students can then ask questions, and try these methods for themselves. It is important for yoga teachers to keep sharpening their skills with each yoga class taught. By observing each other, yoga teachers can gain helpful hints, tips, and tricks to use in their own teaching practice.
Aside from the above-mentioned issues, the Yoga teacher who turns his or her back to students, while teaching a group has decided to perform rather than teach. The mental connection from a yoga teacher to a student is kept alive with careful observation, cueing, and assisting students when needed. When we forget to maintain eye contact, we have broken the connection between student and teacher.
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