Are you stuck on “oldies, but goodies”?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recently played in Vancouver. The local weekly, The Georgia Straight, reviewed his concert rather negatively because he apparently played too many new songs (off his latest album) and not enough familiar hit oldies.

The following week, a letter to the editor echoed this complaint, writing, “Could rock promoters adopt some kind of mercy rule to the effect that old rockers can’t play more than three songs in a  row from their new album?”

On one hand, I totally empathize. We all want to hear our favorite groups play their old hits: Songs to which you can sing or hum along. Songs that made a difference in your life.

On the other, I respect groups that don’t rest on their past hits and instead keep generating new stuff. I feel the same way about novelists who keep writing (long after critical acclaim) and professors who keep researching and publishing (long after tenure). Why should one go soft after success?

Refining versus reinventing: What’s your teaching style?

The Tom Petty complaints made me consider yoga teaching:

My teacher once mentioned that some teachers find an effective way to teach an asana and stick with it throughout their careers. Others are always experimenting; despite the classic “rules” in the Iyengar system, there are many ways to teach the same pose. Neither style is better or worse, she said; it depends on the teacher’s personality.

Creative types might get bored with teaching the same sequence year and year. By trying new sequences, they keep themselves fresh and engaged, avoiding rote teaching. That said, if one finds a great way to prep a challenging backbend, why abandon it merely to avoid repetition? One can refine, rather than reject, a particular sequence. After all, aren’t we still following Mr Iyengar’s longstanding instructions in Light on Yoga?

Perhaps teaching yoga by traditional, established methods (which are not static either, of course) is akin to cooking by classic culinary methods. It takes one type of talent to evolve and innovate—and another to master and refine the basics. While all teachers do both, most gravitate in either direction.

Perhaps the main thing is not to get stuck in a rut. It’s a copout to stick with tried-and-true methods, blithely repeating songs, recipes, or asana sequences to avoid real thinking.

Image: Wikipedia, Tom Petty


  1. i think beyond being creative or innovative, teaching a pose or sequence depends on the student’s learning method or style.
    not one description, cue or verbal instruction will work for every student. most of us are so disconnected from our own bodies that simply folloing verbal instructions may not be enough.

    at the same time- using different ways to come into postures could help achieve the asana better- depending on the student.

    so really, from my perspective anyway, teaching style should be less about the teacher and more about how to reach the student. 🙂


    1. EcoYogini, I agree with you: teach to the student. Regardless of a teacher’s bent toward one or another style, the key is to react in the moment, rather than to at by rote. My main point: Regarding of style, know why you are teaching the way you are teaching.

      That’s why I wrote the post on Cesar Millan (whom I respect even more since a black Lab moved in!):


  2. it’s why i love taking classes. no matter how long the teacher has been teaching, or in what style, i always always learn something to take back to my classes


  3. I can definitely see where I get into the “oldie” rut! This was, in fact, how I was taught how to teach: that there is a system to what you say and how you say it. As a result, there are some things that I say pretty much exactly the same way every time I teach a class, but that is also because there are some cues that I find are pretty universally understood by my students and therefore are effective. On the other hand, as I discover new things in my studies or through my own classes that ring true, I try out new language and techniques. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I end up going back to my tried and true method.


  4. I’m in the reinvent camp, I’m afraid. The stuff that needs to be cued a certain way, I do. But I change sequences often, which keeps me and my students interested and engaged. And, um, it’s not really about the asana for me. It’s about the experience of the practice. So I don’t teach very difficult poses, as a rule. What I DO is teach different layers of experience, and that? It’s very exciting.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: