For the past five or so years, I’ve wanted my dad to do asanas for his tight shoulders, chest, and upper back. While he’s fit and lean (and suntanned from gardening, golfing, and simply being an outdoorsman in Hawaii his whole life), he’s got “slouch” (that’s hyper-kyphosis to the Iyengar contingent) written in his genes. As his side of the family ages, they get skinny and stooped. The last time I saw him, he asked about my yoga teaching. (That’s one sweet thing about my dad: he inquires about my life, even the aspects totally foreign to his own.) I … Continue reading Yoga Rx for my dad
Among my yoga students, class attendance varies by person. Some never miss a class. “Yoga is the highlight of my weekend,” one regular tells me. Others want more classes offered, so that they can attend frequently, even daily. Some want to come, but can’t help occasionally sleeping in. Others must juggle yoga with family commitments. One college student confided that she’s missed classes when she feels blue. My attitude toward classes has changed over the years. Initially I was like my second example: the more, the better. Most beginners need the impetus of class to get going. Yoga = yoga … Continue reading Silent camaraderie
In a March 1, 2010, New York Times article, “Old Age, From Youth’s Narrow Prism,” Marc E Agronin, MD, examines our conceptions (and misconceptions) about old age. He’s often surprised when his geriatric patients contradict his expectations. He writes, “All of us lapse into such mistaken impressions of old age from time to time. It stems in part from an age-centered perspective, in which we view our own age as the most normal of times, the way all life should be. At 18 the 50-year-olds may seem ancient, but at 50 we are apt to say the same about the … Continue reading Does 55+ yoga make sense?
The notion of yoga competition is universally mocked by serious practitioners. As I wrote in my prior post, “Olympic fever,” asana is only one aspect of yoga, not the goal. It cannot be judged by a one-time performance. That said, I have a confession to make. Asana is key to my yoga practice, so I choose my teachers partly by their asana ability. I say “partly,” but I admit that it’s an important part. In a way, I am judging them by the very thing I’ve claimed cannot be judged. But what the point of studying with a sloppy teacher? … Continue reading Judging teachers
In my last post, I riffed on two related, but distinct, themes: the crux of Iyengar yoga and the value of verbal instructions. I perhaps shortchanged both, leading to unintended interpretations. Because I wrote that I never encounter too many asana cues, readers focused on quantity (and, implicitly, quality) of verbal instructions. I cringed as I found readers assuming that I favor a barrage of crazy instructions! (I, too, appreciate an oasis of silence, in class and in the rest of life.) Reading your thoughtful comments helped me to crystallize my own points: In teaching asanas, verbal instructions (ballpark: three to … Continue reading Understanding your students (and your dog)
My ongoing “research” on the mega studio in town has been quite revelatory. First, I’ve found some good teachers at a studio I’d discounted as too commercial. (It is commercial, but that doesn’t mean all the teachers are middling.) A few nights ago, I took two “Hatha” classes. The first teacher was as detailed in pelvic alignment as any Iyengar teacher would be. She actively observed students and corrected foot placement or overarched lumbar spines with care. The second teacher, an Ayurvedic specialist, made an even-stronger impression on me, combining physical precision and straightforward philosophy (with none of that annoying, … Continue reading Sampling yoga studios and teachers
Months ago, I received a two-week pass to the biggest yoga studio in my town. It boasts five locations, 30 to 40 teachers, and almost 150 weekly classes in various yoga styles, including Vinyasa Power Flow, Kundalini, and Hatha (a name that I still find misbegotten, as discussed here). Workshops feature celebrity teachers, such as Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Dharma Mittra, and Mark Whitwell. When I moved here, I tried a class or two, for personal “research” but I soon got busy with my chosen Iyengar teacher and classes. Now, during the holiday lull, I am taking advantage of my pass … Continue reading The biggest yoga studio in my town
In yoga, there is a juxtaposition of “advanced studies” and “teacher training.” Do they necessarily go together? On one hand, it makes sense. Those serious enough about yoga to delve deep into it are likely to become teachers. Similarly, those pursuing PhDs become professors who not only publish their own work, but also teach and mentor students. On the other hand, I suspect that some devoted yogis enroll in teacher-training programs because there are few other outlets for advanced study. In other pursuits, such as music or dance, one can perform, create (eg, compose or choreograph) … or teach. In yoga, … Continue reading Advanced studies = teacher training
In her blog Grounding Thru The Sit Bones, Brenda posted “So You Think You Can Teach,” which spurred good questions about the qualifications and scope of today’s yoga teachers. She asked whether the average yoga teacher is qualified to teach more than asana. Here, I step back and ask whether the average yoga teacher is qualified to teach any yoga. In North America, the predominant (but not preeminent) certification standard is the Yoga Alliance 200-hour or 500-hour “Registered Yoga Teacher” registration. To me, it’s not preeminent because there are many respected, established, and more-rigorous training programs have no connection with Yoga Alliance. Indeed, … Continue reading Prerequisites for teacher training
My ending should be your beginning. BKS Iyengar Last week, the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. A friend of mine was the first postdoc of Greider’s first postdoc. When Greider won the Nobel Prize, it polished her academic pedigree. She’s now the “grandstudent” of a Nobel Prize winner. This made me think about my “degrees of separation” from BKS Iyengar. My current main teacher regularly studies with Geeta, Prashant, and BKS Iyengar himself. Unless I immediately apply to study at RIMYI in Pune, I will never … Continue reading Grandstudents
In the first half of our lives, our teachers are always our elders. Remember elementary school? When you thought your teachers were unfathomably old? (In retrospect, most were probably in their 30s, maybe 40s, max!) Eventually, we might find ourselves older than our teachers (as well as our doctors, lawyers, hairdressers, therapists, and the list goes on). Does that matter? Do you seek professionals older than you are, assuming that they have more experience, wisdom, or parallel experiences? Or do you prefer the fresh perspective of youth or the generation-gap-free camaraderie of a peer? On her blog, Linda’s Yoga Journey, Linda … Continue reading Does age matter?
… The teacher-student relationship is based on trust. As a teacher I want to build a relationship with the student that will withstand trouble over time. I must know how to hold the container within which the relationship occurs, one that protects both parties. Therefore I must not engage in so-called dual relationships with my students… From “A Teacher’s Responsibility,” by Yvonne Rand, Zen Buddhist priest My post “‘Cranking’ and ‘correcting’” was spurred by my fellow blogger Lauren Cahn’s HuffPost piece on the possible pitfalls of Ashtanga training and the Yoga Dork upload of that infamous Pattabhi Jois photo. In … Continue reading Addendum on teacher [mis]conduct