How Do We Best Teach?

By Mark Stephens on Tue, 03/29/2016 - 09:52

There is inestimable value and purpose in having outer teachers and in teaching yoga. While with consistent and refined practice students develop the awareness that makes the asanas more understandable, accessible, and sustainable from the inside out, gradually and more clearly feeling their way into sequences that work, nearly all of us benefit from the informed insights of a trained and experienced teacher whose guidance, even just on matters of postural alignment and energetic actions, can make our experience in doing yoga safer and more beneficial. A teacher can also give guidance on techniques and qualities of breathing, mental attentiveness, postural modifications and variations, sequences within and between asana families, as well as adaptations to address special conditions such as frailty, tightness, hypermobility, pregnancy, and interrelated physical, physiological, and psychological pathologies. Put differently, teachers matter; the question is, how do we best teach?  

As yoga teachers, we employ a variety of techniques to support and guide our students, including through the spirited or charismatic ways we generally hold the space of a class, the use of physical demonstration, verbal cues, even metaphor and stories to add inspiration and insight. Each of these aspects of teaching involves tapping into all of our inner resources along with ongoing learning and practice. With time and consistent presence on the path of the teacher, these qualities become more integrated into our evolving repertoire of knowledge and skills that enable us as teachers to guide student practices in a way that makes sense for the actual students in our immediate presence—this in contrast to teaching in a cookie-cutter fashion as if everyone were the same and the same exact practice made sense for all of humanity.