The Simple Reality of Teaching Yoga

By Mark Stephens on Sun, 12/15/2013 - 15:47


A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.

—Lao Tzu

Teaching yoga is at once profoundly personal, predicated on sharing, and shaped by context. It is also inevitably surprising. We have no choice but to start from where we are and who we are, with whatever knowledge, skills, and experience we have in the moment. We also have little choice but to work with whomever shows up for class, teaching students whose conditions, intentions, learning styles, and needs are widely varied.

On any given day, unanticipated events can make a class much different than what you might have envisioned. The changes that happen from class to class also have everything to do with whoever is in the class, the time of day, our own mood, and myriad other factors that invariably come into play in teaching. If your classes are always perfectly predictable—if you feel the same, the students seem the same, the environment manifests as exactly the same—you might benefit from reflecting on the bubble you are in and how it is probably suffocating some aspect of the practice.

It is precisely in the variability of every class and the unique experience of each new breath—even in fixed-sequence classes such as Bikram or Ashtanga Vinyasa—that we find renewed stimulation of self-exploration and self-transformation, yet also the challenges that naturally arise in teaching. Going with the flow of change, you can draw from the richness of your teaching palette to inspire and guide your students along their yoga path.