intentions matter

demonstrating Standing Bow Pulling Pose to a student after class in my badass new  Swift Tank (Title Nine) and Skull shorts (Onzie). Both really comfortable and highly recommended for comfort on and off the podium!

Just like in your own asana practice, every time I teach I set an intention–a teaching skill I intend to practice or a certain message I want to emphasize. I’ve really been challenging myself to practice giving students individual feedback and corrections.  It’s a skill that incorporates several variables, as you have to:

  • see their bodies and what they’re doing wrong, or right! (the easy part),
  • know their names (harder, especially in a big class and/or with lots of newbies)
  • time the moment so it won’t interrupt the class or take away from other students, and
  • read that person psychologically and phrase it in a tone that will be effective for that individual (veeeeery different depending on when in the class it happens and based on individual temperament)
  • find the courage to make mistakes (hardest part for me, because I like my comfort zone!)

The more I teach, the easier this becomes. Not only because I feel comfortable enough to know how to keep the rest of the class going, but more because I’ve gotten to know the students. Especially at the studio where I teach the most, because I now have a stable schedule there each week–I teach at certain times every week, and thus I get to know the students that can make it at that time and regularly practice then. It’s much more rewarding! I get to know what each person is struggling with, when they feel low on energy, and even how to make them smile!

Slight tangent: It’s really hard to make folks smile in class! When they do smile, they’re re-energized and the whole atmosphere of the class changes in a great way. As you may know from practicing, attitude is everything. Inevitably, the worst classes are the ones where you feel defeated and negative the whole time because then the postures just feel so. much. harder. Even if only a handful smile and one or two think I’m silly,  it makes all my fumbled efforts worth it. The people who won’t smile have made up their minds, but most just need a little reminder and are really thankful for the reprieve from seriousness.

This morning felt great– I gave corrections and feedback to most of the students and have built relationships with most of them. After class is over, I get to talk to them about how things have been changing for them–and that one-on-one time greatly improves my ability to give them targeted feedback in class. Even if I talk to them for just a minute, I can get at least a partial read on their psychological challenges, their personality (some want to smile and have you correct them as much as possible, others want to be left entirely alone and rue you if you mix those two up), how long they’ve been practicing, and what aspects or postures they find especially difficult.

My class this afternoon wasn’t as stellar, but it was still good. I don’t teach at regular times there, so even though that’s the studio where I practice the most, I don’t know the students as well. As a result, I’m not as confident about offering feedback and I’ve got a lot more names to keep straight! Still, I did give feedback and kept at it the whole class–and it’s crucial that I give myself credit for trying.

After all, as the dialogue goes,
as long as you try the right way,
and don’t give up,
that’s the ultimate destination.

(Does this mean I’m already there? And where is “there,” exactly?)

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2 responses to “intentions matter

  1. That’s awesome, I wish you were at my studio!

  2. Beautiful blog Jessica! I love your candidness (that’s a word, right?) ;P I’d love to hear more about your tactics to make students smile… I tend to get real serious when it’s Bikram yoga time and would love to incorporate a little more fun into my classes! Sometimes my humor pops out… but not nearly as often as I’d like 🙂

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