knowing why and wanting to try

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with two other teachers, talking about the decision to include the medical benefits of the posture while teaching.

While looking over the dialogue for Standing Separate Leg Head-to-Knee, I mentioned how I really want to nail (i.e. successfully include in class) this one fantastic tidbit of additional dialogue about all the benefits of the posture:

Good for eight things:
       Marriage between the pancreas and kidneys, thyroid & pituitary glands;
       Extension of the oblongata & medulla;
       Opening the throat & crown chakras.
Good for the digestive & endocrine systems, metabolism, body chemistry, immune system.

Me in Dandayamana-Bibhakptapada-Janushirasana

Me in Dandayamana-Bibhakptapada-Janushirasana , so everyone has some idea what we’re talking about, not because mine is perfect!

The other teacher, B, responded that she doesn’t like to say the medical benefits because every time she hears them it always comes off sounding awkward and fake. For teachers to suddenly start using scientific terms and getting descriptive disrupts the rhythm of the dialogue’s usual commands. Plus, most people don’t understand what you’re talking about anyways–after all, how many people casually reference the oblongata or medulla, or understand what the chakras symbolize?

Both incredibly fair points.

I love them though, because when executed well the medical benefits motivate the students. Particularly in this posture, which is

  1. Physically uncomfortable (hi, throat choked!)
  2. Technically challenging (you have to touch your forehead to the knee!), and
  3. Mentally exhausting (everyone just finished Triangle, it’s 45-50 minutes into class, and everyone just wants to be on the floor already…. or at least ASAP).

So for me saying the medical benefits are a fantastic way to mentally get my students to want to try. Some don’t know why they’re being told to do all of these things, so they don’t care. Others know why, but are too tired to care. For both, this reminder–that they will personally benefit in a lot of ways if they just keep trying–will get them to overcome their exhaustion or whatever obstacle they’re facing.

Since my responsibility as a teacher is to get my students to try, the medical benefits are a very powerful tool that I can’t afford to ignore. The harder part, of course, is actually managing to say it. Those words are a frickin’ mouthful, and if it takes me too long to say it, their inclusion will extend the posture so long that the students give up anyways. Thus defeating the purpose. But that’s the fine line we walk as teachers the whole 90 minutes, between challenging people and pushing them too far.

It’s going to take a lot of practice to get it down–with a lot of awkward attempts during which students will just have to bear with me–but after all, worthwhile things are rarely easy!

As a fun post-note, I got to take class from B this morning, and during this posture she said “If you want to know all the medical benefits, ask Jessica.” Ha! This made me smile, which was exactly what I needed at that moment. There’s a new way to include the benefits for you! I really admired and enjoyed the spontaneity of it. It was a sign of active teaching–she knew what was right to say for that class, in that moment.