Teaching Without a Script
I regularly teach the 26 posture sequence developed by Bikram. I know the monologue associated with its instruction, but I get further away from it every time I teach.
There are inevitably moments that are the same in every class. Like the Sit-up, where the whole class is meant to do the movement together. These moments require a forceful, rhythmic use of the language that gets repeated several times. The class can simply do what I say as I say it, and the result is that they all do the Sit-up together.
But these unison, rhythmic movements are few and far between. I would even argue that they are the least yogic. I want to encourage my students to explore their own experience, to notice their bodies and minds, and to adjust what they need to adjust. I do not want my students to all take the same approach, move their bodies the same way, or even look the same in the postures.
Each day is different, and each student is different. Some need to work harder, some need to back off their effort. Some need to bend their spines more, others need to focus on their hips or feet. This is an inevitable challenge of teaching more than 2 or 3 people at the same time. But sticking to a scripted monologue adds a layer of restriction that prevents me from addressing each class, each day and each student appropriately.
There is the argument that a scripted monologue allows new teachers to guide their students with more precision and effectiveness than they would be able to otherwise, by using the words of their teacher instead of their own. This is true, though it ends up being detrimental to everyone over the long term.
New teachers are often thrust into a leadership role with a poor understanding of the body and the postures, relying too heavily on a script. Also they are prevented from making their own mistakes, enduring their own struggles on the way to developing their own language, tone and pace.
New teachers would be better served by studying the mechanics and purpose of each posture and sequence. They should be required to come up with their own language to guide the students based on their own experience of the yoga. That is the only way to keep the tradition alive and prevent it from becoming stagnant and dogmatic.
Leave a Reply.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga