The Art of Teaching Yoga

Besides being an artist, I’m also a yoga teacher. I practiced yoga for 10 years before training to become a teacher. I’ve now been teaching for four years. What I love about teaching yoga is that within the average class time of an hour and fifteen minutes, I can leave the room knowing that I’ve really affected someone. I teach yoga not to say “hey, look at me, I’m beautiful and perfect and amazing and talented”, but to provide the space and opportunity for the self discovery of my students.

I am, in a sense, still ‘performing’ when teaching yoga. I have for the most part memorized my lines and the sequences that I lead the class through, thrown in with spontaneity and improvisation based on the moment and feedback I receive from those in the class. Each sequence has a beginning, middle and end. I often provide music or sound to accentuate the mood.

So what’s the difference between teaching yoga and doing a regular performance (as in theater or performance art)? Aren’t both aimed at giving their ‘audience’ an ‘experience’? My first thought is that performance is more self-infatuated. While a performance is still aimed at giving its audience an experience, it’s usually more concerned with the appearance of its performers and the talent and artistic genius of those who created it. This probably explains why I’m so much more aware of myself and at times full of self doubt when I perform. Because I’m thinking too much about myself, and not enough about my audience. When I teach yoga, I’m not concerned about how I look. Because it’s not about me. It’s about them.

When performing and not teaching, I’d like to take more inspiration from my experience in the yoga studio. I don’t want anything I create to be just about making myself look good, as much as that can be tempting at times. I also don’t want to always see other artwork that is only concerned with itself and its own progress in the art world. As an audience member, I’d love to go see a performance that massaged my back, that taught me how to breathe and relax; that made me look at things differently without forcing me to compare myself to its greatness. I want to see something that doesn’t just showcase how amazing it is, but also moves me to feel something great within myself.

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