Wednesday, August 11, 2004

First Days - Yoga Reflection 1

I have been trying to start a yoga routine, to find a class at the right level, with a teacher I like, in a studio that's easy to get to and feels comfortable, held at a time that works for me. In the process, I have tried out about 5 or 6 different classes in several different studios. On my way to and from classes, I often find myself thinking about my experience as a student and what it can teach me about teaching.

What is it like to be a student attending a class for the first time? Yoga classes seem like a particularly good opportunity for me to reflect on being a student, because I am out of my comfort zone. I walk into new academic classes confident and ready to participate, but in a dance class, exercise class, or anything else physical, anxiety kicks in big time. I am pretty sure I'm going to be the last one in the class to learn a new skill.

My head is full of questions on my first visit to a new yoga class.

What is the teacher like? How does she or he relate to students? Will she or he notice me? Does she or he take time to learn my name? Is this class a cult of the teacher?

Does the teacher give instructions in a way that makes sense to me? Does she or he notice when I'm lost, and does she or he help in any way? Can I ask for help? When and how? Is the teacher paying attention to the students' safety?

What is the space like? What does it communicate? Do I feel at home?

What is the pace of the class? Do I feel left behind? Is it too easy? Are there opportunities for me to take a break if I need one? Do I feel pushed to go farther than I want to?

What are the other students like? Are they all best friends? Do they all ignore each other? Do I feel like I belong?

What is the focus of the class? Is it spiritual? Is it physical exertion? Is it physical relaxation?

These are all things I'm noticing, thinking about - during a class where I'm supposed to be focused on my breathing! So I can only imagine the stuff that must be filling my students' heads on the first day of school. One lesson for me is to be careful of first impressions, as my students will be processing so much new information about how to fit into my class. Unlike me on my quest for the perfect yoga class, they don't have the option of trying my class once or twice and then looking for another! It may take them a while to adjust to my teaching style and to move beyond their own first impressions and anxieties about my class.
By the way - I think I've finally found the right class, a Basics class at Laughing Lotus. The teacher seemed to genuinely care about and see her students, she helped us when we were confused, and she emphasized that we should go as far as we felt comfortable with today, recognizing that another day might be different. So, I may have more yoga reflections for you next Wednesday!


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