Saturday, January 28, 2012

A letter from me to me: student to teacher

Dear Graham,

Please treat me like an adult; I made a decision to give up my valuable time to come to this hot room today for a reason. I have turned up. Give me the benefit of the doubt that I am going to do my best. You can remind me of that but don't nag me.

Give me enough heat and humidity to support my practice, but don't make it another challenge for me to overcome. It is not necessary. Teaching the hottest class does not make you the best teacher. Every studio is different, and it may need some work on your part to manage the hot room properly.

Leave your ego at home. This practice is about me, not about you. I want you to lead the class and help me do the best I can today. Show me the same respect that I show you. We are partners in this dance for ninety minutes and we each have have our roles; if I didn't turn up then you wouldn't have a class to teach.

You don't have to talk all the time; silence can be powerful. Little gaps in the dialogue are okay; I'm not going to fall asleep or stop paying attention just because I cannot hear your voice for a few seconds. But when you speak, then do so with confidence and with clarity so that I can understand what you want me to do.

Understand that my body needs a short break between every posture, not only during the floor series. I need just a little time to get my breath back and to be still. Appreciate the difference between a physical limitation and a bad habit; I may need a little extra time to move into the next posture. This is not being lazy; it is taking care of my aging body.

Be consistent, especially in the rhythm of the class. I don't care if you teach a slow practice or a fast practice, but just make it consistent. Give me the right time in each posture; don't make me stay there, working hard, just because you have more stuff to say. There is always another side or another set or another class for you to say them.

Recognize me as an individual. I don't expect you to remember my name, although it's nice when you do. Make sure that I leave the studio having felt that my presence there has been acknowledged: some eye-contact is good or a few words of encouragement now and again, especially when I am having a bad day. You don't know what else is going on in my life – I might need a little lift and you might be the right person to do just that.

Be yourself and let your personality shine through; don't try to be somebody else.  I see and listen to a lot of teachers, all using the same words, more or less; don't be a part of a white noise. A little humility goes a long way.

Please teach – don't just recite. Teaching needs observation, so look at me. Teaching needs listening, so listen to me. My voice may be silent but my body is shouting at you. You tell me that each class is different, but that should apply to you too. If I have taken three of your classes and I can practically recite your speech word for word already, then maybe it's time for something to change to keep your class fresh and interesting.

Trust me and then maybe I will trust you. Because if I can trust you to take care of me, then I can relax, let my body do its thing and have a good class.

Remind me to breathe. If I don't breathe properly then I won't be able to do anything. But I need some time to breathe so make sure that I have that time.

Encourage me to do my best. But do that with compassion. I may not be used to the overwhelming stimulation of the hot room and the yoga practice: so much heat, so many words, so much sweat, so many people standing so close to me with so little on. English may not be my first language and it may be hard for me to just understand what you are asking me to do. This experience may be totally alien to my culture and my upbringing. But I am here and I am trying. If I am not doing it right, then there is probably a good reason.  

Show me the right way with compassion, a kind heart and a loving spirit. Being a yoga teacher is a vocation and not just a job. Every time that you step into that room you have a huge responsibility to all of us in there. You can help me change my life; that's a pretty big deal in my view.

Your yoga student,