Last night in yoga class, there were three of us teacher trainees there, and we all got to teach. (I don’t think I’m going to get to relax and enjoy a yoga class for the next 9.5 months, but hey, it makes sense that I actually have to work for my almost-a-year of complimentary yoga classes.) Julia did a balance pose, Nancy did a backbend, and I did a seated twist.
(Hey, check it out, I added an item of visual interest to my post! Thanks to F, special guest photographer, who somehow managed to climb halfway up the wall to get this shot. I went back and added a photo to my Tree Pose post too!)
So here’s the seated twist I chose to teach. And of course, J asked us not to do the pose ourselves, just to talk through it. I understand why he wants us to do it that way, but what I discovered is that this is a difficult pose to tell someone how to get into.
OK, so first, you start out sitting up straight with your legs out in front of you. Easy. Now you’ve got to get the leg bend. What I said was something like, “Bring up your left knee, and then let it drop off to the side, and press your left foot against your right thigh.” That’s how I personally do it, but based on the class response, it might not be the best way ever to tell someone else how to do it (I then followed up that clear and accessible bit of instruction with, “Look, Julia’s got it!”). Not totally sure what the best way would be. Maybe, “Bend the left knee and slide your foot up your right leg”? Or just, “Bend your left knee and place your foot against your right thigh”? But then you miss the bit where the left leg is parallel to the floor, not up.
Anyway, hopefully now we’ve got the leg bent, so next is the twist. What I said was, “Raise your left arm – no, just to shoulder height – and now twist toward your left leg. Let your left arm lead you into the twist, and when you’re at the limit of the twist, drop your left hand to the floor. Bring your right hand to your left knee, and look over your left shoulder” (I’m not looking over my shoulder in the photo, but you should be when you try this at home). In retrospect, I should have brought the right hand to the knee first, then done the twist, because I think the hand on the knee gives you some leverage and helps keep your back straight, which people were having some trouble with. I also might have offered some guidance on where the left hand should drop behind you – i.e., right behind your tush – because having the hand too far back possibly caused people to be leaning back too much. A few people were confused about the whole darn thing and J had to go fix one woman, which I was a little embarrassed about.
Things I neglected to mention: keeping your right foot flexed and right leg active instead of just letting it lay there, and using the breath to deepen into the pose (breathe in and lengthen your spine, breathe out and move a little deeper into the twist). I also neglected to count my breaths as a way of telling how long they’d been in the pose so I just had to guess.
And then, you untwist and do it on the other side, which hopefully is less confusing because you just did it once. It seemed to be less confusing on the other side in class.
Overall, I don’t think I did the best job ever teaching this pose, but it helped to deconstruct it a bit here to see what I can do better next time. (I don’t know that I’ll always post here after every time I teach anything, because that would be a lot considering I’m trying to get to class twice a week. Maybe I’ll post for every new pose I get to teach? Or every interesting and out of the ordinary teaching event? We’ll see.)
why not just cue “tree pose” alignment for the leg?
i hit enter before i meant to! i wanted to add that that’s how i have cued head-to-knee. the cue to press your foot against your thigh is an important one, i think. so good that that was built in. 🙂
I thought of that too after I posted the post. (“Posted the post”?) That’s a good thought, I’ll probably try it that way next time. What do you think of the arms? How do you do your arms for this one?
i think the hand to the knee is helpful at any stage of the pose, so i wouldn’t worry too much about using it to get into it. i’ve most often been taught twists with my “leading” hand starting on the floor and coming off after i’m established. i wouldn’t have cued it the way you did, but i think either way makes sense. maybe cue an inch or two behind you so people don’t lean out too far? i’ve noticed that i have a tendency (and i bet other people do too) to twist from my shoulders up, not really from my torso, so when i’ve cued twists, i’ve tried to remember to say something about where the work is really happening.
i think you did great! i would be terrified if Mimi and Elliott made us do this!
But look at all the useful info you’ve been giving me – you could totally do it. Yeah, it’s still terrifying, but you’d be fine. I’m hoping that if I do this often enough, I’ll get comfortable in front of a class REAL quick. I think it’d be more nerve-wracking not to have this practice and then to have to get up and teach a whole class!
Love the photo! It’s a nice touch to your blog entry.
I’ve never done the seated twist- perhaps I will use this entry and give it a try. 🙂
I like twists a lot! There are a lot of ways to do them seated (knee up instead of flat, or with legs crossed, or soles of the feet pressed together in cobbler pose). And you can also do gentle twists lying flat on your back by pulling your knees in and letting them drop off to the side. As one of my past teachers used to say, twists squeeze all the pollution out of your internal organs!
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