Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Subbing at the yoga center! September 28, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:37 pm
Tags: ,

Last night N wasn’t feeling well, so she sent out a call for subs for the evening classes. I volunteered to sub for the 6:15 class. This marks the first time that people paid money for yoga taught by me! I was nervous during the afternoon, but when I thought about it, I was less nervous about actually teaching yoga than I was about the logistical things like filling out the paperwork properly and using the credit card machine and the stereo.

I arrived around 6pm and N showed me what to do: how to log the students who come in, where to put the money, how to run credit cards, how to work the stereo, and she helped me pick out music for the class. Six people came to class: one of them also teaches at EEY, a few were more experienced students I knew, and one person was brand-new. It was a smaller class, so I rolled out my mat and taught while doing poses myself, which is what N & J usually do. At my home classes I walk around more and I’m working on making adjustments to people, but last night I just wanted to give them a standard EEY class.

Overall I was pretty happy with the class I taught. Usually at home I teach a one-hour class, but classes at EEY are an hour and fifteen minutes, so I did feel like my timing was a little off: I felt like I moved faster through the standing poses than I should have and ended up with more time at the end than I wanted, so it felt like I was stretching out the seated poses. A couple of extra sun salutations would have helped a lot, I think, but we still did good seated stuff too: camel and bridge and cobbler and forward fold plus some twists. I don’t think I shorted the standing stuff, though: I was definitely sweating a bit by the end of the standing poses and some of the students seemed to be puffing a little too. (I reminded everyone to lengthen and calm the breath while we stood in mountain pose, and I immediately heard breaths calming and lengthening! It really works when you say that!)

One thing I did mess up is that I started the standing poses with the right leg stepped back, and then stepped my left leg back to mirror what the students were doing, only then I forgot I had done that and was verbally cuing the poses on the wrong side (i.e., “lift your left hand” because I was lifting my left hand, when the students were all lifting their right hands). No one seemed to get off track, though. When we started on the other side, I realized what I had done and started cuing poses as front/back instead of left/right to keep myself from getting mixed up again.

I ended class with a guided relaxation that I thought went well. I really worked on slowing it down and waiting a few breaths between lines. The class started a little late because someone needed to pay with a credit card; we ended right on time just after 7:30pm, so I guess I cut it a little short, but by that point everyone had savasanaed and was ready to go.

Since it was my first time really teaching a full class, I couldn’t help thinking, “oh god oh god they hate me”, which I am sure is not true, but it’s impossible not to think it. I had some very experienced people in the class and some who were brand new, and so I taught to the middle as best I could – I worry that the class may have been boring for some people. I hope it wasn’t, but I taught the best class I could teach, and that’s all that’s in my power to do. Teaching yoga isn’t about me: I’m not going to get feedback on my teaching at the studio the way I do from students at my home classes, because that’s not what the purpose is! The students who go to the studio are there for themselves, the same way I am when I attend classes there, and I gave them the best class I could. I know I can do better next time, but I feel good about my teaching last night and satisfied with what I did.


Home Yoga Class, September 21 September 22, 2011

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 3:34 pm
Tags: , ,

Last night’s yoga class was possibly my best yet. (I really like this thing where every class I teach is my best one yet. If I keep this up, pretty soon I’ll be a yoga superstar.) I taught a sequence I came up with a few weeks ago that focuses on breath and on thighs, with the idea that poses that are tough on the thighs are an opportunity to lengthen and deepen the breath. Everyone seemed to enjoy the class even though it was hard work.

I started out by teaching ujjayi breathing (which apparently I did only partially successfully, since I ended up really confusing my husband, so I’m planning to go over it again next week in case anyone else was confused and didn’t say so). Then we went through the following sequence of postures:

  • child’s pose
  • thread the needle
  • downward dog shifting to plank
  • locust
  • lifting to plank and back to downward dog
  • forward fold
  • 4 half salutes
  • 2 classic sun salutations (low lunge the first time, high lunge the second time)
  • chair pose (everyone was so excited!)
  • standing sequence:
    • warrior 1
    • warrior 2
    • radiant warrior
    • side angle pose
    • triangle
  • standing sequence on the other side
  • crane pose, transitioning directly to eagle pose
  • camel
  • hero
  • cobbler
  • seated forward fold
  • bridge pose
  • savasana

Everyone commented that it was both a challenging class and a really good class. I was glad that it was challenging both for my beginner and for my more experienced students.


Friday Night Teaching Practice September 21, 2011

Filed under: teacher training — R. H. Ward @ 1:46 pm
Tags: ,

Friday night’s teaching practice session was good for me, but ended up being a little controversial among the group as a whole. We began when N told us that she and J had talked it over and created a list of what each of us ought to practice, so we’d go through and take turns teaching when called upon. I was really excited when I heard this: I’ve been wanting to challenge myself, and it sounded like fun to hear “Teach Pose X. Go!” and then have to go teach it on the spot.

Practice started off well, and my turn came when we got to balance poses. I was asked to teach Dancer (Natarajasana), Eagle (Garudasana), and seated forward fold. I hadn’t taught either of those balance poses before at the yoga center, so I was psyched, and thought I’d try moving from one directly to the other. Dancer pose went fine, but Eagle got a little complicated because we couldn’t figure out the correct arm position. Turns out that, if the left leg is over the right, then the right arm is over the left. Which I’m still not sure is totally clear in my mind. But we had a little debate about it and laughed and then I tried teaching it again on the other side and it went more smoothly. I taught forward fold next and that was easy. After I was done teaching, I got good comments from my classmates on my teacher voice again and on my sense of humor, and N complimented me on a few things I said (encouraging students that, in a balance pose, it’s okay to fall out, just come right back up again – which she said is important in a beginner class when people might be nervous).

As we got toward the end of our practice class, I did notice that we were almost out of poses to teach and some people hadn’t taught yet. But those people included some who I knew were pretty experienced teachers, so I just inwardly shrugged and moved on, figuring that N & J wanted to give the rest of us more time to practice teaching. Class ended with a really nice guided relaxation taught by Trish. (You can tell that it was a good guided relaxation because I relaxed but didn’t fall asleep, and it was 10:30 at night, way past my bedtime!)

After we were all dismissed for the night, I headed out the door to find a group of my fellow trainees were upset that not everyone had been called on to teach. When N had described the teaching practice session, it had seemed like she’d meant all of us would teach what we most needed to practice (although thinking back I can’t remember if she said the word “all” or not), and so the people who taught felt like the people who didn’t teach were privileged in some way, like they didn’t need to practice, or like the people who were called on to teach were being singled out as bad teachers who needed more practice. Some people felt hurt and angry over this.

It might be surprising that a group of aspiring yoga teachers would get upset over something like this, but yoga teachers are regular people too and we get our feelings hurt like anyone else, and issues of talent and ranking are tricky to handle in any venue. I didn’t feel angry or upset, but I certainly don’t blame the people who did.

For me, like I said, I did notice toward the end of class that some people weren’t called on to teach, but it didn’t bother me: two of those people I know to be very good teachers who have already subbed and taught full classes at the studio, and the others usually attend N’s classes – maybe she already feels familiar with their teaching abilities and just wanted to see more from the rest of us. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would have felt hurt and disappointed if I hadn’t been called on to teach. I learned a lot by screwing up Eagle pose! I want to take advantage of every single teaching opportunity I can get, because I want to be a good yoga teacher. For me it’s not important to compare myself to others in our class, because we all have different levels of yoga experience and teaching experience. I want to learn from my classmates, and watch them grow, and steal good stuff from their teaching vocabulary, but I’m trying really hard not to compare my teaching to anyone else’s. For me, I want to take full advantage of this training course that I’ve paid for and looked forward to for so long, and put in the work I need to do to become a good teacher. I hope that my friends who were upset on Friday night were able to think this over and come to the same conclusion.


Home Yoga Class # 2 August 26, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:25 pm
Tags: ,

On Wednesday I got some rather shocking news at work: my boss, who’s been with the company for 20 years, is leaving for a new position. My coworkers and I spent the afternoon in haze; although we’re happy for her to have a great new opportunity, the announcement was a huge surprise and an injection of uncertainty into our work lives. On the way home that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to focus my attention on my yoga class. It turned out, though, that teaching yoga that night was the best thing for me.

We had five people in the class again this week. Starting class at 6:30 definitely helped everyone’s commute, so that all my students were present and ready to go on time. This week I was more proactive about arranging people in the room and we came up with a good layout for five mats in the space. I put one of the more experienced students up front, since I wouldn’t be demonstrating poses myself, so that the beginners would have someone to look to. During class, I moved around the room more, made more adjustments, talked more confidently, and felt more confident. I think I did a better job of teaching this week.

Some notes: I had meant to teach Chair pose but totally forgot. I’m now considering this to be not a failing on my part but an unplanned gift to one of my students, who was evacuated from the 23rd floor of an office building after the earthquake on Tuesday and whose thighs were still sore from climbing all those stairs. He will be very happy to read that I forgot to teach Chair pose! Next week I’m definitely planning to teach it (I’m not sure why I want to teach Chair so much but I’m just going to go with it). We tried half moon pose and it was hard, but people seemed to like the challenge. That’s how I feel about half moon myself so I think I’ll definitely be teaching this one again. At the end of class, I did a guided relaxation again, but chose a tense-and-release relaxation rather than just the awareness one I did last week. Not sure what I’ll do next week.

I also taught shoulderstand for the first time, which was difficult. N & J have cautioned us to be careful teaching shoulderstand, because it’s possible to injure your neck if you do it incorrectly. I found it hard to remember all the little details that I wanted to mention about alignment in the pose, and my beginning students weren’t able to do the pose at all, which distracted me from describing it well to the others. I helped lift one person into the pose, and now she understands where it’s going, but she couldn’t hold the pose on her own and seemed a bit downcast that she wasn’t able to do it. I think this weekend I’m going to experiment with doing shoulderstand on a blanket for extra support, and also with doing shoulderstand at the wall, which will give me more options for teaching it. I’m thinking that next week I may leave a little extra time at the end of class just to play with inversions. We don’t have a ton of wall space in our yoga area, so doing legs-up-the-wall or using the wall for support in a harder pose won’t be an option for everyone; what I’d like to do is give my students a good foundation so I can tell them to go ahead and do whatever inversion they like, and then some people will work on shoulderstand or bridge and some can use the wall. Doing a bit of an inversion intensive next week may help with that, so people know what options they have.

Next week I think I want to teach ujjayi breathing. F told me that he thought he could use more reminders to breathe during class, so if I teach ujjayi breathing that will give me a concrete way to do that (rather than just saying, “don’t forget to breathe” repeatedly). I’m also considering some themed classes – breath is an obvious theme, and I’d start that class with crocodile pose instead of child’s pose and then try to work on the breath more throughout class. Another theme I thought of is surrendering/letting go. At least one of my students is very much an on-the-go person, very in charge, and practicing letting go might be good for this person, a benefit of yoga beyond the physical. Not that I want to plot out my classes weeks in advance, but I am happy that I’m getting excited about the things I might teach.


Home Yoga Class # 1 August 19, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:10 pm
Tags: ,

This week I taught my first of a regular series of free yoga classes held at my home. Our house has  a nice big enclosed front porch that’s perfect for yoga: we can fit up to six mats lined up two by two, and it’s a tight fit but it works. For the first class I had five students, a good mix – a couple of brand-new beginners and a few more experienced people who hadn’t practiced in a while.

Overall I think the class went well. There were a few logistical problems. We started late because several people had traffic trouble, but that’s easily fixed for next time – we’ll just plan to start 15 minutes later to give people more time to get here after work. One person got stuck in really bad traffic and then got so lost that she missed two-thirds of the class and had to call for directions, which was unfortunate and a little disruptive but wasn’t something we could have foreseen or avoided. Starting later next time will help, and we looked at a map together after class to make sure she knows some alternate routes to get here. I put on music at the beginning of class, but I found it distracting, and my little ipod speakers weren’t loud enough to really project to the whole room, so I won’t use music next time. We’re thinking about getting a new stereo anyway so I’ll just see how I feel about it then.

In terms of my actual teaching, I was definitely nervous. I didn’t walk around the room at all and spent more time than I’d planned demonstrating poses myself, which we didn’t have much room for. On the other hand, one of my beginners was at the front of the room and I wanted to show her what to do. Next week, I think I will arrange people more consciously, both to use the space better and to make sure the beginners have someone they can see (because if we end up with six students instead of five, there will definitely not be room for me to demonstrate poses). I still struggle with timing – how long to leave students in a pose? – but that will improve with time. There were things I neglected to mention in each pose: alignments and cues, and info about what the pose is actually stretching and why that’s good. At the end of class, several students mentioned that they’d like to be adjusted more – I was definitely holding back there, not wanting to do too much and trying to focus more on verbal cues. So adjustment is something to work on in the future, since it’s something my students want more of and something I need to practice doing.

On the positive side (see how I saved this for the end!), I think it was not a bad class at all and would have been passable if it had been taught at a real studio to paying customers. I have my “yoga teacher voice” down, and I feel like everyone could hear me well. I did give good verbal alignment cues on many poses, and I did talk about the benefits of some poses. I mentioned breathing pretty frequently (although I need to walk around more and teach ujjayi breath, because I can’t actually HEAR anyone breathing, which would help me to know that they are in fact doing so). I think I did my best teaching, surprisingly, in savasana relaxation, which is the one part I had not planned at all. I did a guided relaxation, which felt right to do in the moment, and which at least one person commented was helpful. I plan to do this again next week.

The best sign is that my students seemed to enjoy the class and feel positive about it afterwards. One of my beginners said that she really enjoyed the half sun salutes, that it seemed to flow really nicely, so that made me happy (since half salutes are becoming one of my own favorite things to do). Another person is coming to my house (west of Philly) from his office in center city, and after class will be taking the train back to center city and then catching another train home to Trenton, and seemed to judge the long commute for yoga to be abundantly worth his time. I didn’t realize that this person was coming from so far, and his excitement and commitment are really inspiring for me.

So, to sum up: I am already learning a lot from my five students! I’m excited about trying again next week!


August Teacher Training Weekend: Friday and Saturday morning teaching practice August 17, 2011

Filed under: teacher training — R. H. Ward @ 1:42 pm
Tags: ,

At Friday night’s session, we just met with J, as N was caught up with errands and things at home (she just moved to a new house last week). After our regular check-in, we did teaching practice, and it was a really great session. We didn’t make it a structured yoga class, but rather, each person just got up and taught whatever pose he or she felt like teaching or wanted to practice. Someone would teach a seated twist, and then someone else would have us all stand up again so she could teach a balance pose. It was fun and different! Mimsy taught us a neat gormukhasana-to-pigeon transition that she picked up from a British yoga teacher on a cruise last month, and that was really fun. I taught ardha chandrasana, which personally is one of my biggest challenges and is also swiftly becoming one of my favorite poses. I was really impressed with my classmates’ teaching, too. Some people I see teach semi-frequently (for example, it seems I’m always in class with Nancy lately), but other people I rarely see (like Elyssa or Tonny). Everyone is making just terrific progress and doing so much better at teaching than they were even a month ago. J agreed and was really pleased with all of us. We’re all going to be awesome teachers.

At Saturday morning’s hatha yoga class, there were six or seven of us in the class who were teacher trainees, so N asked each of us if we wanted to teach a pose. Initially I said no, with the idea that I wanted to give some of the others who felt less confident a chance to teach. But then I sat there thinking to myself that this is my teacher training and I need to practice too, and I felt silly for saying no. But then, as N got the class started, she came over to me and asked if I could teach half sun salutes so she could run to the bathroom, so I still got to teach! Five rounds of half sun salutes turns out to be just enough time for a yoga teacher to run to the bathroom and back. I hadn’t taught half salutes before so I was glad I had the chance. It was also an interesting class because Tonny taught us this version of pigeon pose with the neatest transitions I’ve ever seen – clearly stuff right out of his martial arts background, and he moved so quickly and smoothly it looked impossible, but when we tried it we were all able to do it no problem. Really fun! N taught a cool transition from gormukhasana (seated cow face pose) on one side directly to the other side, so that was also cool. A lot of interesting and different transitions in our yoga practice this weekend, a lot of fun.

In other news, I’m going to start teaching a free yoga class at my home this week. I hope to teach this little class every week as a way to practice my teaching more and deliver some free yoga to my friends. Right now I think we’ve got a full house (i.e., around six people), so we’ll see how that goes and if I’m able to establish a regular group!


Thursday Night Class and Teaching Practice July 30, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 8:07 am
Tags: ,

Thursday night’s yoga class was really great. J tapped Nancy and me to teach some poses. It was technically a beginner level class, but J looked around and everybody in the room had some yoga experience, so he said we could teach it more as an all-levels class, so a little less description, less worry about just getting people into the pose, and actually doing and demonstrating the poses ourselves instead of walking around.

Initially I was pretty nervous, since I hadn’t taught in almost two months, but then I got excited. Nancy taught sun salutations – she has a lot of anxiety about teaching, but I thought she did a good job, some of the best teaching I’ve seen her do. Then I taught standing poses. I did a sequence starting with warrior 2, into radiant warrior, then triangle, revolved triangle, and then half moon for the balance. Best I could come up with at the time – I had been thinking I’d start with warrior 1, but Nancy did a lot of lunges in her sun salutations, so I figured we’d kind of worked those muscles. I was nervous at first and was only able to get out the basic instructions, but as we went on I got more confident and was able to say more, use my own words a little more. It ended up being really fun. Any time I teach, I start out nervous and then just want to go teach more.

After class, one of the students, a guy in his 50s probably, came up and told Nancy and me that we’d done a great job, and he appreciated having to be on his toes not knowing what pose would come next. We had a nice chat with Bob and then J sat down to do a little teaching post-mortem with us, wanting to know how we felt while we were teaching and how it was for us. He didn’t give us feedback on our teaching, because I think at this point he just wants us to practice doing it and make our mistakes and know that it’s fine. Then the three of us stayed for a good hour and just had a conversation about yoga and the Bhagavad Gita and India, where J spent 2+ months in an ashram several years ago. It was good because, as I told Nancy afterwards, I feel like we’re getting to know J a little more as a person. He does this wise yogi thing in class, and it’s hard to get at who the real person is under that, but I’m starting to see his energy and personality and emotion a little more. I got home late on Thursday, but it was really time well spent.


July Teacher Training Weekend: Friday night, teaching practice July 18, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:16 pm
Tags: ,

At Friday night’s teacher training session, we spent a lot of time on our monthly check-in, so that each person would have the opportunity to talk about their meditation experiences this month. After check-in, we worked on teaching practice.

We broke into two groups: five of us with N, and six with J. I was in N’s group, and working with her was really different from practicing teaching with J. We went through a basic class structure – she had one student teach a pose, then she’d talk with us about positive things she’d observed and other things to try next time, then another of us would go and then we’d talk over what that person did. This was useful because J will often remind us of things when we practice teaching, or correct us when we get something wrong, but N made a specific point of highlighting things that each person did right. That’s helpful for both the person doing the teaching and the rest of us, to know that Miriam made a good point when she said this or that Gillian had a nice way of phrasing that. A couple of people in our group weren’t too confident in their teaching, so highlighting what they did well helped to reassure them; I tend to be overly critical, so it also reminded me that each of us had smart, useful things to say.

The thing N mentioned that she liked about my teaching was my voice. She said that I have a good, soothing yoga voice. Then she went on to give some strategies for what you can do if you don’t have that kind of voice: you should never fake your voice, but you can pay close attention to your tone and modulate your volume. I really liked N’s approach here: she was able to tell me something positive, and then use that as a teaching moment to help others develop their skill.

I taught two things: sun salutations, which I feel pretty comfortable with, and shoulder stand. I volunteered to teach shoulder stand and told N it was because I’d never tried teaching it before. Teaching shoulder stand was a different, unique challenge. With many yoga poses, the teacher should tell you how to do it and then shut up and let you have an experience; shoulder stand is different because a student can actually seriously harm herself in this pose, so it’s better to teach through the whole thing, continuing to talk so that the student can learn more about the proper alignment. I got some things right (use your hands to support your back; don’t let any weight rest on your neck; try to bring your elbows parallel to each other) and missed some important things (your hips should be square above your shoulders; your back should be perpendicular to the floor; and I said that your weight should be in your shoulders, but I neglected to say that your weight should be in your upper arms too). And hearing N talk about the pose afterward was really helpful. (N told us that this will be a pose that we will be required to write up later on, so you’ll hear more about this in the future.)

Overall this might have been my favorite practice teaching session. The other group, working with J, did not have such a nice time, which made for an odd energy in the room; the other group had some people getting upset and some people getting angry, but my group was very pleasant and very supportive. I’m not sure how this can be avoided in the future. Maybe next time we’ll keep the same groups but swap teachers, which could be enough to mix things up.


June Teacher Training Weekend: Saturday: pratyahara, meditation, and teaching practice June 29, 2011

In Saturday’s teacher training class, we continued our discussion of relaxation and moved on to pratyahara and meditation.

Pratyahara refers to the drawing-in of the senses. It’s a gateway to higher levels of consciousness, which makes sense when you think about it, because it’s our senses that distract us from meditation and spiritual practice. We want to look out the window, we hear a strange sound, we adjust our clothing or shift around, something smells funny, and it all leads to distraction, whether you’re in a church or on your yoga mat. Our senses exist to protect us and help us to survive, but in the modern day and age, we rarely need to rely on our senses for survival anymore. Drawing in the senses, blocking out the outside world, can help us to focus on our meditation or spiritual practice.

J gave a great talk on meditation as well. Meditation begins with concentration, and we actually start meditation right in the middle of yoga practice as we concentrate on our asana postures. Then we take that concentration and apply it to focusing our minds. This month, I’ll be talking a lot about concentration and meditation as I practice these things every day. Here are this month’s homework projects:

  • Read the book Passage Meditation by Eknath Easwaran
  • Read book II of the Yoga Sutras (we’ve read some of this; just need to finish whatever we haven’t done yet)
  • Practice meditation daily
  • Keep a journal of my meditation practice; write a reflection paper based on the experience
  • Write up a guided relaxation sequence
  • Pose of the Month write-ups: two backbends

When I first heard the homework assignments, I was excited because I’ve wanted to do more with meditation for a long time. Then J began to talk about how important it is to practice meditation every single day, always at the same time and in the same place. This month, F and I are going to be moving to a new home – there won’t be a same time, same place for a while, at least not every day. As J talked, I began to feel discouraged before I even began. I asked J for advice, and he said, “Then practice meditation sitting with your boxes.” He said not to let the situation get in the way of my practice, and to focus on appreciating the boxes – after all, they mean we’re moving to a beautiful new home! I felt so much better and was glad I’d said something.

Saturday’s class was a big help to me because I always feel like I’m doing meditation wrong. I read a lot of books by Buddhist monks and other spiritual authors, and they always say that it’s difficult to calm the mind, but I figured, a Buddhist monk has no experience with the insanity going on in my brain. I thought I must be terrible at meditation because I keep getting so distracted. Now, though, I feel a little more reassured that getting distracted is part of the experience – that’s just what happens, and it happens to everybody. I’m not doing it wrong, and I’m actually doing it not too badly. I have a variety of meditation exercises to try this month, and I’ll share them all with you here.

At the end of Saturday’s class, we did some yoga teaching practice. J told us to pair up, but my pair decided to join with another pair into a group of four. This meant that none of us got quite as much teaching practice – instead of teaching half of the time, we each taught a quarter of the time – but the experience more than made up for this. It was really good to work with my classmates and hear their voices as teachers. We’re all getting much more confident! We also had the freedom this time to teach poses that aren’t necessarily part of J’s or N’s usual repertoire. Sarah gave us some challenging standing poses to do, and I taught some of my favorite seated poses. We’re all getting there! I don’t know if I’ll have time to practice teaching on friends and family this month, but I hope I get the chance soon.


Teaching Practice by the Pond June 2, 2011

Filed under: reflections,teacher training — R. H. Ward @ 1:27 pm

Pond House Yoga 2For Memorial Day, F and I rented a house in Rhode Island with some friends, to get away for the weekend. The house was in a fairly secluded area, right next to a pond, and it had tons of bedrooms and a big kitchen and plenty of space for all of us. Before the trip, I had asked our friends if they’d mind being yoga guinea pigs, and several people wrote back and said yes, they’d love to, and in fact if I hadn’t asked they would have made me teach them some yoga! So on Sunday morning, we gathered up mats (and beach towels for the mat-less) and tromped down to the pond, where we had a nice flat grassy patch to practice on. It was warm out and not too buggy. With five students, it would have been too cramped to practice in the house, and the view over the pond was really nice.

My friends have varied levels of yoga experience. One person has practiced quite a bit of yoga; two had done at least some yoga before but not recently or only with a DVD. And the two easygoing guys had never done any yoga. I was really excited because this group simulated a normal beginners class really well in terms of experience level, making it a really good teaching practice opportunity for me. J tells us that, with a beginners class, you need to teach to the middle. You can’t spend all your time working with the more advanced students, because the new students will be lost, but you also can’t spend all your time helping the newbies, because everyone else will get bored. The answer is to teach to the middle. The more advanced students will be fine and will modify as needed to go deeper; the new students can keep up better when you teach to the middle, and you can help them when you get a minute. So that’s what I tried to do.

I taught the hangover sequence I posted last week. With that sequence I was trying to choose poses that would help hangover symptoms but would also be poses that anyone new to yoga could do without too much trouble. I think the sequence worked really well (the only thing I had to change was legs-up-the-wall, which, having no walls, we couldn’t do, but we did bridge instead and it was fine). It was challenging but not too challenging; everyone caught on to what was expected in a pose pretty quickly. Mostly I just talked through the poses and didn’t demonstrate unless it was something easy to do (like tree pose – I was standing there anyway, might as well demonstrate the foot position while I talked). I also demonstrated leg positions for the seated twists, since I haven’t yet figured out the best way to describe those just with words. But overall I talked. I like to think that I described the poses reasonably well, but I think it also helped that there was one more experienced yogini in the class that people could glance over to as an example. There were a lot of things that I thought of afterward that I would have liked to have said or talked about, but on the whole I think I covered the bases pretty well.

It was interesting to watch my friends and see them as students and try to respond to what they needed. One guy hadn’t done yoga before and wasn’t very flexible, but he got the idea just fine and I never once had to adjust him in a posture. He did great, and he says he’s going to try some yoga at home now. It was actually a bit harder working with the two girls who had done just a little yoga before, which I didn’t expect, but which makes sense when you think about it. I was teaching classical hatha style, making them hold the poses for a while, which some people found really challenging. J tells us that, when teaching, we should get them into the pose, shut up and let them have an experience, and then get them out of the pose; mostly I tried to do that, although when people were holding for a while and starting to wobble, I’d say “Two more breaths here” just to give them hope (that always helps me). A few times I’d explain something and someone would ask a question, which I thought was super-helpful: if you ask, then I can give you an answer that will help you in the pose, and if you ask, then I know what I need to do to explain it better next time.

Overall the whole experience was really, really fun, and received rave reviews from my “students”. Although there was some fly swatting going on, and some loud neighbors calling their kids during sivasana, everybody loved the peacefulness of being outside looking out over the pond. And everyone seemed to feel happy and more energetic afterward. It was a really, really great experience! My only sadness was missing out on practicing yoga myself, but getting to share in this awesome group practice more than made up for it.

Pond House Yoga 1(Photos by F, who did not participate in the class.)