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Uncommon Respect, Part Two

If we believe that nothing can be taught, how should we approach our students? If we want to reduce our authority in the studio, how can we communicate clearly? These questions form the paradox of uncommon respect.

By Aadil Palkhivala

In standing poses, for example, solidifying the feet and legs allows the spine to be free—we cannot make the spine light without the foundation in the legs. Therefore, if a student hasn't mastered the legs, the spine will always have to take the weight of the body. Similarly, if we have not established the foundation by teaching fundamentals properly, our more "creative" teachings will be ineffective, weakened by an unstable foundation.

Nothing Can Be Taught

Sri Aurobindo has a whole book on teaching that every teacher can benefit from reading. He states, "The first rule of teaching is that nothing can be taught." This idea is so beautiful! Perhaps the most respectful thing we can do for our students is to keep in mind that we cannot teach a student anything. We can show something to them, explain it to them in a hundred different ways, go over and over it with them, but only the student can learn it. Obviously that's true—otherwise, all my students would have learned everything I've taught so far! Since learning really depends on the student, not on the teacher, our job is to elicit the learning response from our students, to teach them so that they want to learn what we are teaching. This means being an embodiment of the teaching so that our students are inspired to learn and they yearn to follow the example we are setting. This does not excuse us from the responsibility of being the best teachers we can possibly be, but only reminds us that our responsibility is to teach, and the student's responsibility is to learn. Only then is a mutual respect being shown between the teacher and student.

Recognized as one of the world's top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo's yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher's Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally renowned Yoga Centers™ in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified Naturopath, a certified ayurveda">Ayurvedic Health Science Practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified Shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.

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