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We are pleased to announce The Art of Teaching Yoga, our mentoring program for registered yoga teachers at Yoga Journal LIVE New York, April 21-24. You’ll get personal assessments; join in-depth discussions on sequencing, anatomy, alignment, and adjustments; and attend classes of your choice at the main YJ event. Don’t miss this opportunity to dramatically refine your teaching skills. Register now!
At The Art of Teaching Yoga, in which some of our favorite master yogis will guide an intimate group of students through Yoga Journal LIVE events (the program counts toward 22 Yoga Alliance continuing education contact hours). We asked one of these seasoned yogis—Alexandria Crow, a YogaWorks national teacher trainer—for 3 ways she stays true to her “sans fluff” teaching style.
1. I skip the “fluff.”
My students tend to be the type that don’t like “fluff,” so my style of teaching is to get my point across clearly in a practical, simple, and direct way with little room for confusion. I teach the kleshas, the vrttis, the yamas and niyamas, and tons of other parts of the sutras, but you wouldn’t know it per se because I never mention the sutras or quote them. Instead, I incorporate their lessons into the poses I choose and don’t choose that day. I always suggest that my teaching students pick a few sutras that really resonate with them and figure out how those can be taught within their personal teaching style.
2. I mix it up.
I do things differently almost every time I teach as a way to keep my students on their toes and in the present moment. I mix the order of the class around depending on what I am working toward that day. There isn’t a single pose that I put in class solely out of a desire to make to students happy. If I am not leading to Handstand that day, there will be no Handstand. This practice of being here now and making choices based on this moment alone aligns directly with the very first yoga sutra, Now is Yoga.
3. I’m not afraid to make students uncomfortable.
It’s my job to teach students how to be steady during extreme discomfort so that they can learn to be steady in their lives when things are difficult. I don’t do this by heating the room, because I hate heat, nor by holding them for endless minutes in Warrior II, because the mechanics of that pose are way more difficult to maintain than is usually imagined. Instead, I choose things that are unexpected. People often expect certain things from a vinyasa class, so they are sometimes uncomfortable when I start class with something as simple as standing very still in Mountain Pose while paying attention to their breath for an extended period. I watch them fidget and get frustrated because they may have expected to sweat and move. It gives me a chance to teach them about preference and expectation and how those things are causing them suffering. I love to teach acceptance of the moment exactly as it is and this gives me that opportunity. This approach teaches them about contentment with what is, one of the niyamas. Also how they accidentally make choices from memory or incorrect knowledge (two of the vrttis) instead of the present and truth. And about doing hard work that is uncomfortable, or as the sutras define it, tapas.