How often do we find ourselves mindlessly doing or saying something in class because we’ve done or said it this way a thousand times before? I’m fortunate to work in a studio that has 6 different locations in the DC region. When I find myself subbing classes, I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland, having fallen down a rabbit hole where everything is so clearly different from what I expect or know. I appreciate this feeling. It reminds me to teach to the class, teach to the individual. Everything is new and the autopilot button can’t be found easily.
I have a feeling that students who feel unwelcome in our studios and in our classes are running into mindlessness of autopilot. And the best cure for mindlessness is awareness and beginner’s mind.
Next time you walk into your class, do yourself a favor and consider yourself a new teacher to this group. Look around — who in the class has osteoporosis? Who takes blood pressure medication? Who has been traumatized by violence? Who in the class will do anything — anything! — you cue, even if it puts them in harm’s way? Who has looked around the studio and already feels as though they don’t belong? Who is dreading the practice today? All of these are things students usually don’t put on a new student form, or tell the sub teacher before class. I would argue that if you think you can figure these things out because you have X number of years under your belt as a teacher, you are being deceived — and perhaps corrupted — by your sense of authority.
Autopilot teacher mode runs the risk or turning someone who desperately needs the practice away, or worse yet, hurting someone physically, emotionally, spiritually.
I’m planning to go to Yoga=Union’s next unique, in-person training just for yoga teachers — Open Your Heart, Your Life, Your Practice by Unpacking the Power of the Teacher’s Seat. I want to learn about ways I can be mindful as a teacher and examine and begin to dismantle some of the assumptions about authority that I bring to my classroom. I believe that opening up this beautiful practice for all students begins as teachers come together to learn, grow and foster connection. I hope to see you at this event on September 30 from 2 – 4 pm at the Edgewood Arts Center.