One of the reasons I absolutely love teaching yoga is that I learn so much from the experience.
My students are as much my teachers as I are them. I am sure this two way flow is common to many other teacher/student relationships, and also professional/client relationships as well.
Take a moment to think about your interactions – whether it’s teaching yoga or something else – how do you learn from the experience (and feel free to share your insights in the comments below!)?
One of the benefits I have received from teaching yoga (and practicing regularly) is that I am finding it easier and easier to be able to ‘read’ my students. There is so much information written on their faces and contained in their postures about what is going on in their minds.
When I teach, I am predominantly in a state of flow. What this means is that my mind chatter ceases almost completely. I am aware of all my students, and the flow of instruction that passes through lips as I guide them through a class. When I can see that in Downward Dog, most of my students have limp, inactive hands I will give an instruction about spreading the fingers, pressing the palms into the earth and then watch to see who heard my voice, and who didn’t. If some of my students don’t respond to that instruction, I’ll rephrase it a moment later in a way they can ‘hear’.
This state of flow is sometimes so effortless, and so up-lifting that I almost feel like I am channeling the class. I end in a state of bliss, so grateful for my students for giving me the opportunity to experience this flow.
Being in this flow is one reason I am able to ‘read’ my students so effortlessly. Without my mind chatter – and therefore with no projections of my own wants, needs, likes and dislikes – I am open to seeing whatever is happening in the moment.
At a recent class, one of my students taught me a valuable lesson. She was brand new to class, and as I led my students through a series of sun salutations, she constantly looked about the class. It was most noticeable in downward dog – a posture where the gaze is fixed between the feet. Her head was up, craning this way and that way to see what was going on.
A a new student, there is so much going on – unfamiliar language, unfamiliar movements and postures, and unfamiliar protocol.
Yet as a new student, there is nothing to do at all except listen and respond.
What gets in the way – what pulls us out of that flow of listening and responding, is our mind chatter.
And this is what I could see going on with this new student. Her mind was chattering away, liking this, disliking that, wondering what that was all about, wanting to do this, definitely not wanting to do that. Her mind chatter pulled her this way and that way, but in all ways out of the posture, away from awareness of the breath and out of the state of flow.
As I watched her, and gave instructions designed to reach through the mind chatter so she could ‘hear’ what do to, I was reminded of myself. I know that I have been this new student in many situations in life – stuck in my head, absorbed by my mind chatter, unable to hear the voice of guidance telling me exactly what I need to do in any given moment. Not knowing that if I just relaxed and responded I’d find myself right where I needed to be. Not knowing that if I just opened to the experience and trusted in my teacher – whether that was a family member, a friend, a work colleague or a partner – that I would have the information I needed in every moment.
Being in this state of being – of listening and responding, of sinking down into the flow of life – it likely one of the reasons that we feel so good after a yoga class. For 60 minutes, or maybe 90 minutes, we’ve just come down out of our minds and into our bodies and experienced life as connected, living beings. We’ve opened up to the flow of life.
And we don’t need to be doing yoga to experience this – it happens in any pursuit where we surrender to the flow of the moment, opening ourselves up to listen and respond. Some of us find it fishing, others in golf, some us might experience it as parents, or as artists, or gardeners.
So next time you find yourself up in your mind, listening to it’s endless chatter. Stop. Take a deep belly breath and travel down back into your body – back into that place where you can hear the voice of the Teacher. Listen to what is being said, and respind. There is nothing else that needs to happen in that moment.