MY APPROACH TO TEACHING
My teaching utilizes a combination of numerous movement methods guided by the personal practice model I developed as a social worker. This approach enables me to utilize and modify yoga practices to best serve those I am teaching.
A personal practice model is a practical tool for applying psychological and sociological theories to interpersonal working relationships, in this case that of teacher and student. If you’ve never been to a class with me this may make it sound like a stuffy and therapy driven environment, I assure you this isn’t the case. If you don't believe me, check out my instagram account.
My practice model is built around three primary concepts: person centered, anti-oppressive, and strengths based perspective.
The person-centered approach is based on the theory of Dr Carl Rogers. It is a non-directive approach to being with another that places both teacher and student on equal ground. I believe in the innate wisdom of every student to decide what is best for them on any given day, in any given exercise- regardless of my own beliefs and ideas. My role is not that of an authority figure but that of guide and support system. This is done though adhering to three core conditions:
1. Transparency - my willingness to be open and genuine without hiding behind a professional facade.
2. Unconditional positive regard- my acceptance and non judgement of students’ and their experiences.
3. Empathy- a heart connection based on healthy boundaries and the ability to be present with students.
Seeing each person as their own best teacher is how I choose to incorporate “Namaste” (the divine in me recognizes the divine in you) into my classes, rather than saying at the end of class as is traditional for reasons specified below under anti-oppressive practice.
Anti-oppressive practice is an interdisciplinary approach that focuses on ending socioeconomic oppression. Oppression occurs on social and institutional levels and also within interpersonal interactions- such as those within a yoga class. Anti-oppressive practice requires me to critically examine the power imbalance inherent in how my yoga classes are structured and delivered. This is an ongoing effort to create a more egalitarian class environment that is free from sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination. As such, when teaching I employ a conversational method that allows for questions and feedback. I do not use gender specific ques or use terminology that may be divisive. I do not utilize sacred objects from other cultures that I have not received permission to use. And I do not typify a certain lifestyle or belief system as necessary to participate in yoga. Above all, this commitment means I must be willing to listen to feedback on where I may be falling short in this practice.
Strength-based theory is all about empowerment and self-determination. This is an all-pervasive attitude that recognizes all people as both resourceful and resilient, even when they themselves cannot see it. It is the lens I use to create a class atmosphere that is trauma sensitive and empowering. A strength perspective can take many forms in a yoga class; from supporting someone in their attempt of a challenging new position, to applauding someone’s choice to modify exercises based on their needs, to respecting someone’s right to say, “No” to receiving an adjustment. It’s a simple and effective premise of identifying what is going well, and building on it (Barwick, 2004).