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Innovative contemplations on teaching..

August 21, 2011

I copy and regurgitate crazy and exciting yoga sequence ideas from teachers as well as what they say in the hopes that it will shed some light into the world of my students as it did into mine.

It’s starting to bother me that in looking to others for inspiration, trying to stay cool, I may be labeled unoriginal and a phony.

Yet I will not force a super cool or fiery flow if I’m not feeling it that day. I’m learning to accept my daily variations in temperament. Things don’t spout out of me if they don’t organically float into my thoughts – in the right place at the right time.

Interestingly, in learning how to watch students and read their bodies in class, often a sequence of simple poses can be the most life changing. No frills, no flips – quite literally. Yet a drive inside me wants to mimic others, as complicated as their teachings may be to depict.

Of course there is value in imitating. Teaching (yoga asana and philosophy in a unique manner) can feel like treading water. In the beginning, imitating enables teachers to flow downstream amidst currents of worry and unnecessary ruminating. Some days my confidence relies on teaching someone else’s flow along with calling my heartbeat a vibrational hum although I didn’t create either concept. Some days my ability to perceive people’s emotions around me is a crapshoot and it’s simpler to dispense someone else’s wisdom towards my students.

Besides, most yogic revelations have (somehow and some way) already been explored and recycled.

James Mtume (composer, debating with jazz critic Stanley Crouch) captures the essence of a few of my thoughts…  “there’s a certain point on any instrument that any and every thing that’s ever been played within the context and confines of that instrument has already been done. It’s just like your growth, there’s a certain point we all grew to, a certain point – that was it – we maxed.

Genius is determined by the context of one’s contribution within their generation. What did you do that was outstanding?”

In spite of my defensive justifications about why we imitate and how nothing is really original, one thing is certain – I would never repeat something I had never embodied or philosophized myself. Thinking about the importance of what one says and how I interpret it myself is its own practice of reflection. Thanks to challenging days, I push through imitation towards innovation and I question – what do my students need and how can I comfortably (in my own voice and with my entire heart) provide it to them?

I remember to pay respects along this path to the sacred souls I encounter. It is my nature to tiptoe through each precious movement with a quiet, encouraging heart rather than dance and scream about the potential within you. Although this is your experience and path to explore, showing up for a funky, creative set of poses will eventually get boring. I will not be able to satisfy you forever.

A yogi will find what he seeks within his heart and his breath. This I know is true. I will repeat– we are breath, breath is spirit and spirit is not a thought or a judgement. I will show up, just as you do, hungry for flecks of a newness that I have not yet uncovered. Perhaps in these moments of growth for us all, the yoga pose will have new meaning or you will forgive someone.

And like you, I will falter. I will overanalyze and fill up my brain with this and that and sticky stories and competitiveness and too much business and too many idols and influences.

It will consume me and then I will return to the pulsations of love and the simple movements that my muscles crave. I will write and discover innovative ways to get you from here to there but really, it’s you who shows up and teaches me.

We will look to each other for support and we will lift each other up through yoga, song and laughter. After all, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

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