I've recently made some changes to how I teach my yoga classes. Towards the end of the year, I took some yoga classes with my peers, got some more training, and had the opportunity to hear some feedback about my teaching. All this made me think a lot about my teaching and how I can make better connections with my students. The most obvious thing I've done is I've changed the orientation of the room. What was the back of the room is now the front. I think that might disrupt students even more than saying, "tonight is all partner poses!" People get really attached to their little rectangle! I didn't really want to rock the boat, but here's why I have.
I realized that some of my teaching habits are things I developed for my own comfort, and not for the comfort and benefit of my students.
The way the studio is arranged, on the side the room where the door is, there's a wall of mirrors and two cabinets. The facing wall faces the indoor pool, which can be seen through two windows. I used to set my mat between the two cabinets because I could kind of nestle in and be out of the way and the front row of mats could be nice and tidy. The stereo is in the cabinet, so it's easy to adjust volume, etc. from that position, too.
However, for the students, I realized it's not so great. First, the mirrors are a huge distraction. No joke, I totally busted one of those muscle bound jock types flexing and checking out his muscles during meditation! So not the point! The door is at the front of the room, and so if anyone comes or goes, naturally, everyone (including me) turns their head to see what's up, and whoever comes in late has to walk in front of everyone to get a mat and settle in. Again, distracting.
I flipped the front of the room to minimize these distractions to make it easier for people to draw their attention inward. I also stopped bringing my yoga mat because the mat is also something I use for my own comfort. I LOVE my Manduka mat. LOVE. But it's for my own practice. It really isn't necessary for teaching (or for practice, even!), and it takes up a ton of real estate. If I need to demonstrate something, I have more freedom to float around and be present with whoever needs to see me. I also have found that when I have my mat, I am drawn to its homey comfort and I will hang out there instead of moving around the room and interacting with my students. It's like a security blanket. Security mat.
So now before class, I float around and chat and help people get set up. During class, I'm more available for whoever needs me. After class, I hang out by the door and give heartfelt "thank-you-for-coming"s.
Every class I am reminded that this is not about me. I sometimes have to reach beyond what is comfortable so that I can better serve my students. My mission is to help people find more ease in their body, to guide students in their investigation into how it feels to move and breathe and be, and to empower them to find their own comfort and freedom in their practice. We don't need mirrors for that!