Creating Connection in the Online Yoga Classroom
Part of a teacher’s job in any classroom is to create a community of learning. When I did my yoga teacher training, I was very aware that a large part of my learning happened in the daily milieu of being with my training cohort. It wasn’t just about content. I learned from the content, for sure, but I also learned about yoga through the sense of community we created and from our connections. I learned from seeing how my teacher’s responded to other students, how they addressed issues or explored, in real-time, the physical learnings and the questions that arose for other trainees.
So how do we create a felt sense of what it means to learn yoga together when we are teaching online? How do we foster community among our yoga students if they are not in a shared physical space?
The True Meaning of Interdependence:
While I am not naive as to what is meant culturally when we celebrate Independence, I am increasingly unable to let the word slide by in conversation, or in long-commercialized holiday celebrations.
Our fundamental reality is that we are NOT independent. We are intimately entwined to multitudes of forces on which we rely for our most basic existence. Even if we only accept what we see with the obvious eye, we can not deny our dependence on the intelligence of nature, of which we, too, are an expression.
Earthen richness to grow the plant materials on which we depend (whether it’s kale, potatoes for chips, or marijuana for CBD).
When you or a student or client is struggling with a long-standing, seemingly unchanging, deeply embedded pattern, one that causes harm, neglect, or criticism (with themselves or others), how do you know which course is best: Compassion or Action?
Through the lens of yoga, a stuck pattern is called Tamas (or tamasic). It means that which is stable, inert, inactive, dull. The word for Action is Rajas. That which is mobile or motivated. More likely to catalyze change.
Ideally, yoga recommends making wise use of Tamas and Rajas to create the opportunities for Sattva: that which is lucid, clear, graceful, and loving. Each of us needs just enough Tamas (stability and structure) and just enough Rajas (motivation and courage) to move toward Sattva.
In my last two posts I started our conversation about the Language of Yoga with an exploration of what not to do, and began illustrations and explanations for what we should do instead.
I introduced the first of the essential language skills for teaching yoga: Knowing the Basics of the Poses. I began to illustrate the important differences between active/passive language and direct/indirect language.
Today I’ll continue that exploration by talking about how you can Nourish Your Presence.
(Learn more about our 200hr Yoga Teacher Trainings here.)
I ended our previous blog on this topic with this:
Ironically, it's not about having stronger boundaries in the sense that our Western view continues to tell us to "take care of ourselves first", or not to let in the toxicity of others.
At times the teachings of Yoga (philosophy, psychology) seem to conflict or to present a paradox. In fact, even the physical teachings of asana (yoga poses) can seem conflicting. Teachers will encourage students to "go deeper", and in the same instruction to "accept the present moment as it is"
This wonderful question came to us - electronically - and is deserving of a thoughtful response. Since we aren't in a real time, in person dialogue, I'd like to offer this reflection in two parts. Beginning with a wider view, and then moving to a more intimate view in the second blog.
Learn about our Yoga Psychology Training here.
How Does Yoga Create Secure Attachment (if it also teaches non-attachment)?
Somatic Secure Attachment
In the process of yoga, secure attachment networks are neurologically stimulated, and interpersonally nourished. As we teach students how to have more consistent, more nourishing, more relational attitudes and considerations of their physical body as a resource, their sense of being in relationship with their body changes. How they relate to their musculo-skeletal, physiological, and neurological expressions is a reflection of one layer of their attachment networks. As historical trauma lives in the body and brain, the somatic practices of yoga - including breathing, sensing, moving, respecting, reflecting, and inviting their body to be integrated into their life in healthier ways - stimulates new ways of being in relationship with their personal ecology.
The Language of Yoga: Part Two – Focusing on What To Do
While I was only able to begin this conversation in my last blog, I hope I opened your ears to consider how language is being shaped by our contemporary yoga culture. The problems that I see with some of the current language trends in yoga—not merely in vulnerable populations, but also across the yoga industry—are both a misuse of language and a missed opportunity.
I celebrate that we have the opportunity for a discussion that can help us to be shaped by how yoga was meant to be transmitted. With the following language and personal development shifts I am recommending that we allow yoga to shape us—rather than us attempting to shape yoga.
Don’t Get Stuck at What Not To Do
Several years ago, in our 300-hour yoga therapy teacher training program, a student asked an earnest and pivotal question about the language of yoga. I felt the fire of my passion for elegant language tools that elicit the experience of yoga for our students, in their brains, bodies, hearts, minds, and relationships.
(Learn more about our 200hr + 300hr Yoga Teacher Trainings here.)
In fact, her question was so stirring to me that I actually had a hard time staying in my own seat. I wanted to jump up and give a thorough demonstration of Language Styles, including a fervent exposé on what is not working in parts of our language culture in yoga.
Yoga allowed me to see more clearly.
I didn’t even know how distorted my vision had been.
For all of us, yoga has the capacity to clear the lens through which we are seeing. We become lucid. How we see and what we see becomes beneficial to humanity. In fact, the Rishis, whose visions were lucid and timeless, were called the Seers. From their clear-vision (clairvoyance) the Upanishads – or divine poems – arose. (Rishikesh, the birth place of yoga, is named for the Seers.)
Darshan. The experience of seeing and being seen.
We are born with a deep hunger to be seen. At our birth and infancy, our survival depends on it.
As we grow and evolve, we do so through risk, intuition, and vulnerability. Sometimes clumsily (our new born deer legs may wobble). Sometimes gracefully (we catch the wind under our wings).