Raise Your Bar as a Teacher to Give Yoga the Name it Deserves - Kathryn Bruni-Young
  • October 19, 2016
  • Kathryn

The latest trend in yoga seems to be breaking apart yoga. A FB friend tagged me in a post a few weeks ago mentioning some of the work I do as creative deconstruction of the yoga practice. I was in full agreement, as I’m constantly making moves to take apart what I think I know and revamp what I call yoga. I think its important for teachers who are carrying the name forward to really evaluate what it is they teach, the efficacy and apply critical thinking as much as possible.


Last summer I taught a five day intensive here in Cornwall, the small group event sold out almost immediately, students planned to travel from across the country to join me. When I launched the program I wasn’t sure if anyone would sign up, much to my surprise I quickly attracted a very diverse and intelligent group.


Two yoga teachers, one math teacher, a pharmacist, a physiotherapist, a sports med doctor and a recent science grad had all signed up for my course. Sitting at home receiving the applications at first I was really excited. Once the excitement passed I was instantly intimidated by having so many experienced science minds joining me for the intensive. It meant I was going to have to dig deep and pull together the best of what I knew to teach these people something that they didn’t already know. Teaching the mechanics of strength and movement to a group of people with an already strong knowledge of science brought me up to a new level of thinking.


When we start teaching we usually start with people who know nothing about what we teach, confidence usually spikes quickly unless you encounter a negative experience early on. From there our students grow as we do, teachers continue to educate themselves (hopefully) with another certification and this trickles down into classes and workshops. Sometimes as teachers we get used to teaching the same people, people who know our cues, who understand the language we speak and sometimes just when we are feeling confident we begin to plateau.


Sometimes you might catch yourself giving an instruction that you have said a thousand times, like “keep your knee over your heel in warrior to protect your knee” words that roll off the tongue so smoothly. Words that are just part of what we teach, things that all the teachers say. And some of these cues and info bytes might be completely valid, but some of them might no longer make sense. It is within this plateau of confidence that comes after a few years that you should begin to assess what you know and is it the best version of the information currently available. 


Teaching a week long intensive to people who already understood the human body in such detail made me question and “fact check” everything I presented. It required that I was as clear as possible with my approach, and when questions surfaced that I couldn’t answer with complete integrity I was honest and we often times outsourced to someone else in the room who did know.


I think as a teacher of movement it is so important to constantly refine and reassess what you know, what you think you know and always ask why. When I started asking myself why I realized a lot of the things I was saying were regurgitated tidbits I had learned over the years but I was lacking the depth of knowledge I really needed to be effective. It was hard in the beginning, revealing and sometimes even a bit embarrassing. But working in your own way to fine tooth comb your knowledge elevates what you can do, how much you can help people and the credibility of your field. Heres to raising each other up, here is a little write up from the lovely physiotherapist who attended my course in the summer. As yoga teachers we are all in this together, to give yoga the good name it deserves in a world that is constantly critical. 




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