I have a new regular student in class. She used to study with the Iyengar family in London — and now she comes to me. Yikes! I was a bit freaked out at first, wondering what she would make of my lunchtime vinyasa flow class. But she keeps coming back, she seems content with what I offer.
She’s experienced enough to modify some poses as she needs to and mostly I quietly let her take a different posture when she wants to, just checking in from time to time after class to see if she needs more guidance from me. During class it is actually the younger and more obviously capable students who take up more of my attention. They are less attentive to their bodies, less likely to modify postures or adapt them to meet their current range of movement or awareness of alignment.
I was encouraging them to use blocks in some pose or other recently, telling them about the time I was working on Trikonasana with my teacher, who placed seven (yes seven!) blocks under my bottom hand to help reduce the effort for me. Of course, at the time I was mortified; now it just makes a funny story. So that’s progress! More importantly, although I still feel such a yoga baby, it helps me realize that actually I do have some depth of experience as well as some distance from such early difficulties. How can one teach effectively if everything has come easily, I wonder? In class my students laugh at my story of indignation and acceptance; later in the sequence I think perhaps more of them that usual use a block for their seated postures…
So in theory I’m not shy about sharing this kind of learning with my students. I impress upon them the need for baby steps, reassuring them that progress occurs if we put in effort and keep curious and open to the process. Let the yoga take care of itself, just show up for it!
In practice, such honest sharing can be a little more tricky. I am still uncertain of much of my physical technique and am careful with the demos I offer during class. Of course, I want to teach them sthira sukham asanam, as much as I can! 🙂
Yoga is always a work in progress, though, and it’s important that they also recognise that. So I’m getting less shy about practising in the studio space between my classes. My students might wander past at any moment and the studio manager is always around. They might watch a while and see me going to use the wall or the ballet barre to help my standing balances. If they don’t actually see me falling out of handstand, they’ll likely hear it as I cartwheel heavily onto the safety mat I’ve lined up for myself. I might even be observed using a block in Trikonasana — just a single block these days though! The work in progress has developed so far at least 🙂