On and off my mat

Last week I took the leap; I started yoga teacher training. A 200 hour yoga teacher training course had been on my bucket list for a while, but a recent trip to India inspired me to take the plunge.

Then as if meant to be, I found a yoga school close to home with a schedule I could easily manage while still working full time. Unfortunately the next session was full (I took that as a good sign!) and I was put on the waiting list. I figured if it was meant to be it would happen and if not, I could wait. Turns out it was meant to be and I got the email! Someone had been unable to attend, and I was in.

I was nervous, like really nervous to begin and I couldn’t figure out why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was hesitant to share my yoga with others. I have been practicing for years, and it has always been in a way selfish. I have used asana, pranayama, and more recently meditation to ground me, to find calm in turbulent years, to help me feel balanced in the chaos of my busy life. I realized I was concerned about bringing all my expectations about what it means to be a teacher to my mat. So in order to find some balance, I started thinking about how I have applied the lessons I have learned on my mat, into my teaching practice.

Being Present For me, being present manifests in two ways. Primarily it is being in the moment, giving my undivided attention to the students during class time, not thinking about previous courses, or upcoming material. However the idea of being present has also inspired me to think more about why we teach art history, and why is it important for students current lived experience. What connections can be made between images from the past and the present moment? Although being present in a history class seems to be a contradiction, maybe it really speaks to the need to be mindful (another good yoga word) of contemporary biases, and perspectives that colour how we see the past and the future.

Observing without Judgement This is another multifaceted lesson taken from my yoga practice. For me it is a reminder to be aware and be sensitive to students and their unique needs. It is less about me categorizing them and their work as good or bad, and more about me helping guide them. Not only do I wish to cultivate my own powers of observation, but perhaps more importantly it is about encouraging students themselves to observe with out judgement. A thoughtful, engaged art historian does not discuss art as good or bad, but has a developed visual literacy. Observing means being mindful (again!), and able to use curiosity to make connections.

Being Reflective This is one that I have currently listed on my statement of teaching philosophy, but now I am really reconsidering what it means to be reflective. For the first time, this fall I will be teaching the same course again. This gives me the opportunity to really evaluate what went well, and what can be improved.

Finding edges And finally one of the most important lessons I have gleaned from my yoga practice is an ability to find my own personal edge. How do you push yourself while honouring your present moment? How do I find edges for my students and me? How do I foster that intellectual sweet spot where students feel safe but can also push the boundaries of their thinking? This is one that I will always have to constantly be mindful of.

Like yoga, teaching is a journey.


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