Illustration: The Magazine of Yoga
Yoga and The Business of Real Life
Authenticity is something you discover. I can’t teach from your experiences, but I can teach from my own.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST BARBARA DENOWH
I came to yoga about 10 years ago and found a new style of movement. It brought awareness to my movements, taught me how to use muscles I didn’t even know about and probably had never used before.
As part of my New Year’s intentions, I wanted to treat myself well and maybe take some classes. Just for me.
Last week I went to an Oula class.
It was miserable. Totally miserable. The longest hour of my week.
I felt like a 4 x 6 in a room of willows. I did not know how to move. At all. I was totally stiff and could feel that stiffness trapping my movement.
All this time studying movement and working on flexibility. All this time working on being in my skin and feeling my bones and bringing awareness to my body.
When the instructor, Jamie, said, “be in your skin, sink into your bones,” I literally didn’t know what that meant.
I had no idea how to do it.
I felt totally out of place in my own body
Yoga is so precise. So alignment based. So linear. It is bringing awareness to each movement, to each muscle, to every bone.
Even in the flow yoga I teach. We are moving and flowing, but we are headed a certain direction.
At the end of class when she had us shimmying on the floor being “cat like”, I wanted to slither to the door and run as fast as I could.
I still haven’t recovered from the shock of that class. From the stiffness I felt.
Am I going back? I shudder to think about it…
Dance with the one that brought you
I’ve learned that the very best way to teach is to be authentic. I can’t see incorporating any dance elements into my yoga classes because I wouldn’t be teaching what I know.
I love watching Shiva Rea or Sarah Tompson Beyer move, and am glad to try that in my own practice (with no one ever, ever seeing me!), but there is no way that I could authentically put that in my own teaching.
The same goes for flowery yoga teacher speak.
You know, those metaphors that are supposed to make you feel more connected to yourself. “Be a mountain and your leg is the river flowing from it.” I don’t mind it in a class, but from me it is verbal vomit.
The closest I can even come to that is sometimes referring to the arms as branches in vrksasana. That even makes me cringe a little.
Extend your branches up. Oh, shit. I’m a jackass.
Teaching is a journey
What is so fun about taking other classes is seeing how teachers teach. What their particular authenticity is. Whether it be slithering on the floor or yoga/dance or flowery yoga speak. There is a certain spark that comes from an authentic teacher that can ignite passion within you.
Authenticity isn’t really something you can strive for, but more something you discover within yourself. I can’t teach from your experiences, but I can teach from my own.
Discovering more about myself as a teacher and what experiences I teach from is a fun, albeit challenging, journey.
Yoga made me stiff. Yoga made me, me.
Barbara Denowh is a yoga teacher in Helena, Montana. You can find her in cyberspace on Facebook or at her website denowhyoga.com. She also rambles about yoga, teaching, her wonderful husband, and her hound at babsbabble.com
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.