As a yoga teacher I see a lot of students at any given time. I teach a few classes with regulars but I also substitute a lot of classes. I recently finished one of my "series" classes. The group has been with me since March. We were supposed to end in May but I was able to create another 6 weeks for them and we were all so happy to be able to extend our time together.
At the beginning of our last class, one of my students was asking about how to carry on for the month of August when we would not be together. I tried to assure her and the rest of the group that they would be fine. They all know that I am big on helping my students establish a home practice, even beginners. They did not seem too convinced that they would be able to go it alone, no matter how much encouragement I gave them.
We started the practice anyways as I thought that perhaps the breath, our ever powerful, always there, breath would help us out. I looked out into their faces and a wave of calm started to wash over them. OK this is a start. I took this opportunity to remind them that sometimes the practice starts and ends with the breath. If there is more and it is there, the rest will follow. We moved into very slow, very basic sun salutations. This is where I thought they might start on their own. We did a few rounds together, I called it out and demonstrated while they followed along. Then I left them on their own. I told them to do an entire round, one on each side of the body, following their own breath and their own pace. I could see the panic in some of their faces. I told them that they knew what do to, that they could not do it wrong. It wouldn't be wrong it would just be different, let the body tell you what to do if you forget. I kept telling them that they were doing great, listen to the breath and follow the breath. At the end the smiles on each of their faces was amazing. One person in particular caught my attention. Her grin was bigger than anything and I could see the sense of accomplishment and pride on her face. I was so proud of them myself but it was even more for me to see the pride on their faces.
We practiced some more favorites as requested and as always I threw in a couple of new or variations on postures that they already knew. I let them enjoy a nice long sivasana and our practice was over. The question came up again about trying out other classes. I strongly encourage my students, especially new students, to try lots of different teachers and different styles until you find the one you like - then switch. There is something to learn from everyone. My response was no different "go out there and try more". The follow up question was "do you think we are good enough"? I struggled with this one a bit - my answer was this "you all have all the tools you need to go to another yoga class and know what's going on, if you don't you'll learn something new". I brought them back to the sun salutation - "you all did that on your own" - "you can handle the rest on your own".
As a teacher I think I feel the most accomplished when a student feels proud of what they've done. I love to see the smiles when faced with a new challenged. They've either tried it and fallen over and laughed or tried it and smiled because they can do it. I just want them to try it. If they can't, then do something else. Maybe learn something about your body or something about yourself. Whatever your reasons for practicing, enjoy yourself and be proud!
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.