My post for the Yoga District Blog: Building Skills and Community, the For the Teachers, By the Teachers Series
Do you know the origin of the expression “ships that pass in the night?” Neither did I, but it is apparently from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem entitled Tales of a Wayside Inn:
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
Teaching yoga can be a lot like that. Teacher training is a communal experience — you bond with your cohort in lasting ways. But once you are a newly-hatched yoga teacher, still finding your wings and feet, you sort of have to look around to find the protective canopy of a momma bird’s wings. Sure, all of your teachers have their own practice and, in turn, their own teachers, but teaching can be an incredibly (and oddly so) solitary endeavor. Sometimes all you hear is your own voice . . . and that can be disorienting. Building community becomes something that requires its own investment of time — reaching out to your fellow teachers, seeking out further education.
Yoga District is the only studio I practice at that not only understands that but does something about it. No other studio where I have been is so committed to the growth of its members, student and teacher alike. And no other place understands that the teachers are still students themselves.
The “For Teachers, By Teachers” series of workshops allows us to not only meet fellow teachers, laugh and share in our general foibles, but most importantly, learn. If you are wondering how that is different from going to a traditional workshop or attending continuing education classes, my response to you would be that the teachers teaching these workshops are selflessly offering their time and knowledge just so our community can stay vibrant and tight-knit — a tough thing to find in the increasingly transaction-oriented and transitory city of Washington, DC.
These workshops are but an example of Yoga District’s general ethos of community and “yoga for the people, by the people”-ness (yes, I realize this is not a word). They are not lectures where we are being talked at — we do, we share, we discuss, we bring up questions from our experiences. That is what makes them fundamentally different from going on a retreat with a stranger/superstar yoga teacher. To me, they are like a Sunday hangout with family.
I have now had the pleasure of attending two of these workshops: the first on hands-on assisting with Ros and the second one on prenatal yoga with Brittany. Both were incredibly, incredibly helpful.
In the hands-on assisting and adjusting workshop, we learned not only the specific adjusts for each pose but also more subtle information such as how to respond to students’ responses to these adjusts and assists. How is that for meta! The laying of the hands, so to speak, is an incredibly fraught process. Understanding cues and proper way to implement hands-on work is critical to making the process beneficial and comfortable for our students.
The second workshop on prenatal yoga was equally illuminating. Brittany even brought along a little fabric pelvis and a fabric baby doll to illustrate all the changes that take place in a woman’s body and make us understand why certain poses are not optimal for pregnant ladies. For example, did you know that the hormone relaxin, which allows the uterus to expand, also softens connective tissue, putting women are risk for hyperextending through joints and causing other joint injuries (so being newly able to get into splits is not always a good thing!). From the second trimester on — when the center of gravity really starts to shift — most of the balancing poses are best done next to a wall for support so as to eliminate the risk of injury to the baby as well as the Mom. Steering clear of asanas that work on the central abdominals is also recommended.
These are just snippets of everything that was shared in these workshops. It truly is a blessing to be a part of a community that works for the betterment of both its teachers and students — and does so without much fanfare and horn-tooting.
This is also another one of my posts.