Monday, December 13, 2010

Teaching Kundalini Under the Weather

(The orb tree in winter; remember when it looked like this?)

Last week, I learned a really valuable lesson about teaching movement: that I can do it even when I don't feel well.

Here's the thing: the classes I teach are not typical yoga classes in which the teacher is spending most of their time walking around adjusting and guiding (no judgement here; they are just different). YogaDance is a full participation class, as you can imagine, because part of the point is to create an experience of community.

My other class, Kundalini Yoga & Movement, is also full participation but for a different reason: Kundalini teachers always do the entire set with their students, because part of the point in this modality is creating a shared energetic experience.  To walk around and make adjustments would interrupt the energy as it builds.

(Furthermore, in Kundalini there are no "poses" to be adjusted but rather rapid movements that must be explored and discovered and created in each unique body. The movements are simple for this very reason: each body can do them no matter their fitness level, and they can grow and morph as the body becomes stronger and more flexible. Added to that is some amazing, deep, challenging breath work where most of the magic resides. I tell people (and it's true) that the breath work alone could give you a stronger core, which then makes for a more supported spine.)

So last week, I was pretty sick in a way that meant I could NOT move around.  This was during a Kundalini class and I had always wondered what would happen, how I would handle this situation.  The key, I realized, was not to over talk simply out of a desire to be doing something.  The other key was to sit in simple seated as they were sitting or stand as they were standing and imagine the yoga happening in my body so that I might first, speak from a feeling state (as always), and second, be participating on an emotional and spiritual level if not a physical one.

It totally worked!  They all affirmed afterward that they had just as awesome (if a bit different) an experience as always.

I also had an amazing time watching them so much more closely than I normally can.  To see their faces glowing and their heart centers expanding, to witness their opening and relaxing and rejuvenating was a privilege that I usually only get glimpses of.

In a classical hatha class (of which I have had so many with many different teachers), there is a sense that there is someone leading and others following, but in Kundalini, it feels much more like a religious ritual in which every person is priest or priestess.  I was relieved to find out that that feeling can be maintained no matter how I am feeling.


svasti said...

There are two kinds of classical Hatha-styles of teaching I'm familiar with. Actually, make that three.

The first is typical of the Bihar School of Yoga/Yoga in Daily Life style of teaching. The teacher either sits at the front of the room and leads verbally only, or leads via a combination of verbal instruction and physical demonstration. There are no adjustments in this style of teaching at all, and this is the bulk of my training (over ten years worth).

The second kind is the verbal instruction + physical demonstration + walk around the room. There *might* be an adjustment here or there, but again, typically it's not a focus of Hatha as I've learned it because the concept is that body awareness is best learned from the inside out.

The third style I know of supplements adjustments of any kind with more of a workshop-style mode of teaching. The students take turns to look at each other in the poses and try to identify what's going on - what needs to change in order for the pose to have integrity.

I kinda borrow from all three modes, depending on where I'm teaching.

Anyway, I know what you mean by teaching when under the weather. Have you noticed how much energy it can take to lead a class! But yeah, doing less is possible and does provide another sort of experience for students.

Also, I never lie down in savasana with my students. Instead, I sit very still as I lead them through whatever meditation practice I'm doing... because I require a different sort of presence to lead meditation than I do to participate.

Interesting observations Christine and I hope you're feeling better!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

LauraX said...

Have you ever tried leading a silent yoga class??? This is something I've done in the past...even with teens and it was really intense and beautiful!!! YES to all teaching that comes from that "feeling" place.

I hope you are starting to feel better dear one.