Malvern Wells Yoga

Smile, it's yoga! Yoga classes in the Malvern area.


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Farting and other stories (6 funnies from the yoga mat)

I am by no means a seasoned, veteran yoga teacher.  However, I’ve seen and heard some pretty funny stuff in my 15 months of teaching and I would like to share some of it with you.

1. Farting

Yup, if you are a frequenter of yoga classes, chances are either you or someone else in the class has farted.  What do you do?  Where do you look?  Do you pretend you’ve not heard?  What if it smells?  Luckily the folks over at DoYouYoga have made a helpful video to tell you what to do (funny).

Unfortunately what the video doesn’t tell you is how to hold in a fart if you are the teacher, or what happens when you hold in a fart for 90 minutes and then you sit down in your car and try to drive home…

2. The Fanny Fart

That’s right, the fanny fart.  This happens to me on rare occasions during shoulder stand or headstand.  It has never happened to me in Warrior 2 or Side Angle Pose.  In this particular instance, a lovely lady in my Tuesday class was in Warrior 2 when she let out what we all assumed was a bottom burp.  When it happened again and louder this time, she told us that it was what she believed is “commonly known as a fanny fart”!  Where do you put your face when this happens?  How do you rearrange your face into something resembling a composed Yoga teacher?  Perhaps the nice people at DoYouYoga will make another video…

3, The woman whose arms didn’t work

Sometimes at the beginning of class I like to do wrist warm ups.  Beginner students get tired wrists quite easily and I think it’s important to get the blood pumping into them before you start doing anything weight-bearing like downward dog.  Anyway, generally we do a few flexes of the wrist and some circles with the arms stretched out in front of us so that it works the deltoids as well.  One particular lady, fairly early on in my teaching experience, tried about two rotations, then said she couldn’t do it because it hurt her arms.  She then bent her elbows into her sides and proceeded to do the exercise like that.  It just looked incredibly funny… maybe you had to be there.

I find it really interesting that people often struggle to distinguish between mild discomfort and pain… but what do I know (see point 4)?

4. Being accused of being so bendy that yoga must be really easy for me

The only thing I can do is laugh when people say this to me… and it happens quite a lot.  Let’s get this straight, yoga is not easy for anyone.  The reason I am so flexible is I worked hard as a gymnast and a dancer when I was a kid and then later on as a yoga practitioner.  I have maintained my childhood flexibility BY WORKING HARD AND KEEPING MY BODY MOVING!  Being bendy is more of a curse than it is a blessing.  It is easy to over pronate and hurt myself really badly.  I work hard to develop my muscles in order to protect my flexible tendons and ligaments.  Injury is not funny.

5. The hardcore know-it-all Ashtangi

Again, this was fairly early on in my teaching career.  She put her mat right at the front of the class, scowled at me as I described ujayii pranayama as sounding a bit like Darth Vader (I had two blokes in the class, I thought it would appeal to them), her chaturanga was better than mine, she ignored my instructions and did her own things and her headstand was a perfect straight-leg lift.  At the time I was mortified.  I wanted to throw a diva strop and ask her to come to the front and teach the class instead of me.  She’s never been back to one of my classes since.  I don’t really care about that.  She taught me a very valuable lesson, not to let my ego get in the way of delivering a good, safe class for my students.  I think (I hope) that I now teach with a lot more grace and humility and I am confident in what I am doing.  My classes, taught my way.

6. Flower power pants

One of my lovely students wears black leggings that are somewhat transparent, especially in downward dog.  I have seen her flower power knickers quite often.  It always seems to be the same pair… maybe they’re her favourite pair for doing yoga.  Either way, it makes me smile!  I know some people have a problem with it (I’ve read enough blog posts about lululemon pants to have picked up that some people consider totally opaque leggings essential).  Who cares?  As long as you show up and do your practice, who gives a f*ck what you wear.  I do it in my pyjamas on Sunday mornings.

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Being a Yoga Teacher, Being Me

English: Vrksasana, the tree position, a Yoga ...

Vrksasana, the tree posture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am inspired to write this blog post after reading this article on the Yoga Journal web site.

Like the author of the article, I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade.  Each teacher you come across has their own, unique teaching style.  Some have been better for me than others.

Years ago I used to attend a class where the teacher would sweep in about 30 seconds before the class was due to start.  If the teacher was in a bad mood, the whole dynamic of the class was skewed.  The teacher also used to exude a holier-than-thou-I’m-the-guru attitude.  It was actually a bit scary.  I was definitely hooked on the yoga, not the teacher.

I’ve met other teachers like this too.  They are inaccessible; preaching from a pedestal at the front of the class.  You can’t ask them anything because there is an unspoken rule that they are not to be approached.  Sometimes I’ve felt like I’ve been looked down on by a teacher because I am not as ‘enlightened’ as they are.

Then there are the classes where you are not allowed to speak.  You go in, do your asanas and leave again.  There is no interaction between you and anyone else in the class.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think classes should be a huge social event, but silent solemnity can be extremely off-putting for people.

Now that I’m a teacher too I am very conscious of how I interact with my students.  To that end, here are a few things I’ve learned in my very short time as a teacher:

1. Stay present.  You can’t teach a class if your mind is elsewhere.

2. Laugh.  It is very difficult to hold a balancing pose whilst trying to instruct a class.  I have fallen out of tree pose a number of times, especially when explaining that you can’t balance properly unless your mind is clear!

3. Be normal and approachable.  Students need to be able to relate to you.  They can’t relate to you if you are removed from the reality of daily life.  They don’t want an ethereal-kaftan-wearing-patchouli-smelling-someone-who-thinks-they-are-a-goddess.  Make your students welcome.  Give them that warm, fuzzy feeling.  They are loved and cared for and you are happy they come to your class.

4. Teach what your pupils need to learn.  Don’t start demonstrating your yoga prowess by jumping into Bird of Paradise in a beginners class.  The class is about the students and their needs.  It’s not about you.  Similarly, most yoga students attend class for the physical exercise.  Don’t get straight in there and start talking about Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras until you have a good understanding of your students and how receptive (or not) they might be to learning about the more spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga.

5.  Leave your own crap outside.  Don’t walk into a class and announce to everyone what a rubbish day you are having.  The students are paying you to teach them.  They are not paying to listen to your problems.  If it’s a small class, take five minutes at the beginning and end of the class to let the students talk about their day, if that’s what they want to do… of course, not everyone wants to share and that’s ok.  Some people seem to be able to concentrate better if they can shed some of their baggage before the class begins in earnest.

6. Be prepared to adapt.  It is allowed to move away from your meticulously-planned class structure if you feel you need to, or if it becomes apparent the class you’ve planned is too easy or hard… use your instincts, use your eyes and ears.  You have to be able to improvise and modify depending on the needs of your students or even the dynamic of the class that day.

Last year I went to a small, local class for about six weeks whilst I was between jobs.  The teacher is absolutely lovely.  Very attentive, very creative, very caring.  A real, genuine person who uses her life experience to try to understand and make a connection with her pupils.

I’m just starting out on my journey, but I want to make sure that I am becoming the very best teacher I can be without losing any of myself along the way!