Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Conflicting Yoga Teacher Instructions - “But Another Instructor Told Me…”

valued guidance
By Kathryn Boland

Have you ever had an instructor give you guidance that conflicts with what another has told you? Have you ever had a student tell you that you’re doing that, or learned something in your continuing education that contradicts what you’ve previously learned? A strength of the yoga world is our multiple perspectives and styles of practice.

Less advantageous is the blatant misinformation that some teachers put forth, most often because they were not taught the facts. With no ill-will, they pass on non-truths to the next generation of practitioners. This diversity of thought and poor teacher training combines to have some teachers telling students one thing, and them hearing contradictory information from other teachers. How does one know which teacher’s guidance to follow? Aspects such as cultural respect for teachers, class dynamics, and unique medical conditions complicate the situation. 
         
This issue surfaced for me most recently with a teacher correcting my weight-bearing hand placement (used in Down Dog, but also in Tabletop, Plank, and numerous more advanced arm balances). I had adjusted to this placement after a workshop in which a teacher advised me to do so because of the anatomy of my shoulder girdle and arms. I trusted the in-depth conclusion, and subsequent change, that we then made.


          
I also trusted and valued the guidance of the latter teacher. And I didn’t want to offer an in-depth explanation in the midst of class, nor not do what she was asking without giving that explanation. I made the change, and it didn’t feel right for my body. For a second I thought “Well, I can just practice this way when I’m in her class….” But a wiser part of me asked “But what’s right for your practice?” I then switched back to the hand placement that she had corrected. I spoke with her on the matter after class, and her response was curiosity - a slightly scrunched face, raised eyebrows and a “Hmmm….”. She was learning something.
          
A second instance illustrates this type of situation. Several instructors would often give an instruction for a certain stance in the legs in Warrior I Pose. I also received this instruction personally, and rather assuredly, one class. Both these things together, I took this instruction mainly as a universal given (which, when thinking deeper along with my knowledge and experience as an instructor, only exist in a few select places).
         
Then another instructor, one class, told me that “you don’t need to do that…so don’t”. In a different class, another instructor told me that I can practice Standing Forward Fold with straight legs. Though I might a make certain argument against that point, I appreciated her attempt to explain why this was so for me - because my “low back is flat as [I] fold forward.” The prior instructor, with the instruction on Warrior I, did not offer any such explanation. I feel much more assured, as a practitioner, in going forward with the instruction with which I received some explanatory context.


          
I suspect that many students face similar dilemmas. I’ve heard differing views from separate instructors on more instances than these, and something tells me that I can’t be the only one. I also have vague recollections of fellow yogis saying things like “Well this teacher told me this, but then another told me that, so I’m confused….”. I myself have had more experienced instructors correct misconceptions with which I was teaching. I therefore likely confused some students - again, not out of ill-will, but because of lack of experience and understanding.

Yoga practice is so multifaceted, we can’t be faulted for not getting it all perfectly understood right out of 200-hour teacher training. It’s a lifelong journey of growth and discovery. But, to avoid confusing students further, we must be open to learning new facts and accepting that we could have been mistaken. We must be diligent about continuing education, studying under great teachers, and maintaining our own practices. We owe it to ourselves, and to our students who trust us with their minds, bodies, and spirits. Shanti, dear readers.
          

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1 comment:

Mary Wilson said...

A strength of the yoga world is our multiple perspectives and styles of practice. Thank you Kathryn Boland for writing this informative article.