Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yoga-gogy / Yoga-cation

Pedagogy is not a word that we associate with yoga classes.  We use the word in higher-ed like the Smurfs use smurf—as the answer to both what we do and the reason we do it. But, like inconceivable, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching.  From the Greek pedagogos, slave who takes children to school (Merriam Webster online).  Technically pedagogy refers to teaching children, not adults.  We’ll forgive correct usage in favor of common usage here.

We go to a yoga class, implying there is some sort of education happening. Both students and teachers should know the objective of the class.  Patanjali defines yoga as “The cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” (PYS I.2)  For a class to be called yoga, it must specifically involve an investigation into:

1.       The mind

2.       Its fluctuations

3.       Methods leading to the cessation of these fluctuations.

A class which does not involve all three of these items can be safely laid aside as choreographed stretching.

Yoga classes are primarily focused on asana, to a much less extent pranayama, to even less of an extent concentration (dharana).  Asana is a great investigative tool when used correctly.  The role of the teacher is to present the physical movements as a microcosm for the movements of the mind. If we can apply attention and focus to make our bodies move in ways we don’t normally move, we can develop the same attention and focus to observe the mind and stem its movements.

The physical movements of the body are the means, not the end. When the teacher teaches asana from this perspective, then they are teaching yoga.

We have the teachings which are valid, and (presumably) a teacher who knows what they are talking about.  The last element needed in the triad which, like the legs of a milk stool, supports education is the student.

The student has a much harder job than the teacher—the teacher presents possibilities, the student must accept, internalize, and apply these possibilities on their own.  

Education in any form is not a concierge service. 

The money paid for a yoga class, like tuition, is not a tip.

Quality educators and quality facilities carry a price tag. As well they should. Do you really want discount teachers and discount facilities?

The teacher can do their best to present the teachings in an engaging manner, but if the student is not ready or willing to receive them, no amount of interaction, attention, bells or whistles is going to make any difference.  As teachers, we should not dumb down the material so everyone can get it.  We need to continue to present the teachings as they are.  When the student is ready to receive, they will.

That logic may not make sense from a business point of view, which screams get as many people through the door as possible.

From my point of view, I would rather provide one willing person with a quality yoga-cation than lead a room full of bodies through some choreographed stretches.

From a pedagogical point of view, we, as teachers, will best serve our students' educations by being diligent students ourselves: increasing our knowledge and implementing the teachings through our own continuing practice. 

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