I had the honor of being on the faculty for this awesome Baptiste Program held at Soul Yoga and Wellness in Santa Rosa, CA. As yoga teachers our ability to "listen" to a student is a key component to assisting the student to higher levels of yoga practice. A great yoga class is partially predicated upon the conversation between student and teacher. When a class has 50 people or more for example, how does the conversation take place? This is the art of teaching. It is possible to assist a student to greater or lesser depth in a pose as a teaching tool to speak through that student to the rest of the class. The trick is to ascertain trends specific to that class in asanas and give tools in the moment that make an immediate difference. This is very challenging to do. Folks will think a teacher is multitasking. But really what is happening is as a teacher gains years of experience teaching and practicing yoga sequences flow takes over and becomes second nature. The teacher can focus less on the mechanics as that part of the brain is on autopilot, and direct attention toward the art of listening and giving tools. This is what it means to move toward mastery.
How our mind perceives our body actually has a physical effect on the body. The mind is plastic and so is the body. Yoga helps to constantly reshape toward optimal functioning and it is our job as teachers to remind students constantly to clear the baffles so the mind and body communicates effectively. Most of the time we are not aware of what our mind perceives of our body unless of course we place our attention on the body. This is the yogic practices of dharana (focus, concentration) and dhyana (maintaining a focus, meditation). Teachers are constantly directing students to tune back in to breath as a pathway to body awareness. Also called drishti.
Learning to assist creates flow in a class adding to the experience and hopefully inspires students to keep coming back to the practice. As teachers we become more intimate with our students and this will speed up students capacity for deeper practice. Below is some notes taken by one of the students during the workshop. It just gives you a sense on the types of things a Baptiste Program would focus on. Although this is targeted toward assisting the whole is the goal in Baptiste and thus the Baptiste Methodology is always front and center.
Actions of Artful Assisting
- Attune to the student ( energy, breath, assist, appropriate for level of practice)
- Assist from your True North Alignment
- Align center to center
- Enter and exit with ease
- Be clear and purposeful
- Create flow
- Assist from the ground up
Types of Touch
Skin- Fingertips to indicate attention and direction. Impacts form.
Bone- C-shape hands to grasp and move bones. Impacts alignment.
Muscle- Palm with steady pressure. Impact action.
- Feet/Legs: Setting a strong foundation, knees straight and not hyper-extended, Internal-external rotation of femur as needed for the purpose of the pose.
- Hips- Neutral and balanced, round lower back for backbends, “hollow out” low back for forward fold
- Supine- Flexion, extension and rotation; ascension, and extension before rotation
- Arms- Shoulder integration with external rotation of humerus, shoulder blades pulled in towards spine, upper arm bones back.
- Do not pull shoulders back in upward facing dog
- Do not press shoulders down in down dog
- Do not pull on hands to open shoulders
- Do not pull hips up in bridge or wheel
- Do not press hips down in hip opening
- Do not press Thoracic spine down in forward folds
- Do not press feet down in inversions
- Do not press hips toward head in deaf man’s pose or plow
- Do not increase twist in supine twist
- Do not force anything
Types of Adv. Assisting
- 3 point Assist
- Prop Assist
- Partner Yoga Assist
- Thai Massage (muscle compression/ Joint traction)
- Transition Assist (enable movement to advance pose)