At the beginning of the month I was lucky enough to go to Evolution, the Asia Yoga Conference in Hong Kong, which took place between 7th and 10th June: http://www.asiayogaconference.com
The conference offered an array of yoga teachers from around the world giving classes and lectures on everything from pranayama to Tantra, Ashtanga to Kundalini, from inversions to backbends.
And I’m happy to say I was impressed. The 6 classes I attended were all of an incredibly high quality, and not at all the impersonal ‘teacher shouting instructions to a thousand students through a headset while signing copies of their own book’ that I had, in my darkest moments on that ferry to Surat Thani, feared.
I returned to the bay tired but inspired, and asking myself the question (Sex and the City style): “When it comes to asana, what makes a great yoga teacher?”
And here are my thoughts (more bullet point, less Carrie Bradshaw)
- An inspiring yoga teacher is one who is themself inspired by yoga. They don’t have to say they are: you can feel it. A great yoga teacher adheres to their own personal practice, because to not do so would just not make sense to them… it’s as natural as their heart beat. They teach it because they love it.
- This is my body you are dealing with – I want you to know what you’re doing with it. I need to trust you. I want you to have enough knowledge to know that if my body is responding to this pose in that way, you have some idea of what is going on in there – and adjust me accordingly.
Clarity of Instructions
- A great asana teacher knows what instructions a student needs to hear so they aren’t thinking ‘But what about my left thigh, shouldn’t that be…?’ They know how a student’s mind works, how the body will best get into a pose, how long it takes to inhale and exhale. They know when to remind you to breathe. They know when to let you collapse into child’s pose.
So there I was in Danny Paradise’s Ashtanga class on the last day of the conference, and the Tequila shots I had downed on the dancefloor the previous night were not such a distant memory. In true Sanctuary style, I was balancing my detox with my retox – Tequila now, Ashtanga later.
However, to complete the picture, here is my exchange with Danny from the previous day:
Me: ‘Hi Danny, it says your class Journey of the Soul is open to all levels but I don’t actually practice Ashtanga… is this appropriate for me?’
DP: ’Sure no problem.’
And now here I was, after tumbling into bed straight from the dancefloor at 4.30am, doing second and third series standing poses with a teacher who thought this was fun.
At one point, he demonstrated a pose –playfully, creatively – (not words usually associated with Ashtanga, but this is what makes Danny a bit special) – that looked, frankly, anatomically impossible. In a class of 40 or so people, I figured if I just kind of bent over more or less in that direction, no one would notice and no one would care. Even I didn’t really care: I’d already written off my own ability to do this pose.
When who should spring up but Danny himself, laid back and casual, lying on his back to use his feet to help me get into position. And treating it like a given that I could, and would, just for the fun of it.
So I did.
Not too charismatic
- If, however, a yoga teacher is too charismatic, it becomes personality driven and more about them than about the teaching. And the teaching has so much to share – I don’t want to be distracted by the charisma. On the other hand, I’ve had some super dry middle England dog trainer types who were at the other end of the charisma spectrum… the Iyengar school in particular, seems to attract a lot of these…
- Its not absolutely necessary, but the occasional sprinkling of humour doesn’t go amiss. It may not be to everyone’s taste but I like it. And it just stops the yogis taking themselves so damn seriously.
In Hong Kong, Tasha attended classes with:
Danny Paradise, who was fun and free http://www.dannyparadise.com/
Scott Blossom, who was patient and informative http://www.shunyatayoga.com/
Jason Crandell, who was clear and knowledgeable http://jasonyoga.com/
Paul Dallaghan, who was funny! http://www.yoga-thailand.com/
Bernie Clark, who was wise and kind http://www.yinyoga.com/