Why I Teach What I Teach
I'm from a family of educators and I'm a really good teacher. As a performer who sang, danced, and acted, there were certain expected paths for related employment: directing, vocal coaching, or teaching dance. I did direct a little, but that is as challenging a profession for women to succeed in as performing was. If I wanted to teach voice, I really felt I needed to go back to school which wasn't on my agenda when I had young children and was shifting away from performing. And I suck at choreography. If you can't put together good combinations, no one will take your dance class no matter how good you are at seeing bodies.
Around the time I was thinking of such possibilities, I found Ashtanga Yoga. It was helping my injured body get strong and healthy again. It had a set structure (no plotting out the class sequence), and I could get to know how individuals were progressing over time.
In my very first paying classes, I had a student with scleroderma. Her symptoms were mostly limited to her hands where the skin had no elasticity and she couldn't open her fingers up to place her palms on the floor. Could she participate? Of course! Yoga is for everyone. Or so I'd been told. But there was no manual on how to accommodate her needs. We eventually settled on a couple options (being on her forearms instead of her hands, and rolling another yoga mat up that she could curve her hands over when on all fours). That student attended my classes the entire two years I taught at that space.
I've been teaching yoga and movement for over 20 years now. The list of stuff I've made up to truly make a movement accessible to someone is long. I just figured out something yesterday for a private client who teaches figure skating. I had her bring her skates because she was experiencing a challenging and painful issue that was actually torquing her boot. I know nothing about figure skating, but I could see the difference in how she stood in the skates versus how she stood barefoot or in shoes. And right there, we figured out a micro-movement she could work on to ease the discomfort and to prevent torquing the new boots she will be purchasing next week.
As much fun as it used to be to watch someone achieve their first headstand, I find much more satisfaction helping someone not hurt at their job. When I hear that a student/client can now get down to and up off the floor which allows them to play with grandchildren, or that their back pain is gone, or that walking all day (at a museum, on a vacation, at an event) no longer makes their hips/knees/feet hurt --- when I hear of those successes, I feel my work is truly changing lives.
I don't want to diminish how exciting it is to help someone achieve a goal such as a headstand or a fancy yoga pose. It's really cool. But yoga should make your day better. So figuring out how that client could teach skating and not hurt is why I do this. It's why my classes skew older and/or injured. And it's why I still say, it's all yoga!
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Deep, and not so deep, thoughts on bodies, movement, yoga, art, shoes, parenting, dogs. You know, life.