WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE?
Group classes are typically dominated by aesthetics. The aesthetic approach to yoga asana is “what do I look like?” and implies that if you don’t look like the ‘ideal pose’, then something is wrong with you and maybe you should be fixed. Aesthetics believes that to master the body every pose should be achieved. It attempts to get every student to look the same in every posture, using concerted effort to make it happen, pushing further and trying harder.
vs WHAT DO I FEEL?
The functional approach to yoga asks “what do I feel?” It’s not a performance art — it’s introspective — it’s an “I do it because it feels good” art. It asks to know where you are and progress from there. Rather than jumping ahead at the expense of sthira and sukham (see post : the right pose). The functional approach advocates the use of props — blocks, belts, blankets, etc. — helping you gain the correct alignment suitable for your individual body.
Carefully consider the physical requirements of each asana and the class as a whole: physical strength, stamina, flexibility, risks, and contraindications. Let go of preconceptions about the students and classes. Instead, observe where they are and keep moving them from there. Instead of getting the student to look exactly like the intended pose, encourage the student to understand the intention behind the pose and that moving away from an aesthetically pleasing alignment is allowed. By doing this we can work with individual students to find ways to achieve the intention that works best for that student. How a student feels in a pose is his or her principle source of instruction and refinement.
There is no universal alignment cue — that is, there are no alignment cues that work for everybody. That is not to imply there are no principles of alignment. There are individual principles of alignment.
Alignment rigidity is a consequence of TT programmes trying to make it simpler to mass produce teachers,…At any time an art is constrained to mass production it will be simplified, codified and rigidified. Simpler is easier to teach and absorb, but it also leads to inaccurate generalisations, and intolerance of individuality… We cannot teach effectively with out some generalisations, but we haven’t reached maturity until we have outgrown generalisations and can completely focus on the unique needs of every student in every pose….The onus of continuing growth is on every yoga teacher to reach their full potential.- Paul Grilley
Stress is required for the health of our tissues, including our ligaments and our joints. Many aesthetically prohibited alignment positions that look awkward can actually provide healthy stress to a joint. Refraining from those alignments may rob students from healthy stresses.
While you can teach your students technique and provide them with sound biomechanical alignment principles in the individual asanas along with kinesiological principles of movement, the quality of balanced alignment is one that your students will begin to feel and develop through their personal practice.
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