When Yoga teachers step into a room to teach a yoga class, they have a plethora of choices before then. They can use a well researched and practiced script to guide the students toward an amazing asana, they can wing it and hope that what they know will come together in some decipherable way, they can choreograph a beautiful flow of movement and music, or they can show up for the conversation that is bound to unfold if they just listen.
Both students and teachers participate (knowingly or not) in a continual exchange of unspoken communication. Students are sending signals about how they are feeling in their minds and their bodies. They are communicating the emotions that sit on their heart. Even if no words are spoken. The job of a teacher is to be sensitive enough to "hear" these messages and skillful enough to adjust their classes to the needs of the students.
My teacher used to say, "meet the students where they are, then take them where you see that they can go." Often this means that we are meeting them at the end of a long workday or in the midst of physical or emotional pain. Many yoga students will choose to remain private about the distractions of their life, coming to yoga to seek solace from their stress and pain. However, there is a powerful communication happening even through the silence. As teachers, we must learn to hear the frequencies and impulses that arise from each student in our classes so that we don't railroad them with our "plan."
This exchange results in a conversation of sorts where it is as important to "listen" to the needs of our students as it is to direct them toward a goal. Listening in a yoga class happens in the spaces of silence. As teachers, when we are instructing a movement or refinement, we tune our eyes toward the ease or effort of our students. We listen intently to the flow of their breath. We tune in to the way they are expressing discomfort. Each of these nuances speak an unspoken language of receptivity or resistance. As teachers learn to listen, they can skillfully adjust even the most grandiose class plan to respond to the silent feedback from their students.
Students have an essential role in the conversation, too. The way the instructions of the teacher are received and integrated, as well as the level of tuning-in during the spaces of silence, are the opportunities to participate in the conversation. The more present the student is in the class, the more they will experience having their needs met by their teacher. And, the more this exchange flows back and forth from student to teacher, the more likely everyone is to have a profound experience that takes all involved "where they can go."
Just like the conversations in our lives, the more open, receptive, compassionate and honest we are, the deeper and more fulfilling the communication becomes. The science of Yoga is a powerful tool to take us to the place of infinite possibility and their are many guides out there ready to lead us. Let's begin the conversation.