“There is no groaning in Yoga” I demand playfully as we push on with the particularly long sequence. The truth is, I love to get the feedback, feedback of any sort. Yogis are so hard to read most of the time. Of course, the yogi led flat on her back staring at the ceiling while we attempt an arm balance is a good clue, at least to her particular view of proceedings. Rolling up the mat and making a swift exit is also another indicator my “spidey senses” have learned to pounce on. This one is a big deal because it takes a lot of guts to walk out of a class. I know, having personally endured hours of excruciating workshops taught by a so called, or was that self professed, expert. I have even allowed myself to get injured at the hands of someone whose class, I knew after 5 minutes, I should have left.
Voting with their feet is, of course, what all Yogis do over time. They just don’t come back to the classes they don’t like and the teachers they don’t resonate with. Does one bad class loose them forever? If it’s their first time in your class then absolutely they are lost. We can’t make people like us but how do we spot the tale-tale signs? The body language, no pun intended, that says things are going well.
I took a class one from a teacher that did not make eye contact with me, or anyone else as far as I could tell, for the whole class. It was a weird, impersonal, experience like yoga in the 3rd person or a live version of one of those Yoga videos, only without the Hawaii beach location, sun, cheesy smiles and snail’s pace progression. I wanted to say something to her “I am here, look at me, and acknowledge I am in your class.” But I didn’t, I let my feet do the talking, after class.
I try hard to make eye contact with my students. They don’t always return the favor.
The quick glance that seems to say “don’t look, leave me alone, I know I am not doing it right.” Or perhaps it’s like that look after a big argument “Don’t make me smile. I am still mad at you.” Or “can’t look for long or I will fall over” Or does it mean “help, notice me, and acknowledge I am in your class.” The quick glance means “leave me alone” …. I think.
Then there is the serious stare, little eye contact coming back with this one. What is behind that frozen face? Maybe it’s “Ommmmm” lost in the moment or “When will this class be over, will he ever pick a pose I can do?” or perhaps “did I leave the gas on? What shall we have for dinner later? Wait what was that last pose he called out?” They are either having a great time or can’t wait to leave and I will only know at the end of class, unless they leave early of course.
The smile, this one is always good to see. Sometimes people smile all through class, I tried it once, it’s really hard to do. Try it in your next class it is easily as hard and maintaining Uddiyan Bandha (The stomach lock) for the entire class.
“Locate the two muscles either side of the mouth and pull them back towards you ears” There now they are smiling, or if they are not, there’s the clue as to who will not be back next week.
Sounds are my favorite feedback mechanism, a little hard to interpret sometimes but always fun. A lot of teachers ask to hear the class breathe, we are even taught this in teacher training. “You can understand and control the class by listening to the breathing”. Yes sure in an advanced vinyasa class perhaps, what about the slow classes or the beginner class. Here are some other indicators I have heard, that they don’t tell you about at teacher training.
- The groan of pleasure, not the “x” rated kind, more a pleasant “ah feels good to get the leg behind the head at last” kind of moan.
- The groan of dis-pleasure. “Yikes! Better make sure there is a child’s pose ahead”
- The groan of pleasure, the “x” rated kind. It’s like that deli scene from “When Harry met Sally.” Not sure if I should slowdown or speed up. Enough said I think, at least they seemed to be enjoying it.
- The “Uhh” Michael Jackson like, and like Michael in his songs, I am never sure how to interpret the sound.
- The “Ahh” – in a good way, always nice to hear, must be doing something right.
- The “Ahhh” – the face plant, not so good to hear. Come to think of it I have only ever heard a face plant, I have never actually seen one. This always happens just as I am looking the other way.
The “Ahhhhhhhh” – this one happened in class today, it was a good thing!
- The “Mmmmm” this one I hear mostly as I do shoulder adjustments in Savasana.
- The cheer “yeah.” I love this one. There is a cheer leader in my morning class. She always cheers when we get to pigeon. So we always do pigeon when she is in class. See feedback works to feed this fragile ego
I have never found listening to the breath very helpful. Giving additional options works better for me. Making chataranga optional once the class gets going. If people are still doing chataranga I need to throw some harder stuff in.
Rest in downdog, if you want more, take dolphin, want more take one leg in the air, still want more, take both legs in the air.
This morning I had to announce to the class I have been subbing off an on for nearly a year, that I will be stopping. I have been offered my own prime time Saturday morning slot at another studio. I am going to miss them, I think some of them might even miss me too. Can’t be sure though, because there was no groaning, “there’s no groaning in yoga.”