Kumquat trees and class structures


November 26

Growing a thriving garden is often about accepting that some plants, no matter how much we love them, simply do not flourish in certain climates.  After almost twenty years of trying every strategy to get my kumquat trees to thrive (with no more than a handful of kumquats to show for years of labour), I have had to admit that kumquats simply do not grow well in the harsh climate of North Canterbury, New Zealand.  It took a long time to concede defeat, but in doing so it opened an entire stretch of sunny soil for a far more satisfying venture, a flower garden.  This time, every single plant has been selected for its frost hardy and drought tolerant abilities!  Now when I stroll along the flower border, I feel renewed excitement and a sense of the rich rewards to come.

What do kumquat trees have to do with class structures?  One of the big takeaways from our first cohort of the Art of Teaching, is the number of yoga teachers who are failing to thrive in the less-than-optimal framework of their class set-up.  Many feel uninspired, bored, and burned out through trying to deliver their best teaching within a context and climate that undermines their efforts at every turn.  Arguably, the advent of the “drop-in” class has been one of the key elements of the shift from yoga “school” to yoga “studio” and the devolution from cumulative to hodgepodge learning.  Requiring no formal commitment from participants, people of any experience level, with any health condition or injury, at any time or frequency, may attend.  With no foreknowledge of who’s showing up, class planning is a crapshoot at best and inevitably the butterfly attendees or the innocent new enrollee (who just happens to have complex lower back pain), will require the conscientious teacher to down shift the class content to the lowest common denominator.  Sadly, the students who suffer the most in this equation are those with the greatest commitment; the regular attendees who sincerely wish to progress and deepen their knowledge. 

“I feel like I’m teaching in the movie Groundhog Day”, relates one member of the course, and “I didn’t realize how tired I was from trying to make it work for everyone.”  Paradoxically, with the constraints of working in a global pandemic many teachers are returning to offering their own classes in their own way; working with smaller groups via Zoom and offering courses that not only serve students well but also allow teachers to plan, build their class material step-by-step, and feel the kind of satisfaction that comes with witnessing progress.  I believe this is not only good for yoga teachers, but also for yoga practitioners. 

As we round the corner into the coming new year, I’m hoping that you are finding inventive ways to both practice and, if you’re a teacher, to work in a way that leaves you feeling a sense of accomplishment.  If you are keen to reinvest in your teaching now is a good time to plan your calendar: the next Art of Teaching course starts May 4, 2022.  In the meantime, our livestream class schedule (which is almost finalized) will kick off February 2, 2022.  We’ll have that ready for you in a few week’s time.  Until then, may you be well.




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