Falling Short of Knowing - Slides

Falling Short of Knowing V2

The Art of Asana

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The Art of Asana

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The Art of Asana

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Falling Short of Knowing - Slides

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The Art of Asana

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The Art of Asana

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The Art of Asana

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Course Manual- Module 1

The Art of Teaching Module One – Manual

Course Manual- Module 2

The Art of Teaching: Module Two- Manual

Course Manual- Module 3

The Art of Teaching: Module Three – Manual

Course Manual- Module 4

The Art of Teaching: Module Four – Manual

Webinar #10 - 11 AM

Time Stamp

Questions and Comments.


Q - 27:20

A - 27:38

Kathryn JensenMy question is concerning the concept of side lying having a tonality in the front and back body. 
Does this correlate with side-lying sleepers not being able to fully relax while sleeping because of the tone needed to support that shape?  

Side-lying body tone 


Pre-submitted Questions

and Answers 

Teaching Format, Small group work

Wendy M: Page 8 of Manual 2/Module 2 discusses alternatives to the dreaded and ubiquitous ‘drop-in’ class format in the form of 6-8 week classes, courses, workshops and/or the excellent suggestion of a deliberately smaller class (as a compromise between a 1:1 and a larger group class), beginning with an intake interview and a one-on-one lesson.I love the idea of the students in these smaller classes then doing their own tailored practice as designed during the first private lesson.Would the intake interview and the one-on-one lesson be separate/discrete elements/appointments?Would you be willing to please share the key components/questions/aspects of your intake interview?

Donna F: Let’s keep an open mind.  Many of the participants in the live training felt that there were also benefits to the drop-in structure.

Drop-in pluses:

~ ability to test the water

~ less intimidating for newcomers

~ chance to experience something new without having to make a large financial investment

~ people on limited income, the drop-in model might be cheaper than a course.

Intake interview/one-to-one lesson is a discrete element of a “personal practice” session structure.  It’s designed to set the stage for supervised personal practice in a small group setting.

Intake Interview is largely dependent on the type of class (for example a Spinal Health class might have very different questions than a class designed for Triathletes.  Some general questions might be:

• What are your goals in attending this class?

• What are some of the outcomes you’d like to achieve? (For instance, less anxiety, better sleep, weight loss, greater mobility, less back pain)

• Do you have any injuries or heath conditions that might affect your participation? 

• Have you had a clear medical diagnosis about the cause of your discomfort or pain?

• What modalities have your tried in the past?  Were there any that contributed to improvement or any that made your condition worse?

• Are there any movements or practices that make your condition worse?

• Are there any movements or practices that alleviate your discomfort?

During an intake, I focus on being present for the whole person.  I sense into which kosha appears “front and center” and is most in need of attention.  For instance, someone may come with a physical injury such as a frozen shoulder (Annamaya Kosha/Physical Body) but it becomes apparent that he is grieving the loss of his marriage (Manamaya Kosha/Emotional Body).  I might covertly choose practices that increase a sense of safety in order to allow these emotions a chance to surface and be more fully integrated.  I might also choose practices that lighten and lift the spirit such as flowing vinyasana.

Teaching 1 on 1's

Wendy M: Reading your suggestion of the tailored practice designed in the first private lesson got me thinking about using this approach when working with private students generally. Do you create a tailored practice for all of your 1:1 students? How do you ‘give’ this to them - as stick figure diagrams? I am wondering whether you suggest giving private students a set sequence to follow for a period of time, to be ‘co-evolved’ together depending on changing needs?

Donna F: For over 30 years the focus of my teaching has been group classes.  When I do take on a one-to-one student it is usually for a brief period of time to give them some guidelines for how to proceed.  While the student is in relaxation, I draw up notes/stick figures, although I’m sure there are yoga therapists who have more sophisticated ways of drawing up a practice plan (such as computer-generated images etc. . . ).  When the student returns for a second lesson we review how they are practicing the routine because often there has been a lack of retention or understanding of the practices.  This is also a time to find out if any practices have exacerbated a condition or been particularly helpful.  The practice does indeed co-evolve and my preference is to do at least three sessions.  The first session is getting to know the student.  The second is confirming the first practice plan.  And the third will be about augmenting the practice plan.

Students needs/ Expectations

Wendy M: To what extent do you tailor your classes (either now or in the past) to explicit requests from the more ‘forthcoming' students, or do you give suggestions/options to the individual students who present with or complain of specific ailments or health conditions rather than adapting the entire class plan to accommodate that one student? Of course, the ideal is to accommodate everyone by empowering them to give themselves permission to adapt/modify/opt out of anything that isn’t suitable for them on any given day, but knowing what students want or expect from the class generally is a little more difficult to deduce….

Donna F: I have not taught public classes for several decades but when I was teaching Fundamentals and ongoing 8-week courses I set the curriculum based on what I thought people would find useful.  Unfortunately, it’s often the case that people learning yoga (for instance, in their first year of study) do not know what is salient and important to learn and what is not.  That falls to the teacher to decide. 

In comparison, if you were a Spanish language teacher, there are basic skills of grammar and vocabulary that will be the same, no matter who you are teaching.  If, however, the students you are teaching are medical students, then you’d want to focus on medical terms and parts of the body.  If your students were culinary students you’d want to focus on the names of foods, spices and common recipe instructions. 

Similarly, there are basic skills that everyone needs when they come into a yoga class AND you can also tailor the material accordingly. If you are working with a small group of regular students you may glean from your experience with them, (or through active solicitation for feedback) what may be of benefit and value to those individuals. This information would help you to develop your class plans to align with their goals. 

While individual students do indeed have individual needs, in a group class you are necessarily painting with a broad brush.  If, however, you’ve instilled the idea of individuals adapting and varying the practices, people will make their own decisions about what they do or don’t do.  Also: even within a group class it’s possible to suggest that individuals do a specific practice in a different way (for instance, raising the hands onto a chair for a forward bend, or raising the hands onto blocks to make it easier to lunge forward in a Sun Salutation).  We don’t necessarily have to demonstrate this for the whole class but can make the suggestion discreetly to the individual. 

Archiving Classes

Wendy M: I am “old school” and have an embarrassingly large number of both scrap-paper scribbled notes and more neatly written-out class plans in multiple notebooks - filling my desk drawers. I rarely refer to them but can't bear to part with them! Then there are folders and notebooks from more formal teacher trainings. I wonder whether Donna (and any/all of my fellow course participants) would be willing to offer their suggestions or recommendations for archiving class content, or deciding what goes in the archive and what can be scrapped? Do you store these digitally or on paper, or both?

Donna F: Digital is probably the easiest way to preserve and organize your class plans, but if you depend heavily on drawings you may want to archive your written/drawn plans into folders by category/ individual classes/ longer clinics/weekend workshops/retreats.

Beginning Class Centering

Wendy M: I know there are no hard and fast rules here, but do you tend to mostly commence your class by gathering and centering whilst seated?Do you feel it is just as effective to commence a class by engaging in a body weather reading whilst the students are supine (in constructive rest, for example?) Of course, there are many different ways to begin a yoga class, however it seems that regular students like the consistency/familiarity of beginning a class in the same way, whatever that is.

Donna F: There are advantages and disadvantages to the positions used for gathering and centering at the beginning of a class.


   PROS: increases attentiveness and allows sightline to the teacher

   CONS: Can be uncomfortable for some individuals and for those inexperienced in sitting, duration will be limited.

Supine (Constructive Rest Position or Savasana):

   PROS: increases relaxation, ease, comfort

   CONS: People can become sleepy and drift off

Standing (Mountain Pose)

   PROS: Increases attentiveness, focus, engagement   

   CONS: If people are already fatigued, this isn’t an ideal starting position.  Also, for some individuals, standing can feel like a more vulnerable or intimidating starting place.

Given some of these distinctions you may want to change your starting position based on the energy of the group on the day.  For instance, a morning class may welcome starting in Mountain Pose, while a later evening class may welcome starting in a sitting or supine position.

You can also consider working with opposites.  If your students arrive very talkative, loud and somewhat scattered, then consider starting in sitting or supine positions.  If your students arrive in a dull, heavy or tamasic state, it might be useful to being in Mountain Pose.

Marketing & Social Media

Wendy M: To me, Instagram for yoga ‘branding’ is certainly a behemoth that I really struggle to befriend! We are told as teachers that in order to stand out we need a ’niche’, a unique selling point, a focus, a specialty. I do see the benefit of this if seeking to work with particular populations or underserved communities, or focusing on a particular area of study, for example, but I feel as if so, much of having a special area of focus ties in with this need for a “brand” as a point of distinction (however perhaps not necessary in a pedagogical model in which all levels and bodies are welcome?!)For those who are social media shy or have a conflicting relationship with such mediums, what do you see is the best way of “marketing” our offerings, especially if wanting to shift to selling longer-form courses (e.g. a 6- or 8-week course paid-for up front) if students have no prior experience of our teaching? Would you offer a money-back guarantee, a time-specific discount such as an “early bird rate”, a "2 for 1" deal, a ‘freebie’ in the form of a PDF or an article or God forbid, a short video? A free ‘exploratory’ phone call or discounted 1:1 session?

Donna F: I understand and appreciate the discomfort that many of us face in using social media.  At the same time, the use of print media (ads in Yoga Journal, posting flyers) now has fairly limited scope.  However, I think there is real value in the old-fashioned idea of “word of mouth”: if what you do appeals to people they talk to others and recommend your classes.  This is usually slow, but I rarely meet teachers who became overnight sensations: most gradually built-up a following over years if not decades.

Lucy Karnani has spoken about personalising classes: our marketing efforts can also be personalised.  When I started leading workshops nationally and internationally 75% of the people attending signed up because they had read one or more of my books.  They felt that they knew me through the personal voice that came through in my books.  They also had a fairly good idea of how I would approach my yoga classes. 

My question to you is how could you generate this more personal information about what you do?  Perhaps there’s a local paper that would love to have a regular columnist presenting a helpful practice?  If you have the capacity to write, perhaps you do a regular blog post through social media.  Or, perhaps every few months you offer a free introductory class for people who would like to give yoga a try.  You might generate three short videos that you offer through Facebook for free that link to a bigger offering (we use this strategy for selling my SIJ course through YogaUonline).

I tend to veer away from early bird offers or discounted sessions as this can devalue the currency of what we’re offering and make us into a “product” when we are really a “service”.

Spinal Flossing, Osteoperosis

Susan S: I've found the 'spinal flossing' really useful but I was wondering whether you think this is safe for older students with osteoporosis?

Donna F: If you are really concerned you should ask the student to check with their health practitioner.  That said, I’ve had students of all ages practice spinal flossing and I think if the towel is very narrow in diameter (no more than an inch/2.5 centimeters) and the clothe is soft and yielding, that the pulsing can really help to hydrate fascial and muscle tissue.  If it is done very gently the pulsing action of pushing from the feet may induce some of the benefits of weight bearing exercise such as walking and hopping. 

Keep in mind that one of the key contraindications in movement for those with osteoporsis is Flexion and Twisting because of increased loading into the vertebral bodies and the risk of fractures.  Spinal pulsing tends to take the spine into very mild extension.

You might also consider using a Be-Calm ball (  instead so that a very soft ball lies either side of the spinous process rather than crossing the spine itself. 

Another resource is the work of Feldenkrais teacher

Ruthy Alon.  She developed a program called “Bones for Life”.

Based on the Feldenkrais Method the Bones For Life program:

  • Cultivates a springy and dynamic walk
  • Aligns your posture for safer weight bearing
  • Develops your skill at restoring equilibrium
  • Stimulates bone strength
  • Helps prevent Osteoporosis
  • Develops dynamic movement safely for overall fitness
  • Develops the biological optimism of a reliable skeleton

Ruthy passed away in 2020.  If you wish to follow through there will undoubtedly be people continuing live trainings of Alon’s work.

Webinar #10 - 7 PM 

Time Stamp

Question or Comment


Q - 20:35

A - 20:57

Annkathrin K: I was just wondering why professional training or knowledge or wisdom doesn't appear with this "holding space" because I feel it does make a great difference whether I feel a person holding space knows what they are doing and also that they're training in a professional way. It doesn't appear on your layers and I was just curious about that.


C - 21:53

R - 22:38

Amanda M: Asks for feedback on the appropriateness of using humour as a tool for holding space...


Q - 23:41

A - 24.10

Jackie M: Could you please talk more about discernment, what it might mean and where does it come from?


C - 51:48

R - 56:25

Donna F: The leadership challenges of space hijackers.

Space Hijacking 

C - 57:36

R - 1:00:21

Eve G:  The importance of personal honesty for self-care.

Leadership and Self-care

Q - 1:03:32

A - 1:05:43 

Marielle B: Can you give some “how to” with regard to detachment? It remains difficult for me although it is one of the yogic pillars...