On the fly

I read a yoga blog yesterday where the writer (also a yoga teacher) said explicitly that "all teachers must properly prepare their class ahead of time." I bristled at that line. I really don't do well with that sweeping statement. And here's why...

When I first started teaching, I meticulously planned out my classes, my music, my message - all of it. I had a notebook where I would write out my entire class. I would try to cram everything I knew into those early classes - back in the ol' proving myself days. I was cruising along, teaching small classes, following the sequences in my notebook. Then one day, a few months after I completed my teacher training, my teacher asked me to sub for them.

Holy fuck. There would be like fifty peeps in there. It needed to be my best class ever.  

I basically freaked out for a week. I diligently wrote everything in my little notebook and then made myself a cheat sheet of my planned sequence that I brought to class with me. I placed the little cheat sheet over by the music player. I took some deep breaths.

And... I sucked. It was hands down my worst class ever. I was totally paralyzed by my cheat sheet... and the fact that I was teaching all of my teaching peers. I spent most of the class over by the music player freaking out over whether I was doing the sequence the way I had written it down. I froze during one part of the class and had everyone in wide leg forward fold for what felt like twenty minutes. I was a total mess. I wasn't myself. Somehow I finished up the class, embarrassingly packed up my things and swore I would never make a cheat sheet again.

And I haven't. For me to be myself as a teacher, I need to feel the energy of the room. Yes, I have outlines and ideas and themes but I can't design an entire class sequence beforehand and stick to it. I can't paint by numbers. There have been times when I have a series or transition in mind, but everyone is exhausted and it doesn't work for that particular class and you need to shift it on the fly. It's important as a yoga teacher to tune into your students. I'm grateful to be able to pull from a self practice and repertoire of poses and sequences from my studies with other teachers to keep things interesting.

I also can't teach the same class sequence every day. Even if I tried, I couldn't. I'd be bored. Yoga is a creative outlet for me, a way to express myself and allow people to explore their bodies and limitations. I don't want to box myself into exactly following a class I prepared beforehand, it takes away part of the fun for me and the benefit to my students.

Yoga teachers... your thoughts? Would love to hear them!