Why I teach with a Theme


This is my bazillionth attempt to write a blog about teaching asana with themes.  It has been a train wreck trying to get to my computer for the last few days. And just now I'd typed half the thing when my computer just decided I wasn't writing what I was meant to write.. and so ate the thing and it is gone again.

Here it is.  I teach with themes because the themes touch my Heart.  Yoga has so much beautiful wisdom to offer.  Wisdom from centuries old texts like The Baghavad Gita, The Yoga Sutras, The Splendor of Recognition etc. that still speak to us in the modern age.  When I read from these texts or hear a teacher distill the teaching down to an essential nugget, some part of me recognizes a powerful Truth within it.  And, seeing as I'm not yet an enlightened being, I need the reminder. Regularly.  I need constant  reminding about the Truth that I already know but am not living within.

When I take a well-themed class I get the chance to remember and recollect some forgotten part of myself.  I walk away feeling more whole than when I went in.  Thank Goddess!

I theme to do the same for my students.  I forget. They forget.  The themes help us to remember.  When I teach with theme I include a story because story is how we connect with each other.  Instead of sitting around a campfire we are sitting in orderly rows on yoga mats, but the same thing is happening.  By weaving a tale and inviting students in I am making a space for shared experience.  Though the specifics of my stories are unique- the themes: doubt and remembering, frustration and clearing, struggling with accepting the world as it actually is rather than how I want it to be - are not unique at all. The themes are universal.  We all have struggle and pain and joy because we are human.  And when I invite students to reflect by giving an anchor point for attention and energy through the theme, I think they experience more than when I focus only on technical instruction.

The theme also reminds us why we are on the mat, helping us move beyond physical asana as the sole focus.  The Yoga Sutras remind us to be non-harming, to be friendly to others, to cultivate a burning desire to know the Absolute.  If I don't ever share these and other great ideas of yoga with my students, I'm only doing part of my job as a yoga instructor.  I'm no guru and don't ever mistake me for one. But I have learned a little bit more yoga philosophy than the average person walking down the street.  I choose to pass that along because, as I say, the wisdom has been around long enough that it has proven it's usefulness.  If a theme can unlock something inside of a student and that drives him or her to study with an enlightened teacher - then hooray! I'm happy to have started or enriched the process.

But mostly, I theme because every single time I teach I see the effects on the students.  They come in with the weight of the world on their shoulders.  They come in caught up in their own drama and stories.  When I introduce the theme they visibly lighten up.  They open their eyes.  They shift perspective just a little bit.  I hope that helps them alleviate their suffering if only for the 90 minutes that we are together.  It is rare that a month goes by that I don't hear from at least one student: "That was exactly what I needed to hear today"

And so, I do it for that student.  The one who comes in crying and doesn't tell me why but just says this is the only time in her whole week she feels safe. For the student with the deep dark secret that she finally feels free to share in part because she studies yoga and has steadied herself through its wisdom - and she sees me as being brave sharing my stories week after week. For the student going through the tough time who recognizes something so profound in a teaching that she tattoos a lotus onto her body so she never forgets how to rise up out the the mud.  For the student who comes for exercise and suddenly starts talking about taking his yoga off the mat.  

I do it because yoga has the power to change your life if you let it.  

Why would I ever hold back any part of what I know?