As I am about to take the basic yoga teacher training, I reflect on my own favorite teachers and what makes them so.
This past weekend, I went to two yoga classes, one, taught by Sean, another one, by someone else. Both were productive and enjoyable. Both teachers are thoughtful, intelligent, dedicated, and competent. Both are well spoken, kind, and handsome :-).
There were more than 50 students in Sean’s class. There were 13 students in the other class. The classes were at the same location, and, arguably, at comparable times.
Just over a year ago, in both tango and yoga, I felt stuck in a place where I hadn’t approached any level of mastery, but no teacher would show a direction out of the quagmire. Then, around the same time, I met dot (the tango resolution is somewhat covered here) and Sean. In the first Sean’s class I took, we worked on the shoulders. I wasn’t happy to hear that announced at all, because I carry a lot of tension in the neck and shoulders. More often than not “shoulder work” meant too much no good pain. In that class Sean explained how to get into the side plank, among other poses, in a way that’s supportive, without the tension. It was laid out move by move clearly and simply, yet like nobody managed to do before.
Subsequent classes showed that was Sean’s trademark: get to the depth of familiar poses and concepts through a carefully designed sequence that illuminates the relevant aspects of strength and flexibility in a way that makes perfect sense, yet nobody else goes there. This past Sunday we got into the back bends via breathing into the side ribs, pushing shoulder blades into the heart, and opening fronts of hip joints; makes sense, right?
Then there are stories and jokes. Last Summer, Sean told many stories and was over the top funny. That was entertaining, but I also wonder if that was a manifestation of him facing major changes in life. I don’t fall over from laughing as much as I used to in his classes, and there are fewer stories these days, but he consistently presents with humor, humility, and humanity, just another guy, as if slightly surprised that he happened to be the teacher. He is meticulously prepared for the classes notwithstanding.
Finally, one more secret special ingredient that should not be secret or special; anyone who is out to transform hearts and minds should be doing this. I’ll illustrate.
My very first class with Sean. I walk in a few minutes early. There are already upwards of 30 people there, finding spaces, getting props, etc. It’s hectic. Sean walks up to me and says: “Hi, my name is Sean. What’s your name?” Immediately, I feel welcome, important, and belonging. It took him two occasions to memorize my name. He walks around before each class and meets and greets as many students as possible. Then he remembers most names. This is the man who has 50+ people in his class on a day when everyone is out of town or too hot to do anything. During the class, he acknowledges and addresses students by names.
When I leave his classes, I feel enlightenment and belonging and see that there is a lot left to learn.