Giving the practice back

Allowing students time and space to feel their yoga practice. By Paula Hines

After one of my workshops I received feedback from an attendee who I later learned was a fellow yoga teacher. This person expressed that they felt safe in my class and the space for personal exploration and autonomy meant that they felt able to adapt the practice to what they needed it to be. I took this as a positive thing. Yet, within a group, each individual is having their own experience of the same practice. I was really grateful for those comments and yet, it also reminded me that in offering the practice – as much as we may have a particular intention – we don’t know what the experience of each person receiving it will be.

Though I may be the person guiding the practice, I don’t think I’m dogmatic in my approach. I like to allow space. I like to encourage people to move at their own pace (though I’ve noticed most people’s pace tends to slow down over time). I like to offer options. My aim is to give the practice back to the student and not state how it ‘should’ feel for them. Maybe that is infuriating for the person who likes to be told what to do in quite direct terms (if that’s you then my classes are probably not for you!).

Yoga is for everybody, but I am not everybody’s teacher (and I feel no one person can truly be that).

While we all may have different approaches as teachers, I feel one thing that the majority of us have in common is keeping the safety of students central.

Teaching is a practice and after a decade of teaching I still very much feel this to be true. I continue to explore and refine how I can teach people rather than poses.

There are certainly things I do differently now in relation to teaching compared to a few years ago. And for as long as I teach and stay open, I am sure this will continue.

I do feel time is key. Theory is one thing, but in my experience I have found that some important things can only be truly embodied with time. I am grateful for ongoing practice and ongoing learning.

In the words of one of my icons, Dr. Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher and writer (ucanyoga.co.uk)

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.