Rip up the lesson plan. By Lexie Williamson 

As the students filed in, settled on their mats and gazed at me expectantly I realised with a wave of panic that I’d forgotten my lesson plan.

I always have a lesson plan. Even if I barely glance at it, I like knowing it’s there – rows of stick men with bulbous heads, round feet and little smiles gesticulating, twisting and balancing across the page.

I plan every lesson, switching from shoulders to core to backbends to side bends, each lesson with an accompanying theme (‘the pauses between the breath’, ‘heart opening’ or just ‘lightness’).

I can’t help it. I’m a product of The British Wheel of Yoga machine and Rule Number 1 of BWY teacher training is plan, plan and plan.

Rule Number 2 is there must be a ‘peak posture’ to which you lead students as if on a mountaineering expedition. They are then guided slowly and safely down the other side to base camp and Savasana.

I’m sure that students are blissfully unaware (as they rightly should be) of the time and effort that goes in to teacher’s plans: the furious scribbling, editing and re-writing until it feels right.

So when I heard another teacher say we should be ‘artists not scientists’ and rip up these carefully crafted documents I was a little shocked.

The theory is that the plan stops you seeing and reacting to the needs of the students. There’s no point in doing heavy duty backbends if your students are stressed, tired or suffering with back problems.

Planning can also kill creativity. Sitting at the kitchen table with a pen and piece of paper will never spark the same ideas as moving and exploring. Just stand up and pick any pose and you’ll see.

I know plenty of teachers who stroll into a class and just fly by the seat of their pants.

To be fair, most of them are Ashtanga bunnies who have a basic structure of four or five rounds of Sun Salutations and various ‘series’ to explore.

But the idea of being artistic is appealing to most teachers, especially those like me who teach flow-style yoga.

So in the end I looked back at the class and made it up. It went surprisingly well: no boundaries or rules to adhere to, almost like a self-practice that just unfolds.

Scientist or Artist? I reckon a good yoga teacher is a nice mix of both.

Lexie Williamson is a yoga teacher and health and fitness writer (pulseyoga.co.uk)

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