Saturday, April 18, 2009

My two cents regarding silence vs. silliness ...

So here's what I think.

Children develop at different rates right? For instance, sometimes a 9 month old begins running while a sturdy 18 month year old has yet to take a step. Eventually though, almost all children who do not have other disabilities learn to walk and run.

I feel the same way about yoga class. It is the rare beginner who can take in all that we are attempting in a yoga class (new breathing techniques, developing still and meditative mind, complex asana/pose directions) and also cope with noise and distraction. For this reason I attempt to keep my beginner classes as soothing and mindful as I can. I want people to have the best possible experience that they can and a soothing environment is key. Some people can handle extraneous sounds (like cell phones) but most are distracted by it in the beginning.

(Having said that though, I never make people feel badly about their phones ringing accidentally in class because that is contrary to the precepts of loving-kindness and acceptance that I personally aspire to in my life and practice.)

For the more experienced practitioners however, I like to add a little more zing to class. Do you remember the first time you drove a car with the radio on? Did it take a little getting used to? Probably. Did it eventually make the drive a little easier or interesting? Maybe. Changing the environment doesn't necessarily "negate" from the overall goal which is to be a good/focused driver no matter what you hear on the radio. Do I think that driving with a cell phone clamped to your ear is a good idea? NOPE. Moderation in all things, even distractions.

So in my intermediate classes and even towards the end of term in my beginners classes I encourage a little silliness or playfulness. Going off focus and then regrouping is a fairly important skill to cultivate both on and OFF of the yoga mat. Do I think it should be a free for all? No. Do I think there is a place for laughter and even a little zaniness in a yoga class? You betcha. Meowing and mooing through Cat/Cow sequences is liberating and adds a whole new layer of focus to the pose through new sensations and feelings. I actually get requests regularly for this one because it is such fun and feels so good. By the time we get to relaxation (corpse) pose at the end of each class we are all regrouped into that sacred space of peace and release. It is from here, irregardless of what else has transpired in class, that we move forward into our day with equanimity and balance.

Just my two cents worth of course. Perhaps too much mooing and meowing has addled my brain...

Woof Woof,

Jan

6 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I think you would be a good yoga teacher, and silliness can be helpful!

I have to admit, I'm not good at yoga, AT ALL. I find pilates a bit easier for me.

PetalsYoga said...

Thanks Kristina,

I have a feeling based on your blog that we would have a LOT of fun together in a yoga class!

;-)

p.s. My belly still shakes like a bowl full of jelly in pilates class, so that would be funny too!

3 Bay B Chicks said...

You would definitely get a hearty laugh at my expense, should I ever have the pleasure of taking a yoga class from you. I don't like bare feet, people who smell when they sweat, or hot places.

I am a real treat to deal with! :) However, I am super good at laughing at myself too.

-Francesca

bodaat said...

I might have to try out some of this meowing and mooing!

Eco Yogini said...

I was just thinking about this very thing the other day!

For the longest time, as a student, I thought that I would prefer quieter classes, I didn't appreciate the 'moaning' of other students, chatter and especially cell phones ringing!
But then, I entered a 'moksha' studio where there is a 'silence' rule... it was weird. I felt strangely disconnected from the other yogi/ni's in the class. I felt guilty if I stumbled and wanted to chuckle quietly to myself....

I like your strategies, silliness does have a place, along with silence. I think you have the perfect balance :)

PetalsYoga said...

Francesca, Bodaat, and Eco,

I bet we'd have so much fun together in a class! Come to Portland and we'll make silly animal noises together. I'll even lead us through laughter yoga....

Hugs to you all,

Jan