Progressive Teaching | iHanuman


Love, Service, Devotion, Yoga

Progressive Teaching

As the yoga boom continues to grow and new studios pop up everywhere, the question arises of how to offer classes in order to appeal to both new and experienced students. Yoga studios usually choose one of two options for class registration. One option is class cards, where the student pays for a specific number of classes over a certain time period. This is often seen as most convenient for the student, as they can go to any class on the schedule without committing to any specific class.
The other registration option is based on sessions, in which the student signs up for an entire series of classes that meet at the same time, and with the same teacher, each week. To provide flexibility, there is usually a liberal make-up policy, so if the student can't get to their regular class, they can make up in another class of the same level at any time throughout the session. Since this requires a different kind of commitment from the student, far fewer yoga studios choose this option.
I have obviously chosen the latter system at Willow Street. I have done so because I believe the ultimate benefits for the student far outweigh the apparent convenience factor. (I say "apparent" because in a large yoga studio like Willow Street - the largest Anusara studio in the country - there are more make-up classes to choose from than in most studios using the class-card system.) In any endeavor - whether yoga, salsa dancing or bowling - if we want to do well, we must start at the beginning. Through intention, practice, and dedication, we gain an increasingly greater understanding of our object of study. By learning in a systematic way, we both develop our new skills well and feel good about ourselves as we progress.
At Willow Street, we call this Progressive Teaching. Over the session, teachers sequence classes progressively: each class builds on the previous classes. In this way, our teachers can take a student from "here to there" and students experience benefits no matter what their level of experience. Beginning students see a big difference over the course of a 10-14 week session in their strength, flexibility, posture, and ability to relax. Many even see a positive shift in their mental attitude. More advanced students continue to deepen their understanding and reach new levels of mental and physical capability.
With the class card system, however, students often find themselves in classes with students of different levels, from raw beginners to advanced practitioners. This is obviously not ideal for students, and extremely difficult for teachers. Since class-card students can usually drop in whereverthey want, at whatever level, teachers don't get to know them nearly as well as in session classes. Teachers don't see their students' bodies, their injuries or their tendencies on a regular basis, and therefore cannot help them in the same way. For teachers, it is a privilege and an honor to really get to know our students, to be able to help them out of pain and to see the contrasts in their bodies and their practices from the beginning to the end of a session.
One of the characteristics of progressive teaching is helping students understand how to break poses down into their component parts, and then to gain the skills necessary to master those parts systematically over time. This approach empowers students and increases their motivation to learn and practice. Progressive teaching also insures greater safety, allowing teachers to make sure students understand the proper alignment for each pose. Very well-trained teachers are also able to give students individualized adjustments in the poses, helping to facilitate their understanding of what is going on - and what is possible! - in their bodies.
All classes at Willow Street are rooted in the principles of Anusara Yoga, so students are immersed in one system rather than experiencing a smattering of different techniques and approaches. Progressive teaching is especially appropriate for Anusara Yoga, in which teachers have developed skills to identify the components of each pose in order to teach poses systematically. It takes a number of years for a teacher to earn Anusara Certification is not a month- or one-year-long program like those offered by many studios. (Even our own year- long Yoga Teacher Training program is just a first step toward gaining Anusara Certification.) Because of the depth of our teachers' training, combined with our progressive teaching style, Willow Street's classes provide results. When students see these results - in their bodies, minds, and spiritual development - they can't help but feel quite wonderful; teachers feel equally terrific, seeing changes in students they've come to know well.
In this way, progressive teaching helps to foster a community of individuals, each honored for their unique differences, talents, and journeys, all practicing a yoga system that exults the harmony and joy of a tightly-knit community. John Friend writes: "As a community, Anusara Yoga is well networked and organized, yet there is a strong emphasis on creative freedom and individuality. Everyone is aligned with the truth that Grace plays the key role in the successful flow of their practice, classes, and the community itself. . . . Anusara Yoga grows with harmony and integrity through the combined vision of our Anusara Yoga teachers to unveil the innate goodness, worthiness, and supreme nature of each student and every being."
I often get emails and calls from students, teachers and staff about how they are so happy and proud to be part of a community that feels like home to them. It is a place where they feel safe, a place where they can meet like-minded people, a sanctuary in which all are honored for intrinsic goodness. In Anusara Yoga, these are all descriptions of what we call a "kula".
I am very proud of our highly trained faculty and of our welcoming and efficient staff. I am equally proud of our students and their commitments: to coming to WSYC each week, to becoming happier in their bodies and minds, and to connecting to a deeper place in their hearts. I know that our system of progressive teaching fosters this commitment on all our parts and helps to make our community what it is today.
I hope you have had a joyous and play-filled summer, and look forward to seeing you all with the freshness of Fall.

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