Behind The Scenes – by Fiona Liu

People come to a yoga class for different reasons. Some for a tighter bum, some for toned abs, some for detoxification, and some for relaxation. Or sometimes, for all of the above. No matter what it is, they feel open and happy after a yoga class either because they are physically challenged in the class or they feel more in touch with their heart, or both.

Not many people have thought of how much hard work it is for a yoga teacher to prepare a class. When I was a novice teacher, it took me at least two hours to sequence a class, practice the sequence and remember it. I still do this weekly.

We arrive at the studio super early to set up the music, props and more to make sure our students walk into a peaceful and fresh atmosphere and that we’re present for when they come in the door. Afterwards we patiently answer any questions our students have and wait until everyone leaves.

During the class we need to adapt our sequence to the students in the class depending on their yoga experiences.

If a student collapses into the pose and overuses their flexibility of the joints, we need to change to a foundational version of our planned sequence. We need to cue the alignments carefully to help them be aware of how to move into the pose, fostering a clearer understanding of the body, rather than going too far and blocking the flow of the precious Prana (life force energy).

I like my classes to be a moving meditation so that the students are focused, present and awake; to move slowly so that they observe what’s arising from inside, to explore the relationship with themselves, with both body and mind nourished through the practice.

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Fiona Liu

We also need to make sure –

Our voice reaches every corner of the room
We are not talking at the students, but engaging with them
We give them the physical challenge and some food for thought
We look after the newbies and remind the experienced to still take it slow and practice with a beginner’s mind
We place ourselves somewhere all students can see us demonstrate
We connect with students through words, touch or gaze.

In other words, we are multi-tasking.

My teaching has evolved over the last five years when I attended more training with various teachers like Sarah Powers and Tiffany Cruikshank, and cultivated a consistent home practice (physical and meditation practice). It has become more mindful, meditative and simple. Home practice and attending other teachers’ classes has nourished my body and soul with more care and inspiration. If we don’t have a strong (here it means regular) practice we can easily feel burnt out and there is nothing to offer. As a result classes can be dry and mechanical.

New teachers may try to change the sequences every time and be different from others. However when our teaching becomes authentic and true to ourselves, we will naturally stop trying to be different because being the authentic individual self is already unique, special and beautiful.

Inevitably we develop a strong and close relationship with regular students, especially in private sessions. Over time we are able to read their energy when they walk in and intuitively know that we need to offer more space one day and physically challenge them more in class another day. We know to be attentive, to be with them, and just be a great listener. Clients also trust us with the stories of their lives, which we respectfully keep to ourselves.

Yoga practice and teaching is part of my life now and I endeavor to study with local and international teachers at least once a year to nourish my soul. I have a mindfulness mentor from Sarah Powers’ Insight Yoga Institute as a support and reminder to treat myself with loving kindness, so that I can serve others in a loving and compassionate way.

Many people innocently say to us ‘you must be relaxed all the time as you teach yoga’. Ha!

It’s like any other job: We experience ups and downs, we can be stressed and we need to work overtime. And despite all that, I LOVE MY JOB (I prefer to say it’s a Creative Expression)!

After all these years of yoga teaching and practicing –

I understand life more
I am more open and welcome life as life happens for us
I have developed a better relationship with myself
I have developed better relationships with others
I experience more stillness no matter where I am.

Fiona is a yoga teacher, student and co-owner / co-director of two Auckland studios.

(We were also fortunate to have Fiona as our first Featured Yogi!)

© The Yoga Connection 2016

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