By Brad Young, Guest Contributor
Script (verb): to plan or devise; make arrangements for
The week-long festivities were scripted by a team of experts.
One of the most common obstacles that new and experienced yoga teachers face is the trap of falling into teaching from a script. A script is the resulting words that are said in a yoga class when a teacher is speaking from inside his or her own head or from what he or she already knows (knowledge). This trap is so common, that I’d be willing to bet every single yoga teacher has been or will be scripted at some point in his or her evolution as a teacher. Even teachers we consider “master yoga teachers” likely experienced this trap at some point, if not still.
Now, let me be clear. Being stuck in a script (or a cluster of mini scripts put together as a class) isn’t a sin, nor is it wrong or bad. In fact, one of our main mechanisms for survival as human beings is to identify strategies that work and then repeat them to stay safe and enjoy personal success.
When teaching yoga, or even living life fully for that matter, communicating from a scripted place comes with it’s own set of limitations, the most significant one being the inability to create connection with our students.
Yoga literally means union, which is defined as “the state of being united.” Doesn’t that sound a lot like the state of being connected? If you ever wondered why you loved a certain teacher’s class but couldn’t put your finger on why, consider that it was the connection that you felt with the teacher and the connection the teacher felt with you.
Here are some tips to practice to step out of your script and into effective teaching and the experience of connection.
1. Go into your class without any plan at all. I’m not saying make up your sequence as you go. Having a skeleton sequence in mind is an important element for teaching asana. I know, it can be terrifying at first to not have a plan, but trust me, it pays off in the long run for everyone. Dropping your safety net takes vulnerability. Consider that, in a vulnerable state, the defenselessness you experience opens you up to a shared or connected state with your students. If you’ve ever experienced burnout in teaching, rekindle your love for teaching by looking here first.
2. Drop your concern for looking good. Literally, step out of your own way of trying to get it right or perfect and instead get vulnerable. Trying to look good and get it right is what created the script in the first place. Teaching from knowledge (script) feels safe, and the teacher appears to look good, but it leaves the students (and teacher) disconnected from the present moment.
3. Come from “I don’t know.” This is one of the most heightened spiritual states of awareness. Being an expert on all-things asana puts a wall between you and your students where you “know more” than the next person, leaving students in an experience of “separate from” which is very different than “connected to.” Consider that memorized book knowledge isn’t what makes an effective yoga teacher. Being curiously engaged with the students in the room makes all the difference in their experience of the class.
4. Practice not knowing “how” to do something and create it anyway. If we waited until we knew how to do something, none of us would ever learn to walk. We learn by failing (or in a baby’s case, falling). Our greatest learning will be in our failures, and so having a transformed relationship with failure and success can set a teacher’s expression free from being constrained. How much more free would you be if you looked at failing and succeeding as the same?
5. Use space to look and listen to what is relevant in one person’s body. How can teachers possibly be teaching to what they’re seeing in front of them if they haven’t taken the time to look at someone’s body and then give the student exactly what he or she needs? It’s not possible. When teaching to what’s actually missing and what’s possible, the immediate noticeable change is an increase in the amount of silence and space in the room. Not only will students appreciate the space, but you’ll love the curiosity that arises out of using space. It’s a win-win for everyone!
6. Use drishti to inform your speaking. Use what you see actually missing in one person in the objective space to dictate the words you use. Put your eyes on one part of one person’s body and be at cause for making an impact in that person’s body. Have a result in mind when speaking into a body and stand for what you want to have happen in that moment. You’ll notice that the students will pick up on the fact that you’re really looking and seeing them, and they’ll listen in a whole different way.
7. Get present to what script sounds like and interrupt it. Two immediate tip-offs that a teacher is in his or her own head are (1) when they speak conceptually and (2) when they are describing the practice as it occurs for them.
A concept is something that exists as an idea or a notion. It’s an object of thought as opposed to an object in physical reality. When a teacher is conceptually speaking, he or she is speaking from within his or her own head (the opposite of presence and thus disconnected). An example of a concept is “open your heart” or “strong core.” These phrases represent the ideas (or concepts) of past experiences the teacher may have had in his or her own body during practice. A past experience is the first degree of separation from the present moment.
When a teacher says “palms press down” or “right leg lifts” or “squeezing your shoulders together,” it’s actually the case that this is how an action in the body occurs for the teacher inside of his or her own experience (also inside of the teacher's head), disconnected from the objective world.
Consider that, if your words sound “pretty,” they probably don't make sense to 100% of your students. Cues that are direct, like “spread your fingers,” are likely to have the greatest chance of getting the result you want for all of your students.
If you catch yourself slipping into your script, STOP, pause, be silent, put your drishti back onto the body part that you want to transform, and trust that the words will be there exactly when you need them—not a moment too soon, or a moment too late.
8. Start now, and go for it. The longer you teach from your knowledge and script, the longer it will take to break that habit and get present with what’s happening and will impact your students. No matter how long you’ve been teaching the same way, you can still turn it around. You just have to take the first leap and you’ll never want to go back.
Whether you’ve been teaching for years or you’re about to step into your first class, these 8 tips can have a huge impact on your ability to deliver powerful yoga classes. It can be scary to “jump ship” on something that has seemingly worked for you up until this point. Your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and into a vulnerable space comes with a great reward—true connection.
Brad fell in love with yoga when a friend urged him to attend a Baptiste Yoga class. He remembers his friend telling him that this day would be the greatest day of his whole life, and after Brad left that first class, it felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. Brad dabbled with different styles of yoga, but kept coming back to the Baptiste practice, which is now anchored in his bones as a true first love.
Brad realized that he could spend his entire life trying to be something that didn't feel true inside at the expense of really living his life fully. He left his corporate job at NBC to take on a greater meaning and purpose in his life. He has completed Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 with Baron Baptists and is currently a member of the FIT to Lead Program. He is the owner of Hotbox Yoga, a Baptiste Affiliate Studio in Philadelphia and is a Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher.
Brad has watched yoga transform multiple facets of his life off of the mat. He believes yoga is about being loving and true with everyone in our lives, dropping our inauthenticities, and living in the now.