Learning to Teach, and Teaching to Learn – #4 by Mario Toon

As we’re counting down to the final few weekends of our YTT journey, we did a revision on teaching techniques for yoga classes.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “Teaching”. Not as a person in the position of teacher, but the act of passing down knowledge to others through ways both conventional and unorthodox. I’ve been lucky enough to have met a few teaching role models throughout my life, and they have always given me the motivation to teach, to pass down what I have learnt on to others, and learn from others during the process of teaching.

Having been an adjunct professor and a professional mentor in my short artistic career, I have always felt an immense sense of enjoyment and achievement when results showed. For me, the skill of teaching art was all about visual stimulation: when students got mentally exhausted halfway through class, I’d pull up a few pieces of artwork, get them all hyped up by telling them once they mastered the different art techniques this class, they could achieve similar results. As a professional mentor the process was slightly different; mentees knew what they needed from me, be it hands-on tutoring, or a piece of professional advice when they’re going through a tough time.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt nervous teaching art before, even when talking to a room full of industry veterans. “Every artist has a different approach, and while the process is important, what matters the most is the end result,” I’d say to colleagues that challenge my methods. “It is our responsibility as artists to inspire and ignite the audiences’ imaginations, and it’ll be a job well done when consumers get excited by the art we do, no matter the approach.”

Teaching yoga, though, is a whole new ball game. Granted, I haven’t had much experience in teaching yoga yet, but I’ve already spotted a few major differences. My philosophy in art is that the process doesn’t matter as much, as long as the final outcome is as desired. Process in Yoga, on the other hand, is what matters the most. Every body has its own unique history, be it a condition since birth, physical injuries, or just simple bodily wear and tear, we are all different, and therefore the process is what matters the most. And since we’re all different, the process is important in order to practice yoga properly and safely.

There are, however, also many similarities between the processes of teaching these two vastly different subjects, and the most important one, in my opinion, is the opportunity to learn from students. As peoples’ bodies are different, so are their physical attributes and the biggest I have experienced so far are differences between male and female students. Women are generally more flexible, and men are generally more muscular, and with many in between challenging the stereotypes, the Whats and Hows to teach will differ. It is an area which I’m really looking forward to learning more as I get more experience teaching.

I had the great opportunity of taking over a short part of Alexis’ Beginner Core class last Monday, and it made me realise how big of a difference it was between a yoga instructor and a practitioner. Everything had to be done with precision and a clear mind, and I magnificently struggled with both. Through out warm-ups and Surya Namaskar I experienced a vicious cycle of mini panic attacks that shortly happens after brain farts, which came after panicking. It was, however, a great learning experience which I am really thankful for.

As we’re nearing the end of the YTT, I’m looking forward to more teaching opportunities ahead, passing down all the valuable knowledge I’ve gotten through my yoga journey, and learning even more as I go on.