Today's post offers three tips to anyone who teaches anything, but especially to those who jive with the philosophy of Qoya. Here's a quick update on the philosophy of Qoya for those of you who are new or haven't fully experienced it yet. Qoya is based on the idea that through movement we remember. We remember and honor what the physical sensation of the pulse of life running through us feels like. We remember our essence is Wise, Wild and Free. Qoya encourages us to consciously attune with our life force through movement and dance in the place of pure possibility and deep connection.
In a sentence, we honor the divine by remembering how to locate it in our own body.
These steps are three things to keep in mind when teaching in a way that truly honors the divine in the people you are teaching. Qoya is taught in a class format, and most of the examples are from that setting, however I am hopeful that you can easily apply these to whatever your situation may be.
1) Building Up vs. Tearing Down
To "build up" a student and invite them to the next step while teaching warrior pose in our Dancing Warrior series in Qoya, I would say, “Make sure you feel connected to the floor through your feet. Take a deep breath and as you exhale bending your right knee, melt into the stretch in your hips and come down until you feel a stretching sensation. As you stretch, keep your strength and stability. It doesn’t matter how deep you go, you just want to open up from where you are.”
Tearing down a student is never intentional but can sneak under the radar of the most experienced teachers. It can be so subtle to simply instruct in a way that first states the ideal and then asks you to work backwards. It could sound like this “Take a deep breath and bend your right knee coming down until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. If you can’t get your hips all the way down because they are too tight, that’s normal and it may hurt a little bit, but stay with it.”
Do you notice a difference? The first example of building up, honors exactly where the person is and invites them to notice their intelligent edge and then work at that spot. The second example plants or reinforces the more negative beliefs that (1) I’m not flexible/strong enough to do this pose, (2) I’m not getting it or (3) I’m not as good as everyone else. I have been teaching various forms of movements for more than 10 years and these are things I’ve heard hundreds of students say that they feel about themselves in class, which are (a) not true and (b) not helpful.
Teaching, learning and/or practicing Qoya, or any other form of movement, isn’t about reaching a generic ideal. It is about cultivating an ever evolving relationship with your body that honors its strengths and is conscious and patient of its challenges as they heal and evolve. It is about doing the very best you can in each moment, celebrating your accomplishments along the way and having as much fun as possible. The more you are able to teach in a way that builds people up, it will be fuel for their fire. Realize that everyone, conscious or not, is wired to grow. As a teacher, honor where they are and invite them to the next step.
2) Conscious Complimenting
Of course, we always mean well and it comes from a sincere place, but there is lack of true connection when you are teaching a class and saying “Good job” to every student in the same obligatory tone that you say “Bless you" to the random person on the subway you will likely never see again.
“Good job Mike.”
“Good job Sarah.”
“Good job Joanie.”
“Good job Joey.”
When encouraging someone, there is an easy way to compliment consciously that feels authentic, builds a stronger relationship with the individual and simultaneously creates value to others.
Instead of a basic peanut butter and jelly, “Good Job Jennifer”, how about an organic homemade almond butter and raspberry jam sandwich on toasted whole grain, “Good job Jennifer staying rooted through your feet as you lift up into your backbend.” That way Jennifer knows why she is being praised, everyone else in the room gets to continue to receive instruction that they can apply to themselves and the teacher is able to share their voice by offering their unique perspective. It’s a win-win-win.
3- Teach in a Way They Can Learn How to Navigate Themselves When You're Not There
Every time I teach a breathing exercise or the rhythmic sun salutations in Qoya, I give full guidance through the first two sets and then I let them know that on the third set they are on their own. Even if it’s their first class, it’s ok. I encourage them to trust their body to lead the way, and to notice their inner voice and call it into the driver seat, instead of lounging in the passenger seat. You don’t want your students to just be sheep in your herd, you want them to be able to learn and then apply what you're teaching them to their own lives even when- especially when- you are not there. The only way for them to learn this is through their own experience. It may be a little uncomfortable for them and for you. You may feel initially like you need to talk them through every single motion they make. They may initially feel like they need you to talk them through every move they make because they don’t know how to do it themselves.
The truth is, when it comes to movement, and most things, we know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for and one of the best things we can learn is how to develop our own intuition, and act on it. That skill is more valuable than anything else. Believe in your students and teach them how to navigate themselves. It's like the proverb, Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Or in this case, invite a woman to an amazing experience and she'll smile for a day. Teach her how to access everything she needs through her own body and soul and she'll smile, thrive and dance for a lifetime.
Experience Qoya! Qoya classes are beginning again in Manhattan, Tuesday mornings at 10am and Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm every Tuesday in July at the Bhakti Center in the East Village. Click here to register or get more details on classes in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Get back into your body with a weekend immersion with Qoya in Woodstock over Labor Day Weekend. Move your body and sweat your prayers in class each morning. Take the afternoon for a long overdue massage, nap or time in nature. Join us for rituals in the evening. Eat healthy all weekend with delicious organic vegetarian meals prepared for you. Get to know amazing women from all over who are gathering because they all feel the call. This is a weekend you won't forget. Register here.
Thank you for your support of Qoya! Please share this on your facebook and/or twitter if you feel it would be of service to your circles. I look forward to dancing with you soon.
With love and gratitude,