Teaching People, Not Poses by Jay Fields offers 12 principles for teaching yoga with integrity. When I picked up the book three weeks ago at a friend’s apartment, I got chills as I began reading. Much more than a book about yoga, this concise manual unpacks some truths that lie at the heart of teaching. Here are her 12 principles:
- Be yourself.
- Show your vulnerability and your expertise.
- Teach from your own experience.
- If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
- Stay in your body.
- Don’t take it all so seriously.
- Remember that your students are people.
- Learn anatomy.
- Plan enough so that you can be spontaneous.
- Remember who and what supports you.
- Don’t try to please everyone.
While you may have to think a moment about how “Stay in your body” and “learn anatomy” transfer to the classroom, when you read the explanations that follow, it’s likely that you will discover what applies to you and your situation. “Learn your subject matter” is what came to my mind instead of anatomy, for instance.
What’s so remarkable about reading Jay’s fully open and honest account of her own journey as a yoga practitioner and teacher, is that she makes you feel right at home. She describes the awkwardness, vulnerability, hubris of teaching as readily as she captures the actual miracle of connection that applying the principles affords.
I could go on but I’d rather let Jay have the floor. (From the conclusion):
When it comes down to it, Teaching People, Not Poses is about having integrity. Integrity in the sense of being more whole. More yourself. Bringing together all the parts of you and not hiding or holding back.
But also integrity in terms of alignment. In this case, alignment with your truth, as opposed to contorting yourself to fit what other people expect of you…
If you’re willing as a teacher to go to the places that scare you, to soften when you want to get hard and to attend to the complexity of your life through your practice, your students will also learn to do so. And that means more people in your community and in our world who dare to live in integrity. And that, my friends, we need for oh so many reasons…
At the end of the day, Teaching People, Not Poses isn’t really only about teaching yoga. It’s about playing your part to help create a world full of people who have the courage and spirit to set aside fear and to live in alignment with their deepest, truest most full self.
It happens one person at a time. And it starts with you. You as you are right now, no transformation necessary.
Of all the resources available for teachers on how to improve our skills and develop our expertise, too few, I fear, address the needs of our teaching souls. Kid President can’t do it alone. The 12 principles offer nourishment and sustenance for teachers at every level. More tech and professional development and stiffer standards do not nourish teachers. If we want more teachers to stay for longer, we need to actively foster and strengthen each other’s capacity to live and teach with integrity. We have to do this because the system certainly will not. Reading and sharing Teaching People, Not Poses is an excellent first step in that direction.
Special thanks go to my dear friend and soul mate, Cathleen O’Connell, who introduced me to this life changing text.