In my last post, I mentioned wanting to “be better” as a yoga teacher. I credit much of my growth in the past three and a half years of teaching to continuing my education. The studio where I teach — Evolution Yoga School & Practice Space in Cleveland’s East side — is known for regularly bringing in world renowned teachers to provide us Northeast Ohio yogis with more opportunities to learn and grow. And as a vinyasa teacher interested in blending yoga philosophy with alignment and anatomy, I am incredibly excited about the next teacher that the studio is hosting later this month, Alexandria Crow.
You can get to know Alexandria a bit better over at her the about page on her Yoga Physics website. Speaking of, isn’t that beautiful? The idea of combining Yoga and Physics, the latter being defined as “concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy.” Thanks Google.
I had to opportunity to interview Alex before her visit to Evolution, asking her some questions inspired by the four workshops she’ll be teaching January 22-24. She kindly answered them with incredible consideration, humor and awareness…
On behalf of the Northeastern Ohio yoga community, Evolution Yoga is incredibly excited to host you in Cleveland this month. As you travel around the world sharing the practice and teachings of yoga, what are you noticing in your students — for the better or worse?
I’m thrilled to be able to teach at Evolution in Cleveland. I’ve been looking forward to freezing there….wait, I mean teaching there! Hahaha…
For better, there is a desire to learn at a much deeper level than existed in the broad audience a few years ago. Students and teachers seem to want to understand things at a much deeper and more intricate level than before and they seem to be getting more receptive to moving more slowly and with precision which I love.
For worse, there are a lot of injuries out there. A lot of them are happening in yoga class but aren’t being attributed to people’s practice. So often the practice – that is meant to heal – is actually hurting, but students don’t speak up and teachers don’t talk about it enough.
One of the workshops you’ll be teaching is called Practice Makes Progress. With much emphasis on advanced postures (especially as images of yogis are shared on social media), how do we still find and share enjoyment in the more foundational aspects of our asana practices?
I just answered this same question for Yoga Journal. Funnily, I don’t love fancy poses. I don’t do many of them myself anymore and I teach students that learning a handstand will not really bring you to enlightenment. The workshop is about making progress. Sure, we look at fancy poses as a tool, but what I look to teach people is that everyone is very unique. There is no pose that much be done in one way for everyone nor are all poses for everyone. Progress is about identifying what holds you personally back and working through it. Tf what holds you back is that your skeleton won’t allow you to wisely do a certain pose, then progress is throwing that pose out and not worrying about learning it anymore. I love the simple poses. They’re elegant and far more useful for every level of student than he very visually pleasing fancy ones.
Say a student was going to purchase one prop for their practice, which prop would you recommend and why?
A wood or cork block and a blanket….sorry, I can pick just one, although a single solid block will do in a pinch! There are so many postures that require the floor to be elevated up to a certain joint or body part, and there are so many actions students can learn from using a block that would otherwise be impossible. The only prop I use daily is a cork Manduka block and if you come to the workshops I’ll show you how I use it!
There is plenty of advice out there for brand new teachers. What would you say to a teacher who is about one to two years out from their original TT program and is ready to take the next step in their path as a yoga teacher?
Oh Lordy, one to two years out of training I still knew nothing! Even today, the only thing I’ve learned is that I still know nothing in the grand scheme of things and that fact keeps me interested and pushes me to challenge myself to broaden my understanding of things daily through my practice.
What I will say is at that stage, teachers are usually ready to start to break the rules wisely and safely a little bit when it comes to formatting a class. Sequencing with wisdom based on sound bio-mechanical principles is a great place to start to explore, become a little creative and to make your teaching a more personal expression of you!
Personally as a teacher grounded in and training in a lineage deeply rooted to tradition, I have noticed a trend towards teachers and studios “Westernizing” their classes. Do you have any tips for those of us trying to find the balance point in sharing the timeless philosophy of yoga in a modern way?
That’s all I’m ever trying to do as well! I am far more interested in the philosophical and energetic principles of yoga and how that pertains to the mind. To me, it’s more like psychotherapy than it is religion or exercise. There’s nothing about the tradition to fear. It’s not something that requires you to give up your religious beliefs or traditions. It’s something you use to learn about your mental and behavioral patterns as those interact with the world and with yourself. Yoga can be taught in a way that’s not devoid of the tradition, but can also be something that retains enough of the lineages’ practices and rituals so that it isn’t simply calisthenics. Teach people to pay attention really close through what ever tricks you’ve got personally and then get them to watch themselves from that focused place. Ask them to make choices out of only the information contained within the moment, even when their ego demands the alternative. If you’re doing that, you’re teaching yoga.
The growth potential for yoga in 2016 is endless. Where do you see it headed in the new year?
I see yoga headed down a gentler path, one of true healing. I see it becoming much more personalized and with a wider set of choices as far as types or classes, as well as types of trainings. I see it moving away from the fanciness portrayed on Instagram and into a more therapeutic realm. All of that makes me very excited!
I personally invite you to join Alexandria here in Northeastern Ohio this month at Evolution Yoga School & Practice Space on January 22-24.
Click over to the Evolution MINDBODY site to learn more about the four workshops she’ll be teaching and to register today to save your spot.
Use the promo code POISEINPARMA (yup, all caps, all one big word) to save $5 off individual workshops or $5 off the full weekend.
Learn more about Alexandria at yogaphysics.com, and give her a follow at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Many thanks to Alexandria for her time, energy and answers and making this interview possible. See you all at Evolution on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of this month for some Yoga Physics fun!
Disclosure: I am a member of the teaching staff at Evolution Yoga School and Practice Space. All photos c/o Alexandria Crow. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
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