Finding a Voice

I’ve been thinking a lot about language. Every yoga class provides an opportunity to listen. You can’t always see the teacher. I mean…down dog doesn’t leave much room to scan the studio. Half moon. Childs pose. You get my point? When we remove visual cues, voice becomes that much more important.

I’m sure there are teachers who find their voice right away. Its like they were born poised to deliver the most beautiful language, gently guiding me in and out of each pose, or enthusiastically hoisting me over the challenging moments simply by inflecting their tone. I envy these people, but I also venture to guess that those delivering cues well, practice their delivery. Birth voice can only get you so far.

As a hospital physical therapist, the environment governed (at least in part) the clinical nature of my language. I was creative within parameters, but ultimately the nature of medical documentation lends itself to clear and objective wording. Don’t get me wrong- my practice was still lighthearted and I’d sing “You Are My Sunshine,” any day of the week if it’d help a disheartened patient get out of bed. (Yes, that happened.) Ultimately though, I developed a more clinical, less creative “teaching” voice.

As a physical therapist, its impossible for me to forget anatomy and physiology. I speak anatomy fluently. Its comfortable. And if a teacher cues an entire class talking about the distance between my medial malleoli and the position of my humerus. I’m cool with it.

But as a student, I’ve come to truly appreciate and in fact crave creativity in language and delivery. I love when a restorative yoga teacher she speaks slowly, deliberately and repetitively, and uses words like, “sweetly, gently, receiving, and cradled” to usher me closer to relaxation. I love when a vinyasa teacher speaks with an enthusiasm that makes me feel like I can actually push my feet down so hard that it lifts my head up closer to the ceiling! That the yoga gods ARE holding on and reaching my hands closer to the sky! That maybe with practice I can take my heart and shove it up into my throat. She makes me believe! And I love when a teacher asks me to draw my right hip back and my left hip forward, rotate my lower ribs, and stabilize my shoulder girdle by engaging my rhomboids.

These fabulous yoginis are authentic to their spirit. And that is worth a million bucks.

As a new teacher, all I can say is I’m authentically- loving a combination of language! I want my teaching voice to include the best of what makes me as tick. So I may start by inviting you to breathe as though your filling up your belly like a balloon, then enthusiastically cheer for you when you make it into crow and also throw in a little lingo about your middle deltoids. Like yoga, teaching is a practice. I’m constantly trying on new wording as I teach class, but also listening to language as I take a class.

Take it as an experiment. See how your favorite teachers teach. See if language is even important to you? Do you gravitate to folks who demo? Folks who cheer, speak with precision or leave lots of quiet space in the room? What’s amazing about yoga is that its possible to find someone who can match your evolving needs on any given day. Sometimes you just have try a new class and listen.

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