Demonstrate Yoga

The phrase health and wellness industry is a very broad term.  And because of that, I wear many hats.  At any given point I might be a wellness coach, a personal trainer, a yoga instructor or a kids fitness coach for ReImagine Play.  Each of these hats includes instruction to lead clients or students from point A to point B.  Instruction often comes in one of three different cues- speaking about the exercise, demonstrating the exercise and then having the client try to own the exercise by having them perform said exercise.  

Most of us gravitate toward one of the following learning styles: auditory, visual or kinesthetic.  

Speaking from personal experience, I learn best through visual observation and then trying it myself.  This takes place throughout various areas of my life including the weight room or yoga studio, playing the guitar or learning a new sport.  So it made sense to me that while during yoga teacher training, our program suggested to demonstrate poses or shapes to the class, especially in a beginner style class.  This way, students would get the audio cues, see a suggested shape and then explore it within themselves.

And then there's another form of demonstration that is not taught in many programs (that I know of) but may become more mainstream.  What I mean by this is yoga teachers using their platform to discuss activism and politics.  There is much debate surrounding the subject of a yoga teacher's role when it comes to these subjects.  Yoga is about how we move, breathe, feel, act, speak, sit and/or rise.  I believe it is also an opportunity for us to provide inquiry about ourselves and the world around us.

Two weeks before the 2004 Bush/Kerry presidential election, I was sitting at a community table along with a mother and her 10 year old daughter at a local coffee shop in Alexandria, Virginia.  Sitting in chairs within four feet of us were two gentleman, one on his phone and the other reading a newspaper.  The one on his phone was having a heated political conversation with someone on the other end.  The guy reading the newspaper was disgruntled by what he was over-hearing.  Soon, they were in a full on argument, bashing each other and their respective political views.  It got to the point where the mother and child started looking concerned, and good for reason.  Management had to step and and ask them to leave.

I had been living in the Washington DC area for three years at that point (having moved there just three months prior to 9/11).  Politics were often the first subject when at a dinner party.  It was as if that was your only source of identity.  I no longer wanted to be in this scene and within eight weeks I packed my car, drove north to Boston and have been here ever since.

Not long after I arrived in Boston, a lot of changes began to take place in the Commonwealth.  A new governor is elected, same sex marriage is passed and RomneyCare (the model for the Affordable Care Act) is implemented.  

 A few years go by and now we are on the verge of electing our nation's first black president or our nation's first female president.  I was in a public class where the instructor was wearing an Obama tank-top.  One of the other students walked in and said aloud, "Man, I thought a yoga class would be the one space I could get away from all of this for even just an hour."  I was on the verge of completing my yoga teacher training at that point, so this was a lesson from afar.  Maybe this would have been a great opportunity for the instructor to provide inquiry.  But I don't remember that happening.

Fast forward to present day.  I am much more confident in who I am and what I stand for.  And to me, that means having deep conversations with friends or family where we come from different views but try to stand in their shoes (thanks Dr.Brunner).  And it means attending public demonstrations for causes that I strongly believe in.  Taking action for organizations that need help one way or another.  Our society is beginning to learn that actions speak loudly.  And while that may be off putting to some, holding true to who you are and what you stand for is demonstrating yoga in action.  

be well-