You’ve just sat down for lunch with a new work colleague and the waiter arrives with two glasses of sparkling water. As you peruse the menu your colleague asks you:
“Do you think I should drink this? And if so, how much should I drink? Should I drink it in little sips or in one long draught? Will you let me know if this cold drink triggers my tooth sensitivity? Could it be that I need two glasses of water today? Can you tell me when I have quenched my thirst? Perhaps I’ve made a mistake . . . should I have ordered a hot cup of green tea instead?”
No doubt you would think it very odd to be asked such questions. You might even question the sanity of your new workmate. And if there were a caption bubble over your head it would likely read “How am I supposed to know?” Indeed, how would you determine when your workmate had quenched their thirst and whether they needed another glass? Yet when we change context and enter a yoga space we often hear very similar questions that have been normalized within our teaching methodologies whereby teachers assume custody of the student’s body and make decisions on behalf of the other person. More important and more disturbingly, many teachers have fallen into the trap of truly believing that it’s possible to know from the outside what is happening within the student’s experience. How often have you heard these questions?
How should this feel?
How long should I stay in this posture?
How many times should I repeat this movement?
When should I come out?
How deep should I go in this stretch? And . . .
Should this feel . . . painful?
Whether you’ve been teaching for a year or for two decades it’s likely that you’ve been asked questions like these in many of your classes. And while it might be tempting to summarily give an answer, the expedience of that response is inevitably short-lived when one considers the long-term dependency created when a student hands over agency to you and in so doing abdicates responsibility for their own welfare. It is, of course, useful and necessary to offer safe guidelines and perimeters for practice, and certainly the more extensive experience of a teacher can and should expedite learning whenever possible. But of equal or greater value is helping others to help themselves: to develop confidence in their own perceptions and to trust in their ability to be guided by those perceptions. To accomplish this movement from what I call “outer referencing” (or the tendency to see the teacher as the first port-of-call for every uncertainty) to “inner referencing” (or the ability to sense and feel into one’s direct bodily experience and to act, deduct, adapt and evolve one’s choices), we need far more than knowledge of postures, practices and sequences.
We need a cohesive pedagogic methodology that turns the historical models for teaching from the outside-in literally inside-out.
I’ve discovered over many years of teaching and training teachers that the habit of telling others what to do and how to do it is now completely baked into the yoga industry (which serves the easy capital produced through formulaic routines designed for ease of replication) and this automaticity is prevalent no matter how contemporary or sexy the brand.
The science of kinesthesia and interoception, however, tells us that there is no magical power that allows anyone to access the proprioceptive matrix of another person: it is and always will be an inside job.
What teachers can do is shift their focus and orientation away from playing Simon Says and Monkey See, Monkey Do, towards creating an optimal context for people to gain access to the ever-changing kaleidoscope of sensation that is embodiment. This is a skill that can only be developed when we have a conscious teaching strategy that is committed to helping people gain entry to their own felt kinesthesia (the feeling of the body and of movement), and interoception (the sensations that arise from within our viscera that signal such experiences as safety, ease, hunger, thirst, excitation and relaxation).
Understanding the foundation principles of inquiry-based learning is a starting point, but implementation can feel akin to working on your own posture: it’s so easy to fall back into the default of what has become comfortable and habitual. In the 5 sessions I’ll be offering through Naada yoga on Empowerment Through Interoception, I’ll be sharing how to structure classes around themes, skill-building, cumulative learning and offering progressive entry points for different levels of experience. We’ll practice reorienting our language towards posing questions rather than giving answers as a means to guiding the inquiry process.
What a relief to relinquish the all-knowing God-head position of teacher as psychic mind and body reader and to enter instead into a shared inquiry where the teacher can learn as much if not more than the student.
What a relief to let go of relentless over-instruction and reductionistic point-by-point alignment “cues” and to trust in the power of pausing to give the student enough space and room to enter deeply into their own open exploration. And what satisfaction in witnessing the integrity, precision and grace of another moving from this place of grounded sensitivity.
Many of my students have shared with me that once you have tasted this kind of teaching you can never go back to having your experience be constantly mediated by an outside entity. And once one has committed to a pedagogic model that assesses all exchanges in terms of whether they move the student towards or away from independence, one realizes that the student’s independence is ultimately liberating for the teacher as well. What arises instead is an almost limitless framework for teacher and student to enter into co-inquiry, collaboration and creative evolution.
Upcoming course with Donna Farhi
FROM SIMON SAYS TO SELF-SOVEREIGNTY: Empowering People Through Interoception
June 10th-14th 2020
Most historic Yoga lineages and methods have relied on models for teaching that are hard wired to ensure the student’s dependence upon the teacher as the ultimate (and sometimes only) point of reference. This pedagogic model has persisted within contemporary Yoga styles with new yoga hybrids simply filtered through the same archaic lens. Encapsulated in the phrase “Simon Says”, teachers are trained to deliver authoritative instruction with students striving to obediently replicate a posture or practice. This makes for students who become passive recipients of information rather than active participants engaged in shared inquiry and adaptive learning. This externally referenced model for teaching can gradually erode people’s ability to access and trust their own perception, kinesthesia and interoception. Donna will explore the conscious steps teachers can make to create a context for students to become adept at investigating, deducting, adapting and evolving their yoga practice. We will learn about the conditions that foster people’s ability to perceive, process and integrate the signals from within their bodies. Not only can this approach yield exceptional results for students; crossing the bridge from Simon Says to Self-Sovereignty teaching can make teaching a satisfying lifelong career.
This 12.5 hour livestream event will be offered in five 2.5 hour sessions, June 10-14th, 2020, 8:00-10:30am New Zealand time each day.
Sample time conversions:
• 4:00-6:30 pm Montreal time
• 4:00-6:30 pm EDT
• 1:00-3:30 pm PDT
• 6:00-8:30 am Sydney
– for other time zones check www.timebie.com to make your own conversion. N.B. if you can’t make the livestream you can still get access to recordings of each session to view at a time that is convenient to you.
Prior to the event you’ll receive access to:
• 1-hour keynote address “Empowering People Through Interoception”. This will give you an overview of the material that will be cover.
Each session will include an introductory lecture followed by a guided experiential practice intended to model shared-inquiry pedagogy. The experiential part of each session may include sitting meditation, Body Weather Reading, guided movement inquiry, and both active and passive gentle yoga practice. There will be time at the end of each session for questions and answers. To facilitate depth within our discussion there will be no partial attendance allowed.
Topics that will be covered:
June 10, Session One: A New Pedagogy for Teaching Yoga: This session will begin with a PowerPoint lecture where Donna will elucidate some of the central principles that underlie a shared-inquiry pedagogy. Using the more contemporary self-determined learning strategies enabled through a shift to Heutogogy (from the Greek verb “to discover”), we’ll look at how enhanced ability to inner reference can support autonomy and capability. We’ll
finish the session with several guided inquiries that foster a felt experience of whole body breathing.
June 11, Session Two: Rules versus Principles. Drawing on the work of Philip Shepherd, author of New Self, New World, this session will begin with a discussion about the difference between rules and principles and how a reorientation towards exploring principles can act as a springboard into limitless forms of integration. Donna will model how a singular principle can be explored in a 1.5 hour class designed to give you a direct experience of interoceptive learning.
June 12, Session Three: From Giving Answers to Posing Questions: The Language of Guided Inquiry. In this session we’ll cover:
- The language of guiding inquiry: from giving answers to posing questions.
- Balancing form and content, structure and exploration
- Strengthening the inquiry process by limiting what is explored.
- The power of pause, open exploration, and non-interference.
- Identifying limiting pedagogic assumptions (teacher knows best) and learning to see with “intelligent not-knowing”.
- Using the technique of “Body Weather Reading” to engage the student’s own navigational process.
- Donna will lead an experiential session where she will juxtapose old and new pedagogic strategies so that teachers can directly experience how one’s approach can either foster or suppress investigative learning.
June 13, Session Four: Using Templates for Kinesthetic Learning: Offering Student Stages of Inquiry, Progressive Points of Entry, and Layered Instructions. In this class Donna will demonstrate how the human developmental pattern of Navel Radiation can be used as a template for guided inquiry, offering each person the ability to choose which stage of inquiry is most relevant to their experience. We’ll also explore how progressive points of entry can allow different individual abilities and levels of experience to coexist happily in a group class.
June 14, Session Five: Planning Classes: Considering the Class Plan as an Artistic Process. Keeping classes fresh and engaging can be truly challenging, especially when working with students over many months and years. Working on and revising class plans can radically improve the skillfulness of your teaching. Donna will share the planning template she has used throughout her career as well as strategies and approaches to developing class material. In this session Donna will cover:
- The importance of self-practice as a resource for deep dive interoceptive learning.
- Implementing a class planning template that focuses on themes, building specific skills and progressive learning.
- Developing class structures that support cumulative learning and reward the most committed students.
- Using your yoga library as a resource for development of new classes and sequences – the importance of test-driving material first.
- Building confidence through having a plan, becoming adept at changing the plan.
- Going back to the drawing board: turning lemons into lemonade (AKA– from the class that crashed to the class that takes flight).
- Archiving template classes, workshops and intensives for future use.
Full 5 day workshop
June 10th-14th 2020
$200 (CAD) plus tax
*if you are experiencing financial hardship please email us at [email protected] for a reduced tuition.
This workshop is made possible by the Yoga Mala Foundation. All proceeds will go towards offering free yoga and therapeutic services to underserved Montreal communities.