Manasa teachers, where do you place your mat in class?

When we understand yoga as karmasu kausalam (skillfulness of action), then the position where we take the teachers position in our class is also an important karma. The position we choose should have a skillful (kushala) context. So, if the context of our teaching is to get our students to ‘conform’ their bodies to the ‘form’ we are ‘showing’, then it is important we place our mat in a position where all students can ‘see our body/ pose’, which they can then try to ‘conform’. So if this is the case, a central positioning of our mat, or on a high stage where everyone can see you is important.

But then, at Manasa, getting students to ‘conform’ with the teachers demonstrated ‘form’ is not the main context of teaching. So we do not recommend this centralized mat position, where all students are always looking at the teacher. Because we feel that this position makes:

  • Students keep on looking into the teachers shape
  • In a ‘non deliberate’, ‘unknown’ way, through the visual cues, the students will pick up the movements, and improve in their ‘forming of the form’
  • But in this process, their deliberate listening to their own body parts is not high, as they are always looking at the teacher, and then looking at themselves in a comparative way
  • Another thing we have to remember is, the natural tendency of most of us is to operate through the story self, where each one of us is comparing ourselves with others and putting together a story which basically involves ‘You are sooo good, and I am not so good, or I am good/ better, and you are not so’
  • All these might stimulate the students emotional brain structures such as amygdala fire, which makes one feel more and more insecure, inadequate and desperate

These are not the states we want to trigger raise in the consciousness of our students
In our school, ideally the visibility/ prominence of the teacher as an attraction should become less and less to the student, as the students’ inner vision of ‘themselves’ become more and more. That is the darshanam we are interested in.

We want each student to connect to sensations rising in their body, improve their ability of attention to their own breath, body parts and movements, with minimum comparison and judgment, and connect to a sense of empathy. The parts of the brain which can give us deep sensation of our body (without agenda) also stimulates our capacity for empathy.

So I encourage our teachers to really improve our verbal/ oral transmission of teachings. That is the most ancient methodology of passing the wisdom teachings as you learnt about in this week of Vedas (topic for teacher trainees this week). So when students hear the verbal instructions as the main medium of instruction, which of course should be supported by visual cues, then the students start to deeply search in their own body for these body parts which the teacher is mentioning. The teacher, more than a form, becomes the voice of teachings. The students will try to connect to the process of the asana which the teacher is asking them to engage, rather than do what the teacher is doing.

So teachers, you can place your mat anywhere, but you should see everyone. And for the students, they should be able to see you, only if you want them to see a particular action you want them to understand. But your words should always reach them. In our classes, the student should be the empowered star, not the teacher.