If you’re a yoga student who lives in an area blessed with lots of studios and talented teachers, you can be more discriminating when choosing where to take classes or which teachers to follow. Now that I’m no longer a rank beginner, I’ve started to pay closer attention to the factors that cause me to prefer some teachers over others. And one of those factors is, I confess, the sound of her voice.
Why the Voice Matters in Yoga
The sound of a teacher’s voice is an important aspect of a class: what she says and how she says it. It’s a matter of personal taste, but some voices are — to my ear at least— more pleasing than others. In any given class I spend a lot of time listening with either eyes closed or attention focused elsewhere (the drishti gaze). When I’m not actively watching the teacher, the sound of her voice helps me focus my practice or identify where a micro-adjustment might be required. What she says and how she says it can make all the difference between yoga-as-gym-activity and yoga as something more meaningful or uplifting.
Does the teacher’s voice direct your attention to the key focal point(s) for your pose? Does it help you crystallize your intention or improve your ability to shift into your meditation space?
Yes, of course, the content of what the teacher says and how she delivers her instructions are hugely important. That’s the starting point, the sine qua non. If the teacher’s instructional style or her ability to guide you is out of whack with your needs and capabilities, nothing else matters: you need to find a teacher better suited to what you need to learn, or unlearn. Solve that problem first.
Once you’ve found a set of talented teachers whose instruction style and yoga tradition match your preferences, then you can start to pay attention to other factors, like class size, the nature of the invocations or readings, etc. The spiritual content (or lack thereof). The smell of the studio. Its décor. The props on offer.
Ideally, I prefer classes that are small enough to offer semi-individualized attention on how to improve your pose, alignment, action, drishti focal point — whatever. But it’s rare to find a high quality, uncrowded class. In this particular urban area crowded classes are the norm, unless you’ve found a new teacher, a new studio just developing its following, or can take classes at unpopular hours.
In large or crowded classes, it can be difficult to see the teacher when your mat is not up in the front, except for those moments when she stops the class to demonstrate a new or challenging pose. In classes like this the voice matters more than ever. It’s the carrier for good instruction.
Implications for Teachers
If you’re trying to attract more students, think about ways to offer a trial experience of your voice, the quality of your instruction. What about offering some sample podcasts or an online video clip to showcase how you teach and interact with students? Pick a pose or two, find a willing student or two, and get someone’s help to record/video the instructional moment.
Then look for appropriate places online where you can publish or offer your sample of how you teach your students. Facebook, YouTube, your studio’s website, iTunes, online yoga communities — you now have lots of relatively inexpensive opportunities to showcase what makes you such an inspiring teacher. And if this is all technically beyond your skillset, perhaps you can barter some free classes in exchange for technical or professional help with your podcast or sample video.
If you contribute to a blog, think about ways to offer a brief podcast or audio clip in which you share your voice, your values, or what you’re all about as a teacher and yoga practitioner.
Share your voice.