What we say can be just as important as what we don’t say.
If that sentence confused you, just hear me out. Silence is an integral part of growth especially on a spiritual level. Taking time to contemplate in silence has been recognized by great philosophers, leaders, and wise souls as part of their evolution. So why is it so common these days to be in a yoga class filled with constant chatter?
Like most things in life teaching yoga is not black and white. It’s rare there are “right” vs. “wrong” answers for teaching techniques. I respect there are many different perspectives, opinions, and styles of teaching. What might be right for one student may not be the path for everyone. Even something that appears concrete, like anatomy for example, often boils down to theories rather than cold hard facts. So when I give these suggestions please understand that what I say is also not set in stone. Some students may need more coaxing, more suggestions, or more philosophy. What I’d like to emphasize is looking at silence as a gift and a benefit rather than treating it as stressful or as a novice form of teaching.
Plan for silence.
Like the old saying goes: if you fail to plan you plan to fail. This can even go for something that seems as simple as silence. Usually there are two camps yoga teachers fall under.
1.) the nervous teacher that ends up rambling or….
2.) the teacher that’s experienced, knowledgeable, and confident but wants to share too much.
If you’re worried about falling under either camp, focus on gaining clarity in what you’d like to share. This can be anything from setting an intention to choosing one story, thought, or message rather than many. Even planning where to plant these seeds can be useful. For instance, certain shapes like child’s pose could be an amazing place to explore one thought or idea. Once that concept is presented give students time to experience silence. Holding space in these poses shows them they can have their own epiphanies rather than relying on uninterrupted instruction.
Give the necessary cues then let students play with it.
Take a simple sequence like cat and cow. Cues for the transition between these two shapes aren’t necessary every time you teach it. You can offer instructions for the first few rounds then let students flow with their breath. There are so many options to play with movement without steady cueing. Look at poses that transition easily to and from one another like downward dog to plank or warrior 1 to pyramid. These could be places to find continuity where silence comes naturally.
The importance of Savasana.
Savasana is hands-down the best pose to embrace silence. Every day life is so stimulating… all of the lights, sounds, smells, interactions… even for extroverts or sensation seekers it can be exhausting. Especially to the nervous system! This is why Savasana is the biggest gift we can offer students at the end of their practice. Never, ever, ever skip this essential pose! I’ve heard excuses before from teachers saying “oh there just wasn’t enough time” but here’s the kicker: you as the teacher control the timing. Time management is part of being a good teacher so there really is no excuse other than an over-inflated ego or a lack of respect for student’s time. Outside of the physiological benefits, a lot of wisdom and clarity can be gained on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level with the practice of Savasana. This is why cultivating stillness becomes so critical. In the absence of sound (or lessening in some cases if you practice in a busy, noisy area!) it creates a space to tune in rather than trying to tune out.
I hope you see how holding space for silence can be a great source of strength. Empower your students with a “less is more” approach and find clarity in what you’d like to share with them. Have any questions about how to offer silence? Ask me in the comments below!
Awesome article, Emily! I agree that talking too much can take away from the practice! 🙂