Private Yoga? Does the student make the teacher or does the teacher make the student?

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.  If learning becomes a question of receptivity, then, perhaps, teaching requires collaboration between student and teacher.  Question:  Does the student make the teacher or does the teacher make the student.  Answer: A good student makes me want to be a better teacher.

True, I prepare for each class with an anatomical goal, thematic panache and didactic purpose to arrive at a certain pose.  However, I prepare alone with my own practice and proclivities.  If I don’t like a pose, I tend not to teach it.  The sequence can sometimes be  solipsistic.  I attract those students who want to work hard and smart.  If you ever see the movie Being John Malcovich (, there is a scene when he goes down his own rabbit hole and everything is John Malcovich.

Only when I go live with students in the room doing the sequence can it take shape.  Ah, I know too well the frustration of the chef who labors over a delightful peanut butter pie only to have his guests arive with peanut allergies.  In my universe, I prepare an arm balance class and have three students with rotator issues .  That is not fair to the student.  I must teach to those in front of me.

Yoga unites people.  Yoga tethers people to one another.  Group classes give great energy.  Yet, I want to keep everyone safe and connected.   When I have huge age groups and different skill levels, the challenge becomes creating modifications so that everyone gets a task.  My training gives me infinite ways to vary each pose.  My inclusive spirit helps me to keep the students who modify a feeling of belonging.  Just because someone can do the more advanced version, doesn’t mean they are more spiritually evolved or better in bed, for example.

I cringe when I see a student who obviously needs a block reject the modification to distort the pose beyond anatomical benefit.  I am not above stealing against the pose.  You can have all of the delight of pigeon without hurting your knee, if you do it on your back.  The reverse is often true.  When one student stops to nurse her wrists, I pause the class and give wrist therapy to all in attendance.  Christina Sell

says, “For the benefit of a few all will do.”  I believe in this inclusiveness.

My students make me a better teacher.  I liken it to that Apple commercial where Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses an empty great lawn.  The inspire me to teach to them in their bodies at that time and space.  Group classes are great for the communal energy and yet, a private session makes the teaching specific to one fact pattern.  I also think of teaching yoga as jazz improvisation.  I know my part but then I collaborate with the universe and the students often ask for other options.

In the words of Louis Armstrong, “What we play is life!”  I’ll steal that phrase and make it my own…What I teach is life!  I do this all the time with yoga.  All the classes I have taken with 25 years of all knowledge become readily available for my students when they come to class and study with me.   A private lesson does that for individual needs versus my having to make the teaching universally applicable.  Both are valid but if you want to make true progress, you can often evolve more efficiently with a private lesson.