While some teachers propose that modeling an advanced pose is inspirational for those who can’t yet attain it, we propose caution with beginners, who may not yet have reasonable expectations for themselves. At the very least, be clear about what is simply being demonstrated vs. what is being taught.
Consider, for instance, the difference in these demonstrations. Here’s Warrior 1 Pose in its traditional form: a lengthy stance, the back heel planted, a backbend, palms together, gaze upward.
And here’s a potential variation or beginning step: back foot supported or lifted, narrow stance, hands at hips, gaze forward.
While the traditional pose is beautiful and potentially inspiring, many students will take a picture with their mind’s eye and then struggle to recreate that shape with their body. They lack key skills to do this effectively:
- They are unaware of the intention of the pose and how to translate that into their own practice. They will usually focus on a few outer things they can see with their eyes.
- They lack the knowledge of how to move from the inside out, creating the pose not from an external ideal but from a set of actions begun from within.
Here are some considerations for mitigating these natural beginner weaknesses:
- Know the intention and primary actions of all poses you are teaching.
- Share one simple intention of the pose and offer safe ways for students to meet the intention of the pose and to develop their ability to perform the key actions.
- Mindfully choose the version of the pose you wish to present first. If the class is full of seniors or brand new students, is there any purpose in teaching the full version of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose) or Ustrasana (Camel Pose)?
- Consider teaching steps that build up to a deeper intensity rather than teaching a deep pose and then “backing off” to a perceived “lesser” version.