Every day when students arrive for GSP I try to connect with each one of you briefly ahead of class to ask how you are feeling. This is more than just a pleasantry or small talk to welcome you to class; it’s a means for me to gauge how you actually are feeling. There’s so much more that goes into teaching yoga than teaching postures.
Just like anything else in life that you are hoping to learn or change, you have to be ready to receive the information to get you to the point in which you want to be…better than you are today. If you’re not familiar with the Stages of Change (Transtheoretical Model), there are different phases we each go through when changing a behavior pattern—Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, & Relapse. Being familiar with this process allows me to use verbal and physical cues from you to help determine when or if to introduce a concept, exercise, posture or modification to someone.
Part of teaching is knowing what & how much information to put in front of the student, no matter what the subject. If you are not ready to accept that information, you won’t even hear it when it’s told to you. Let me give you an example—adopting a personal a yoga practice. In the Pre-contemplation stage you have maybe only seen yoga being done (most likely a Warrior posture) by the ocean in a commercial for a pharmaceutical company and think only flexible people can do it. Or you may have heard that there are classes offered locally but haven’t ever really given thought to the idea that it could be something that could benefit you. You don’t really want to know much more about it and are content where you are, even though you have aches, pains & stiffness on a regular basis.
Perhaps those aches and decreased joint mobility are becoming more bothersome and you’ve hear that yoga could potentially be helpful. As your interest increases and you move into the Contemplation stage, you’ve learned that some of the side effects of doing yoga are increased flexibility and mobility or decreased stress, but have hesitations and aren’t ready to make any changes. You see how these things could benefit you and are considering giving it a try in the future. You may have even Googled yoga in your area to find out what is available, but have no specific timeframe for beginning a new venture. This person may be weighing pros and cons, so allowing them to see how it could benefit them personally and how accessible it can be to them could help push them to the next stage of Preparation.
When you’ve entered this 3rd stage you’ve taken the leap to contact a local expert in yoga and schedule an initial consultation or picked up a class schedule. You make a commitment to try this new behavior out within the month and are excited, yet may be nervous. Helping this person feel comfortable and not intimidated is important so that moving into the Action stage continues to create a sense of both excitement and accomplishment.
When you’ve made the decision to dedicate time to this new behavior on a regular and consistent basis, you may have purchased a membership to the yoga studio or paid for a number of classes so that you are financially vested in succeeding at the choice you have made. You are probably excited to learn and open to accepting your teacher’s suggestions. You may even discover that yoga is much more than physical exercise and notice how much different you feel mentally on the days you practice—happier, calmer, more easy-going. People may even comment on this change in attitude or personality. When this behavior lasts beyond 6 months it usually shifts to a Maintenance stage, in which you know your yoga practice very well and have begun to value the internal gratification you receive from practicing, realizing that some days are better than others.
This cycle of behavior change will continue to appear throughout the Action and Maintenance phases as you settle into a comfortable routine and are ready to progress with new postures and modifications in an effort to prevent relapse. When Relapse does occur, and it will, I’m here to provide support and encouragement in hopes that you will be ready to accept my help again someday. You are the only one who can make the decision to take full responsibility for making a change.
So when I ask students each morning “How are you feeling today?” I want you to answer honestly and perhaps share a glimpse of what is actually going on in your life on that day so that I know how much or little to push you. Integrity is important here—both with yourself and me as your teacher. If you come into class and your response is that you are tired or sore, I’m probably not going to assist postures quite as deeply or try to introduce anything new. But if you have pretty good energy & feel pretty good, I will most likely expect a little more out of you on that day.
This is your journey. I’m just the resource that can give you more tools in your yoga practice to help you find the edge that will create change in your life. It will often be different from day to day so the more I can know about what is going on in your body, the better I’ll be able to assist you.
Can you think of a time in your life that you can recognize that you’ve gone through these stages? How has it changed who you are today?