Your Inner Teacher

Wouldn't you feel lost or even ignored if you came for a yoga class and hadn't heard a single word from the teacher? I believe that just to the contrary, a silent yin yoga class presents an opportunity to learn something fundamental and personal about your yoga practice.

I got the idea of teaching a silent Yin Yoga class from Norman Blair under whose guidance I studied this wonderful style of Yoga. Norman talks a lot during his classes, partly because he thought for a long time that students wouldn't be able to cope with extended periods of silence (hard as it already is to stay still for 5 minutes at a time). That was until he made an experiment and led a class in complete silence. To his surprise, everybody seemed at ease with following only what he demonstrated.

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Encouraged by his example, I thought I'd give it a shot as well. To be on the safe side, I had in my group people who were already familiar with the specific nature of yin yoga with its mindful orientation, passive, long- held poses and slow pace. I must admit that teaching without verbal instruction felt a bit as if I wasn't doing my job well enough. There was also the constant fear that the students had already forgotten they should not suffer in silence, what kind of sensations they should steer away from, etc. I did not leave the group on their own completely- if I saw someone struggling with finding a supported pose, I'd rush to offer a prop. After a silent relaxation, I awaited anxiously for the group's feedback. I was relieved to hear they wanted more of classes like this in the future.

Silent Yin Yoga is even more meditative than its standard version. The teacher's voice (just like music) could easily become a distraction which can take away focus from the breath to the act of listening. But I see even greater value of a silent class in bringing the agency back to the practitioner.

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Far too often yogis who don't have established home practice do not trust themselves regarding their own yoga practice. They consider their teacher an ultimate authority, source of infinite knowledge, someone who knows their needs better than they do themselves.

I think it's very important to make every yoga practitioner understand that nobody will ever be able to 'read' their bodies better than they do themselves. All it takes is to practice body awareness and learn how to interpret the arising sensations. There isn't any one way a particular asana must be performed in yin yoga. There are innumerable options how to approach a specific asana and a multitude of props can be used in quite a freestyle way. The less said by the teacher, the more creative students become, adjusting asanas to the unique shapes of their bodies in an intuitive way.

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What I am hoping for is that through constant reminders to be aware of sensations and to assess them in order to create optimal practice made during ordinary, teacher led classes and through occasional silent sessions where those skills could be fully developed I would be able to lead my students towards more independent, safer and fulfilling yoga practice.

Nobody can be inside your body and feel what you are feeling. Nobody should decide what is right for you. The teachers have experience and knowledge which can be very useful but the ultimate teacher is within you.