Imitation vs Integration: How to Learn From Your Teachers

A couple of weeks ago I spent the morning with The River 200 hour teacher trainees. My role involved helping brand new teachers thread a theme into a sequence. We had a lively conversation and we all learned so much from one another. Toward the end of my time with this group, one of the trainees asked a question I have considered many times, but never answered aloud,

"How do you feel about stealing another teacher's ideas?"

At first, I wanted to be sure I understood, so I asked, "What do you mean?"

She said, "Do you ever not have any ideas and take a great class and just copy it?"

To this question, I answered, "Sure, I believe we all have."

I have been on both sides of this coin. I have been in a developing stage of my teaching and "borrowed" ideas from the 10a class I took for the noon class I taught and I know the relief that comes from using an idea that I know will resonate because it resonated with me. I also though have seen my ideas replicated word for word or movement for movement and know the sting of that moment as I grasp at something that feels like my own. The truth is that there are no original ideas under the sun but that out of respect for not only other teachers but for yourself it is important we learn to integrate rather than imitate.

It is not just new teachers who "beg, borrow, and steal." I know that I have off weeks where I sneak a peak at a Spotify playlist of a favorite teacher or when I attend a festival with a "world-renowned" yoga teacher and can't help but bring those ideas back. So how do all of us remained connected and inspired by other teachers but also true to ourselves?

My esoteric advice is, KNOW THYSELF. While many teachers may impact your teaching there is no teacher who is exactly like you, so be sure that you put yourself into what you are witnessing and passing on. How do we tangibly do this?

Identify your teaching values and your dream yoga student.

1. Make a list, a long one, of all the words that describe your offering.

2. Narrow down the list to the 5 that resonate the most. It is important that you have choices, so be sure to do step 1 first.

3. Determine how you define and measure these values. (If you describe your class as fun, what does that mean and what does it look like in action?)

4. Consider who it is you hope unrolls their mat for your class week after week. Describe this individual in as many ways as possible.

5. Why does this individual (your dream yogi) practice? Are they coming for the qualities/values you have just defined for yourself?

Once you have done these 5 steps, consider whatever sequence, idea, or theme it is that you want to replicate and integrate it by adding elements designed specifically for your dream yoga student and that echo your values. Chances are not much will need to shift for it to feel more like your own and when you offer it to your students (especially your dream student), it will land in a more authentic and profound way than if you have just imitated.

We are all rediscovering and redefining ourselves in our teaching and in our lives. Hold yourself to a high standard but be gentle with yourself at the same time.

If you are interested in more insight like this, visit my page, to see opportunities to grow your teaching and impact lives of your students for the better. I offer one on one, small group, and online options for yoga teachers.

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