Talk Less, Listen More

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Silence is golden

One of the main principles for teaching Baptiste Power Yoga – the kind of yoga I’m studying right now – is using only “essential language.”

We have been practice teaching to the rest of our class since our very first day, receiving live feedback on the spot. This is where all the public speaking I’ve done with my corporate job has paid off. I feel comfortable in front of a crowd and the reps I’ve done in front of much bigger and more hostile crowds help me remember the flow of the poses while I’m up there. That being said, there are still many things for me to improve on, both on and off the mat (and inside and outside the classroom). A piece of feedback I received this weekend that landed particularly well was on this theme of essential language. In other words, I talk too much. I feel the need to fill the silence, so I use a million words when just a couple of words will do. Or, put another way, my “expressive” communication style manifests in my expressing my every thought and feeling through an endless stream of questions and statements. This is particularly pronounced in situations where I am excited or engaged – like I am in my program. When I get excited about talking to someone, for example, I get so caught up in TALKING that I forget to let THEM talk. And then of course we’re not really communicating – I’m talking, but I’m not listening. Apparently, the same thing happens when I teach yoga. Before I started this program I had heard one of our teachers say that yoga is not just about calling out poses (left foot up, warrior one). Despite the deep respect I have for yoga and yoga instructors, I didn’t really know what she was talking about when I first heard. The easiest part of getting up to teach is calling the poses. The hard part for me seems to be observing the students, listening to their breath, capturing the mood, and calling out cues between one pose and another that correspond with what’s happening in the room. Or, what in Baptiste we would call “cueing to reality.” You use the minimum amount of language possible, you stop, you listen, you observe, and then you cue. You tell them how to do the pose more safely, or you give them possibilities for making the pose a little more challenging or a little easier. You communicate with the students, and they communicate with you. It occurred to me this weekend that I may need to apply this insight to my real life, specifically in my one-on-one communications. And I’d like to start here, with your permission, since this is such a safe space. So go ahead. Talk to me. I’m listening!

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