Jason Crandell: “Finding Your Voice as a Teacher,” or “Why am I in a Room with these People?”
The following is a review of Jason Crandell’s class at the recent New York Yoga Journal Conference – enjoy!
Jason Crandell was trained by Rodney Yee and remains very loyal to him as a teacher, mentor and friend. ”As a student there has never been anything more important than finding I teacher I resonated with,” he told us. “I was burnt out and losing interest in teaching and I don’t think I would have continued unless I came across him. He hooked me in a deep, profound way. I felt very saved by that class.” Clearly Rodney’s strong personality, insights and teaching style have been a huge influence on Jason and inspired him not only to teach, but to teach in his own voice. (full disclosure: I am now a student in Rodney and Colleen’s 300 hour teacher training).
Jason pointed out the benefits and occasional pitfalls of finding a teacher with whom you have a strong connection. and Rodney’s class saved me “But the more drawn we are to our teachers…the harder it is to withdraw and develop our own sensibilities and process. Its hard not to parrot teachers we admire. It’s easy to just say what you’ve heard.” In other words, to come into our own as teachers, we need to ask ourselves not how would Rodney/Vinnie/Sharon and David/Cyndi/Christie/Brian do this, but “how do I sequence? How do I see a body?” To teach from an authentic place, Jason explained, means taking in what you’ve learned, heard and seen, “baking it and producing it as yours.” And again paying tribute to Rodney, Jason added, “Rodney would have demanded that from us. He didn’t want us to be mimics.”
In my own experience as a student of Rodney’s, I understand what Jason means. Rodney supports us, motivates us, and also pushes us in exactly the way we each need. His touch in this way is truly remarkable and demonstrates his unique ability to asses each of his students, meet them where they are and give them the tools to figure it out for themselves, within a supportive context. I’ve seen for myself how Rodney has wanted us to make our teaching and our practice integral to who we are, in a way that resonates for each of us.
Jason suggested we as teachers have 1, 2 or maybe 3 big picture things we want to teach our students. Once we decide what those things are, we can commit to focusing on those three items with greater skill, accuracy and clarity.
“If there is a product that exists that isn’t quite sure what is, no one is going to get it,” Jason said. “You have to really ask yourself, “Why am I a teacher in the first place? What do I want to communicate and how can I communicate it with my words, my body, my voice, my hands? “The most important part of developing the craft of teaching is asking yourself, why am in this room with these people?’
Ego need not be part of the program. “I mean come on,” Jason said, “What are you teaching yoga for? The glory? The big money? There’s no such thing s being a rock start yoga teacher. Its like being a rock star trekkie! No one in this room, no one at this conference, is going to walk into a fancy restaurant in New York and be escorted to the best table in the room. ”
Jason suggested we approach teaching as a narrative art, thinking of a good class as being like a good good class is like a good story. Once we really look at our intentions and decide what we want to teach, the “story” on our classes will fall into place.
Sequencing is one of the ways we take the big picture stuff and figure out how to give people the experience we are trying to create for them, “Asana are access points and opportunities to provide this experience,” Jason said. ”How can you use the characters of asana to teach the morals of the story?”
In other words, the sequence of poses and transitions articulate the big picture. When the plot stops moving, reconnect to why you want to teach to move it forward. Yoga gives us the opportunity to give the embodied experience of who you are, what you have to offer and the lessons you want to convey.
Confidence is also essential to being a good teacher, and knowing why you are there increases confidence. “You have to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Have a sense that this is a valid strength that I present and offer,” Jason advised. And personality is very important. “This is a relationship,” he reminded us. “There are so many factors beyond your control as to why someone comes to class. But very few will come back because of what you know or how smart you are. People will come back because of who you are and how you present yourself. People relate to teachers through personality.” Some tips? Be a nice host. Welcome your students, acknowledge them and use their names. Engage with them and let them know you are glad they are there. Be available, accessible and be who you are without being unprofessional or too emotional.
Please visit www.jasonyoga.com for more information. And stay tuned, as Jason will be hosting a free teleclass on this subject soon.