You Want Me To Do WHAT With My Pinky Skin?

In the late 90s, as a college student, I found myself taking my first yoga class. I was as new as new could be, and I was nervous.

It was also my first time being in the presence of a hemp-clothed yoga teacher. What I remember most vividly was his silence. He practiced cueing with perfection, only saying what needed to be said, and then leaving space for contemplation and comprehension.

It’s hard to find this silence in present day asana classes.

To keep my skills fresh as a teacher, I go around taking classes at other studios. In one recent class, we were shaping ourselves into trikonasana when the teacher asked us to extend our pinky finger skin towards the ceiling. I have good bodily awareness, so if someone asks me to extend my skin, I do it.

The problem: The teacher’s pinky instruction was preceded by a 20-second recitation of everything she ever knew or heard about the alignment principles of this pose. So I was working on spiraling something in one of my legs, still had to do something to my pelvis, and only then would I be able to get to my pinky finger! But, alas, the pose dissolved into another pose before I had the opportunity to encourage my pinky finger to reach its fullest potential.

When a person is new to teaching, there is an expectation that nerves will result in over-teaching. This was not a new teacher however, and my visits to various studios frequently revealed this pattern of experienced teachers not incorporating the essential periods of silence in asana classes, but filling the time with too much information.

Where did the silence go?

Since I couldn’t get singer Paul Simon on the phone, I posed this question to a few well-known yoga teachers who love to shut their mouths.

“My main advice to teachers would be to remember that your job is to help your students learn, not to show how much you know. This is something I have to constantly remind myself of, because I actually love to blab on about anatomy and yoga,” says Joe Miller, of Now:Yoga, “But overwhelming your