Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Left or Right? Default to Sight

My student Julie asked me last night in class what she should do about her "yoga dyslexia." It turns out that sometimes during yoga class she can't figure out her right from her left. Or at least she can't figure it out fast enough to stay with the flow of the class.

Escher adds to our confusion about left and right hands. Posted by Hello

So here's a short and sweet tip for those of you who get confused in class about some of the instructions.

If you can't tell right from left, do what my friend Linda does. I've been watching her for years. Before class she gets out a ball point pen and on her right hand she writes a big "R." On her left hand, a big "L." She writes them on her feet, too.

It's not perfect. But it's just enough to eliminate that slight delay you sometimes experience when you're trying to follow carefully, but a fog of confusion slows you down.

It's a fascinating thing to observe as a teacher. Verbal and spatial processing must be done in two separate parts of the brain. Some of us seem to have strong connections between the two. Others, not so strong.

When the connection between hearing the words and moving the body is slightly delayed, I can see frustration in the facial expressions and body language of my students.

I also see it in those instances when English is not the first language of my student. Since I teach in English, it appears that there's a three-step process going on: 1) translate English to primary language, 2) translate words into actions, and finally, 3) do the action.

It takes time and it can be frustrating.

Most people end up stopping what they're doing to look around. They want to see what others are doing so they can join in. They default to sight.

Unless I'm actually demonstrating something I want students to see, I prefer that students don't look around and watch others. It's inefficient. That's why I don't like mirrors in the rooms where I teach yoga. Students tend to gaze at themselves like deer in the headlights. Then they snap out of it later only to discover they've missed part of class.

Maybe the best tips to come out of this message have more to do with picking a teacher. Many of you don't have much choice, but if you do, consider these questions:
1) Is your teacher aware that you or those around you are having difficulty following instructions?
2) Does your teacher demonstrate actions or positions that aren't easily described?
3) Does your teacher regularly appeal to all learning preferences--visual, auditory, and kinesthetic?
4) Does your teacher use orienting language besides left, right, up, and down, e.g., "move your arm toward the window" or "twist, turning your back to the wall"?
5) Does your teacher lead you into positions mirror imaging what he or she wants you to accomplish?

If not, you may want to consider finding a teacher who's more tuned in to what his or her students need to deepen their individual yoga practices.

And don't forget to ask for what you want. Tell your teacher if you need more demonstrations or slower instructions. Most good teachers love and appreciate feedback from their students.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., Drop me an email today if you're interested in my year-long Teacher Training Program coming up in St. Louis. You'll be thoroughly trained, one weekend each month, to really see your students and adapt to what they need to succeed. You can email me at

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating topic Kevin...I have noticed this especially with the teens I teach...way more than adults.
I found with teens that mirror-imagining is really the most effective. Simply saying *Look at me...Do what I do* helps them re-center on themselves, and halts the stop-gap between words and action.
Teens are visual folk...and the evolution of gaining new methods of learning/listening is not completed. Add to that the need to look *proficient* in front of their peers, and it's a recipe for outer focus, not inward.
It's a challenge.
Great stuff...keep it up.

1:10 PM  

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