Do you practice what you teach?

Do you practice what you teach?

Do you believe in what you are teaching others? Or are you regurgitating material that you suspect to be true? Do you practice what you teach or are you “too busy” teaching others?

This blog is purely here to help bring some authenticity to what we as “teachers or instructors” pass on as well as asking those attending classes to question things. With my limited knowledge, I am seeing more and more people being taught movements that could potentially cause injury to themselves or those who they teach, as well as empty quotes that cannot be backed up or lack research to support them.

The following answers to questions cannot be relied upon justify learning

“Because it is tradition” …

“Because that is the way it is” …

“Because they did it that way thousands of years ago” …

‘’I don’t know it’s just the way it is!”.

I feel very passionate about what I teach, I do get things wrong, I have an infinite amount to learn, I am still young … but I am willing to change and adapt what I teach for the benefit of others if a better more efficient way is available. No one is perfect (whatever perfect is?!) but asking why is essential for continual development and also overall understanding. If the answer to a question is not known, leave ego behind and consider asking someone who does know before going on to teach it.

The contradiction to the above can also depend on the teacher’s own knowledge of whether a student is ready to learn that concept yet as it may detract or over complicate things. This relates to the idea of starting a book but wanting to look at the back page straight away, which in reality means that you’ve missed all the important bits!! The challenge is always to give enough to improve understanding but not too much to cause confusion!

From a student’s perspective …  time with a teacher is also very important to help develop, which is constantly improved through regular continuous interaction . It is then possible for a teacher to gauge when someone is ready to progress to the more challenging concepts, taking into account the many diverse factors that the human body presents with a dedicated practice. Outside of this, time practicing these concepts at home and in your own time is also required to internalize the teachings taken from the session. This may take many years but what is the rush? … Once you attain a certain standard you just continue to deepen your understanding and apply it to other things!

I have seen the contrast from the ‘East’ to the ‘Western world’, in the West we tend to be governed by qualifications, which without can potentially deem you completely worthless on paper. But did martial artists who had 30 years experience in training have qualifications? Most of them were still the ‘student’ learning from a ‘master’ for over 40 hours a week without a belt of any sort to massage the ego.

Although … I do believe qualifications have a role to help to show a base understanding; yet they are only a gateway, a starting block to continue learning from if taught well and also a checkpoint on a never-ending journey. I have been fortunate to attend some incredible teachings with qualifications at the end but I have also attended some other courses where the ‘teacher’ was purely a narrator reading from a manual … which is not always their fault but it is how the method of teaching has been passed down to them.  A qualification should be the bonus, not the reason or the goal. It is the understanding and comprehensive continuous study of the underlying principles as well as the application of these, that makes up the ever-evolving goal.

I have also spoken to teachers who say they have no time to practice themselves, I understand that ‘life’ can make things more challenging but if that is the case, a practice of some kind is probably even more essential, whatever it may be! I have always been told,  “if you want to make something happen you can and will” . If we tell clients, friends, students … anyone that they need to find time to practice we need to demonstrate this as well, not just to others but most importantly to ourselves as authenticity is always paramount or we are effectively cheating ourselves.

Seek those who can really back up what they are teaching, via their own practice or via a thorough understanding of the subject in hand, everyone needs to start somewhere but being aware of not pushing beyond the areas of their expertise.

Please do not be misled by words and systems with weak principles but search for those who seek authenticity and can demonstrate this themselves or have done in the past. In a world full of ‘I need to qualify now’ we have started to forget the real teachers and misunderstand their true value to help you move forward  (or to take a few steps back, if that may need to be the case).   If results can be attained in a matter of days or weeks then it is likely to disappear just as quick, real results take time and understanding the result can take far longer. A teacher is someone who strives for you to better yourself by giving you the tools to push on and in the process encourages you to understand the meanings behind why you are.

Respect should always be present between the teacher and student and a great example of this is seen in martial arts, yoga and many countries throughout the world. The hands are placed together in a ‘prayer’ position at the centre of the body followed by a bow to demonstrate mutual respect between two people regardless of labels and status. The bow also symbolises a respect for the practice and the lives of those who dedicated their time on this earth to developing it for our benefit.

In certain forms of ‘yoga’ the posture ‘yoga mudrā’ is also adopted at the end of a practice or as a seated posture in it’s entirety. The legs are crossed in lotus and the forefinger and thumb are placed together with the palms facing up to demonstrate an openness to learning (amongst other aspects) and that the space between the fingers is what we actually know. The great thing about this is that the fingers are touching …  a daily reminder that there is always going to be an infinite amount to learn and because of that we must always ask … “Why?”. 

Thank you for reading, always grateful …

David Tilston