Words matter. The words we use in teaching a class and the words we use with one another, they all matter. I have always felt the words we use in teaching can be just as powerful as the postures and pranayama. However, since the murder of George Floyd, the idea of words – what they mean and how we use them – has been a big part of my thinking process. Sometimes, I become afraid to use certain words because I’m not sure how they will land. I’ve also thought about the relevance of promoting my business and myself as a yoga practitioner. How important is it in the world when there are so many really big things going on? Have you wondered this yourself?
After lots of time on the mat and cushion and taking steps to make myself a more informed human being, not that I am not still struggling to work through it all, I realize that I have to live my life. And, that I have a gift to share with others. That gift is yoga and yoga therapy. However, I now realize that part of that sharing is to be an active participant and advocate for change. Coming back now to words.
There are so many different words we use as yoga teachers. You’ll remember from your YTT the importance of languaging and cuing. You might even remember some of these thoughts from your manual… “breath cue + body part + action/direction of movement” or learning words of action, awareness, and relaxation. I encourage you to continue to learn to cue and language, and to help support people with your language. I know how yoga can change lives not just by the practice, but by how the teacher shares the practice. We have all been moved by a teacher’s words. I believe more than many disciplines, PK teachers use words as not only a way to direct movement, but also a way to soothe, calm, create balance, explore, and inquire. Even before COVID, I was moving away from doing much assisting, even press points in classes. Now all I have is my language and my observation skills as all my classes are online. I continue to try and cue clearly and deeply.
In the last few months, the words that I use regularly that have been most challenging have been the words involving breath. Breathwork, pranayama, just breathe. We say these words all the time in yoga. But with George Floyd’s murder, the idea of breathless or the inability to breathe, or just casually reminding someone to breathe, has really stopped me in my tracks.
Last weekend I was hiking in the mountains in Los Alamos and I came across this sign for a ski hill that is called Breathless.
If you look at the picture, you’ll see what a beautiful sight it is. It could leave you breathless. My first response when I saw it was very different then what it would have been 6 months ago. My first thought was, “whoa, can we use that word anymore?” Can we say that something is breathless?
I know that it is all in context, but it is hard. It’s hard as a yoga teacher to know when to use the word and when not to use the word. I want to be conscious and conscientious. When I look at the vista past the breathless ski hill, I am breathless. I get breathless walking up the ski hill and I am also breathless at the beauty that surrounds me.
As teachers, I think we need to be aware, we need to be clear, and we need to use words in the right context.
I’m still not sure about the word breathless and how I feel about using it, but I am sharing my vulnerability with you here.
Let me know how you feel and maybe what words you have or have not stopped using as our world moves forward.
Below is a video that also uses words to create change.
If you’d like to explore the use of language and questions of inquiry, consider joining Jacci for her final Pranakriya Gentle Yoga Teacher Training, November 13-15 via ZOOM at Main Street Yoga. You can also practice with Jacci via her YouTube Channel and through her online yoga membership Yoga for Your Whole BE-ing.