The Psychologically Sound Yoga Classroom. PART 1: On Congruency and Trust.


These are an elegant and robust pair that asks us to live with an open bridge between the internal and external worlds. Congruency asks us to track and understand what is going on inside and wear it honestly instead of attempting to cover it up in hopes of being something "better". Congruency asks us to look at the ways we dampen, lessen, dismiss or negate our true internal state. It asks us to be present and show up.

And in so doing we model for our children, partners, students and all those around us a depth of honesty. When we are congruent we are modeling for our kids that they can be too. When we are congruent we model for our students the possibility that they can be too. It's deep, actually, this layer of modeling.

Do not underestimate how powerful it can be for a student to see you embody the meaning of your words. 

Perhaps you smile when you tell someone you are angry. Perhaps you put on your game face and tough it out too often in your attempt to be a leader. Perhaps you have trouble letting the joy of your heart crack all the way through your gestures.

As humans beings, we are actually wired to experience congruency as safe. When someone around us is hurting and is able to name that instead of unconsciously asking us to guess and tiptoe, something inside can relax and feels more connected. If we are wearing our emotions on our yoga pants but not naming what it happening we risk unconsciously allowing the students to stay on high alert around what is going on. Sure, some students won't notice. But many will. Some will guess or project. Some will unconsciously caretake. When we are congruent with our words, actions and feelings we take responsibility and stay in relationship.

If Olive hits me, I say "Ouch! That hurts mama if you hit."  with a matching expression on my face. If I were to say the words but smile or laugh instead, that would be confusing. When I match my gesture and my words, Olive learns that hitting hurts mama and that mama has feelings! She learns her actions have consequences. 

Congruency, as you can already tell, yields Trust. It helps us relax enough to settle into the relationship at hand. The more trust we desire, the more the need to be congruent. Think of it this way;

Congruency is a skill that builds Trust. 

Trust is one of those fancy words that everyone wants to use and say is in high presence in their classes. Is it though? Like at every level? I am not talking about expecting, or worse, demanding the students trust you. I am asking how you cultivate and earn your students trust both in the short and long term. Through language, touch, presence, eye contact, clarity of instruction, the ability to refer out when needed. All of it. I am also interested if you trust your students. 

See, Trust (note the capital T) is something earned. It cannot be forced. And it is multidirectional. The Psychologically Sound Yoga Classroom is healthy for the psyche because Trust is earned on the part of the teacher. And as the teacher we can take a stance of trusting our students as collaborative guides in the classroom. We can Trust their bodies have a knowledge worth listening too. We can Trust that the students are there for a reason, even if it's not the reason we go to class. When we Trust our students we do not need to control them. We are left wide open to educate them, an inherently collaborative act. And we become stewards of helping them find congruency and dissonance in what we ask and articulate and their actions in response. 

In an ideal world, we come into being with the capacity to be held, loved and rocked in the safety-net of Trust. But there are many instances where ruptures in Trust were not repaired, or a person might not have had the luck of Trust in their early relationships. Unconsciously, this can play out in the yoga room. While it is not your business as a yoga teacher to repair this per se, you can do enough by earning Trust through consistency, clarity, and presence. and by bestowing reverence and Trust to the students. (And many other ways too).

So, my friends, I give you the ever so elegant couple of Congruency and Trust. They take turns leading on the dance floor. And when in rhythm they inspire all of us. 

Have at it. 

How are you building trust in your classes? How do you earn trust? What are the ways someone has earned your trust? How congruent are you with your gestures and emotions? Practice transparency. 

Deep Bow to all you do and Are,

Livia ShapiroComment