"Good girl" "That's perfect" "Excellent alignment"...
Have you heard these phrases from your yoga instructor before? I'll be honest, the last two are of a type that hadn't consciously fazed me during classes before. However, last week we attended a class where the instructor actually said "Good girl" to me while she was adjusting. As if I were a child. It was a bit irksome and made me think on what types of praise we're so used to receiving in a yoga class.
One of the first rules that I help parents learn in our sessions of speech/language therapy is to eliminate the "good girl/good boy" or "good job" praise. These two sentences give no useful feedback to the child other than letting them know that you are judging them. Particularly the "good girl/boy" as this praise is specifically a moral judgement on who they are as people and not their behaviour. When we give feedback, we want to make sure the child gets something useful out of it: "I really like how you tried that sound" or "You used "I" that time instead of "me", nice work!".
The same applies to yoga.
While in a session, if the only time the instructor comments on what I'm doing is when it is perfect, I'm constantly striving to get that momentary "perfection" praise. Sure, you can talk all you want that the point of yoga is the journey but when the model is rewarding the completion of a posture (i.e. praising perfect alignment, or achievement of a posture) the message is: The really Good Stuff happens when you get there.
"Yes", you say, "but I tell students all the time "good job or good work" even when they aren't perfect!"
Sure, except what exactly does that tell me? Good job/work are such vague and amorphous terms that they could mean just about anything and are virtually useless as feedback or acknowledgement. Yoga students are there to learn, not to receive platitudes on their hard work. Tell me something useful, like "I really like how your remembering to move your knee towards your baby toe during warrior".
You could also argue that students should be there to focus internally and not strive for external praise. Except, students are actually there to learn. Which... you need to focus on the teacher in order to do so. If the teachers are giving external praise, but the students shouldn't listen it just becomes a confusing mess of conflicting messages and expectations.
So, the next time you think about saying "good girl/boy" to a student in your yoga class... take a moment, think about why exactly you are pleased and perhaps give them feedback on the PROCESS instead.
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com