Last month I spent a week in Stockholm, Sweden, teaching my Yoga Tune Up® Integrated Embodied Anatomy module to a group of future yoga teachers at Yogayama studio. I arrived in icy-cold Stockholm late at night after a 22-hour journey. When I awoke jet-lagged the next morning, I was hoarse — very hoarse. With 20+ hours of teaching ahead of me over the next four days, I was concerned. There was no way to call in a “sub.”
Somehow I made it through the first day of yoga classes with some amount of pushing and strain. But on morning #2, the voice was completely shot. I mean 100 percent gone. For six hours, I pantomimed my way through the anatomy lessons … and liberally used Dagmar Khan, one of our European Yoga Tune Up® teachers who’d flown in from Ireland to attend the course. Like a versatile United Nation’s translator, she would speak aloud my whispered words so the crowd of 30 could hear me in the studio.
Silence is a golden opportunity
That night after the session, my hostess, Anna Hultman, rushed me to a city clinic so that I could see a doctor. On the way there, she told me that the students actually enjoyed Day #2 more than Day #1. “And don’t take this the wrong way,” she said, “but they liked it more because you spoke less.”
Indeed. With my voice gone, my mind and mouth had to edit 80 percent of the “excess speech” I might frequently use to qualify or explain concepts. I had to economize and distill my lessons into their most potent form and transfer the onus of learning away from my vocal chords and into their bodies.
Luckily, I design my embodied teaching so that the complicated interrelated systems of the body can be understood through experiencing them in the body, not just through a two-dimensional slide show. I teach people to be students of their own bodies, not students of my body, my mind or my voice. I give them tools to listen to the sensations emanating from different tissue layers, learn to recognize different neurological relay patterns … so that ultimately, they don’t need me to guide them. They can navigate themselves.
In writing, this all sounds a bit esoterically theoretical, but in the classroom, these methods make the body come alive as never before. They become anatomically fluent.
Still speechless in Sweden
The doctor took a blood test and ruled out bacterial infection. (I never actually felt sick or had a fever … I had just completely lost my voice.) He told me to rest and be silent for two days (all of this in Swedish of course). Anna told him that I was “an important Anatomy teacher from the U.S. and had to deliver a lecture for the next two days, so rest was impossible.” So he caved and gave me a very strong steroid that would work for 24 hours to reduce inflammation.
But it didn’t really work. I woke up on Day #3 and still sounded like a ghost. A ghost who occasionally croaked like a frog.
Stay tuned for part two and find out how Jill got her voice back!
[reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]
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I have had this happen on a business trip and presented very hoarse with a lot of hand gestures. Your training methodology is truly magnificent in having the student experience each part of the training through their body biases so that they can better relate when guiding others through a Yoga Tune Up class.
I already gave my speech pathology “shpeel” to the other part of this blog, but you must have been slightly panicked and feeling like, ‘why now??’. Regarding being more concise and economical with instructions during a yoga class, as a student, sometimes it’s appreciated and allows you to focus and “listen” to your body more. But of course, other times it’s more than beneficial to hear all the cues and information as well. Drink a lot of water! 🙂
Jill, I love the way you overcome the obsticles.Even when you were speechless, you didn’t give up. Your faith and the truth of being THE STUDENT OF YOUR OWN BODY is admirable. I am curious to know what happend next.
Ooh! Suspenseful! Will respond more after reading part 2!
I too am wondering how this will end. Though it does make me wonder about how the heck you could ever have someone sub for you Jill.. Maybe one of the integrated tune up teachers?? Can they teach your stuff?
Also, this story reminds me of when me and my 7 siblings were young and our dad lost his voice. He’s was usually a very vocal, Authoritarian type of parent – (expecting us to follow his strict rules without any lip or explanation) — So one night, my dad came down the stairs trying to yell at us because we were watching “the Facts of Life” when we should have been doing homework. He stood there with his mouth open, articulating unheard words with his mouth while making grand gestures with his arms (and we normally would be so scared of him and immediately run and hide before he got down those stairs) but this time since we couldn’t even hear him at all! It was hilarious. We weren’t scared of him at all because he lost his voice. So instead, we thought he was “cute” and gave him hugs and kisses.. We still turned off the tv and went to study, but without the jump up and run away fear factor. 🙂
Well, I can’t wait how this ends, but I do want to leave a quick comment to say I sympathize. I lost my voice once and it was sooo taxing. BTW, whispering strains the vocal cords even more, but it sounds as if you had no choice.
Having recently wrestled with laryngitis myself, I was really interested to read about Jill Miller’s own experience in Sweden. What stood out to me in particular was the recognition that our job–as teachers–is NOT to direct attention to us, but to help facilitate and encourage that deep inner listening for the innate wisdom within each student. I responded to Jill’s blog referencing the tongue massage Robyn suggested, in which the same basic lesson is revealed (only, in that case, more pointedly for the teacher to hear!). Sometimes we are literally silenced so we can hear, so we can listen to the wisdom within. Since the goal of yoga is ultimately freedom, then we do well to remember that our voices can just as easily ensnare, distract, or bind students…instead, we aim to, as Jill wrote, “teach people to be students of their own bodies, not students of my body, my mind or my voice.” And any good teacher must first and foremost be a good student, using our inner ear “to listen to the sensations emanating from different tissue layers, learn to recognize different neurological relay patterns.” When I am deeply immersed in my own practice, each day, as a student of yoga, I am a better–more useful and relevant–teacher. I can’t say that losing my voice has been a bad thing, even if it has meant struggle. Maybe that struggle was what I needed to hear.
Jill this article caught my attention to other day and now I am happy to sit down and read it, I want to comment on both part one and two (two I haven’t finished yet). The most important section of this part one blog to me is the inner voice you give to students. I feel like you have given me permission to be my own best teacher and this is exactly what my mission is as a teacher. Of course, I want to make relationships for life, but not one’s where people are dependent on me. I am also feeling what is really going on in my body, I keep repeating in my head you’re quote “my body is a jungle gym.” I feel like I often start exploring different movement methods, get very excited and gung-ho about it only to fall off the wagon, but finally I am on a wagon that really feels right. You’re whole approach really resonates with me, so much so that if I didn’t know any better I would say it was created just for me.
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