BLOG / September 16, 2023
Maty was 4’11 and wore long braids. Her eyes were Caribbean blue. Her smile was generous and often like the Cheshire cat full of mischievousness that she was perhaps unaware of. She was tiny but oh so mighty. Maty walked into a room and you felt her huge presence. When she taught yoga she commanded your attention and fostered a sense of trust in a way that she got every single person to practice at their edge of their individual capabilities and then often go beyond what you ever imagined was possible. How did she do this you might be asking? One of her biggest secret tools was called, “The Candy.”
I can remember her words “You MUST get your students to PAY ATTENTION. Give them The CANDY! You also need to have a personality that makes them want to hang out with you! Don’t over share but give them just enough to be INTERESTED in what you have to say!”.
The Candy…”GIVE THEM THE CANDEEEEEE” ! I use many exclamation points and bold caps to emphasize Maty’s passion and silliness and personality. Maty strongly believed in and taught her teachers to teach students in a way that highlighted the contrast between immediate gratification and the long lasting effects of yoga.
Maty was extremely picky and strict and relentless with the training of her teachers. As a YogaWorks teacher we planned our classes in intricate detail. We had well thought out sequences with “peak poses” that were infused with philosophical themes and specific alignment instructions. As gold standard as her method was, it could get a bit dry and boring and robotical at times. We did not want to lose our students’ interest! Insert the key ingredient of, “The Candy.”
“The Candy” is what we know students love and cannot get enough of and often becomes what they crave and believe they are showing up for. For example, most Vinyasa Flow students love core and arm balances and handstands and lots and lots and LOTS of chaturanga. They want to move and sweat! As teachers, we want to make sure your yoga practice doesn’t become a mere workout or that you simply go on autopilot with how you move. We want to teach the transformative aspects of the practice on the mat so you can take it off the mat. We want you to get to know yourself. We want to do that by breaking down warrior one in all of its glory. We would love to hold ya there for the entire class! However, if we did, you would leave and never return.
So, I give you, “The Candy”: a core sequence that makes your muscles burn and you shake and you sweat and you feel the endorphin rush. I throw in 5 push ups. Hold you in plank for one minute. You energetically collapse for a moment. Your guard is down! That is when I put you in warrior ONE and you LISTEN and pay attention and absorb the details! Your only other option is a childs pose and goodness knows that is the hardest pose for many lol.
Another example of, “The candy:” I give you freedom to go ahead and take a minute to back bend on our own. I say go for it. Take a big juicy deep one. Now come down. Next one? We HOLD at the crown of the head and MILK it there. I give lots of detailed instructions. It’s NOT fun. It’s not fancy. It’s not picture worthy. It’s the vitamin B12 of your next backbend. It might even be bitter sweet. However, what I have is your undivided attention to the details I want to impart about the pose.
“The Candy” tastes good. It feels good. It’s fun. We gobble it up. Like a 5 year old trick or treating and seeing the huge bowl that says take one. We shall allow you to take 5! Then upon that satisfaction of 5 we will teach in sophisticated detail the 3 ways your pelvis moves in warrior 2.
Maty knew what the real yoga life lessons were. However, she understood the monkey mind was not going to pay attention to them without some candy. She was playful when sharing her depth of knowledge. She was strict but it was coupled with an immense sense of humor! We would be asked to simply stand in Tadasana holding a block over our heads. She would make us do it for an eternity. She would walk around the room smiling and giggling as we shook and sweat and our arms burned. She would smile huge and say, “Is this Haaaaard? Why are you shaking? Hmmm one more minute.”
It was all about the delivery. Hers came straight from her heart and from love. We trusted her. We wanted to give her our best. We would do whatever she asked and delay immediate gratification and a sugar rush. Over time we learned that the REAL candy was the long lasting effects of yoga.