“I teach a style of yoga that demands that students pay attention completely. If there is an opportunity to laugh within the instructions, there is even more reward for listening. It’s important to keep it light-hearted. The practice of yoga is serious is enough. It’s nice to have a little fun!”
How long have you been a yoga instructor, and what styles do you work with?
I began teaching yoga in 2009. I teach a modern alignment approach to yoga called Bowspring (www.globalbowspring.com) that focuses on functionality and accessibility. My classes have hints of traditional hatha or vinyasa flow.
Do you remember the first class you taught? How did it go? How did you feel?
Yes, you never forget your first time. It was a Level 2 flow class at a studio in Burnaby. I was a long-time student of the class so I knew most of the participants. I spent 4 days planning and prepared 10 pages in my notebook. I even wrote the entire sequence on my forearm so that I wouldn’t have to refer back to my notebook if I forgot my plan.
How long did it take you to start cracking jokes in your classes?
It has always been there. Fortunately, I have had many fantastic yoga teachers & mentors that have incorporated humour into their offerings. I never felt like I was being unique or innovative. I was just copying from the teachers I resonated with most. The subject has never been a joke to me, but the method of delivery is always light-hearted.
Why do you like to bring humour into your practice?
There are several reasons I bring humour into the practice. One reason is to make an alignment instruction more memorable so that it can be referred to later in the practice. Another reason is to create focus. I teach a style of yoga that demands that students pay attention completely. If there is an opportunity to laugh within the instructions, there is even more reward for listening. Also, I believe it’s important to keep it light-hearted. The practice of yoga is serious is enough. It’s nice to have a little fun. Ultimately, my classes have a deeper and more meaningful spiritual teaching that is disguised under the surface of the humour.
What changes do you see in the class, and in yourself, when the joking starts?
For myself, it lights me up. It means I am more attentive, present and passionate. If I didn’t incorporate humour, it would be boring. Yoga asks us to remove the masks we wear and be more of who we naturally are. I believe my enthusiasm and authenticity rubs off on students and offers permission to be who they are.
How do you know if a class is diggin’ the jokes? What do you do if a joke falls flat?
For my regularly scheduled class, I tend to draw the students who are seeking the light-heartedness. When I sub, it depends on the location and the other teacher. Not everyone is keen on laughter within yoga, and that’s absolutely fine, there are classes that are more serious. If the humour falls flat? I usually resort to blame, finger pointing, and scapegoats…. (laughs)
Truly? I just move on. I know that people are laughing on the inside. At least that’s what I tell myself!
Would you like to see more instructors using humor in their classes?
Of course. When I take classes with a teacher who uses humour, I tend to go back. It doesn’t mean they have to be firing jokes every 2 minutes, but it is nice to keep things light and not be so serious all the time. It’s also an effective tool for education and learning. Do you remember the teacher in high school who made lessons fun and interactive or the teacher who was boring and made you do worksheets all class? Check mate.
You are a jokester through and through. It’s who you are. Do you think it’s important to maintain your authentic voice inside the studio? Why?
Yes. Speak how you normally speak. The students who want what you have to offer will find you. If you are naturally light-hearted then be funny, if you are more philosophical be poetic, if you are nurturing be sweet. I have seen people transform into a completely different person when they go in to teach class, literally. Success will follow when you remove the mask.
A lot of instructors find this hard to do… do you have any tips?
Teach yoga like you are giving a stranger directions to the coffee shop nearby. It would be absolutely ridiculous if you switched to a calming yoga teacher voice and said “Inhale …. walking down the street two blocks. Exhale …. turning right at the intersection. Inhale …. I’d like you to continue for another block past the Chakra Kombucha Shiva Centre. Exhale [sigh] … and you’re right there. Mmmm caffeine. Peace. Namaste”. Instead, teach in plain, clear, direct language that everyone can understand.
Tell us your favourite joke!!
My favourite jokes are the ones that require a couple of minutes of explaining afterwards to clarify why they were so funny! (laughs) The absolute best in-class jokes are the spontaneous ones – which are also the ones I never remember. They usually have to do with something that was accidentally said, someone’s incredible tattoo, or an inspirational quote on a t-shirt…
As a yoga teacher, I often mix up my lefts and rights. Instead of admitting a mix-up, I make it appear like it was the students who made the mistake…
Me: “Lift up your Right hand” …
Class: *All lift right hand*
Me: *Realizes it should have been the left hand*
Me: “What I meant was, ‘Lift the hand that you Write with if you are Left Handed…”
Class: …. *quietly giggling*
About Jonathan Boyd:
Jonathan Boyd is a Bowspring and Yoga teacher based in Victoria, BC, Canada. As a scientist / educator / yogi brings a positive and enthusiastic energy to the yoga room, encouraging students to practice functionality versus final form. His classes are Humerus & Humorous: meaning they are heavily influenced by precise verbal alignment instructions along with a playful spirit. Jonathan leads workshops, trainings, immersions and you can practice with him online at vimeo.com/ondemand/jonathanboyd