Pitta and Vata Brains – or Why Co-Teaching Rocks, Part 1
Someone recently asked me why I teach with Neesha Zollinger, my instructional partner for The Yogic Life Intensive. He assumed it was a strategy intended to avoid talking all day. That’s a nice perk for sure….but it’s not the main prize.
I teach with Neesha because her brain works nothing at all like mine, and I LOVE that! It makes for an awesome learning experience for everyone.
Case in point:
Last summer, Neesha and I were discussing where we get inspiration for our class themes, and how we work our themes through from a general idea to the concretization of that idea in a sequence of poses and physical instructions. We were talking through this in front of our teacher trainees as we often do, so as to share our personal processes with these budding professionals. I, the more left-brained one of us, proceeded to explain step-by-step how this happens for me: I choose a pose to apex with, decide what physical or emotional quality I need to that pose, and then brainstorm themes and stories that would support that combination. I then list a bunch of vocabulary words appropriate for that theme, and write a series of explicit instructions using those vocabulary words which I make sure to sprinkle in throughout my well-delineated pose sequence. I get to the studio early, do the sequence in my body, rehearse the phrases in my mind, and I’m ready to go. Based on this process, I created a worksheet our students could use to plan their own classes and passed it out to the class.
After I spoke, Neesha said, “so, the process for me looks nothing like this. There are no clear steps. I pretty much download the theme. It just comes to me. I have to work hard to be accessible for that inspiration though — I journal a lot, and read a lot of philosophy texts, and set myself up to let the ideas flow. I have a basic skeleton sequence of poses, but the directions and the variety of vocabulary I use comes to me in the moment while I am teaching. I don’t really use a form like that.”
Right. Of course not! Neesha’s brain works differently from mine, as well it should. I have a classic “pitta” style brain – it categorizes and organizes and comes to a clear point, like the tip of the flame of fire that is the element associated with pitta nature. Neesha has a lot of “vata” or air/ether in her constitution, and, as a result, is much more flowy, open to creative inspiration, and less structured in how she thinks through material.
Guess what? Neither one is better than the other; both of us teach terrific classes. There were participants in our group who could totally relate to my method of class planning and were befuddled by Neesha’s. And, there were just as many who were dumbstruck by the compartmentalized structure of my process and felt completely at home with the more fluid process Neesha described. Everyone – myself included – left the conversation with a much better appreciation for the depth of the class planning process, regardless of which technique was used, as well as for the beautiful diversity of mind-types out there in the world. How cool.
And isn’t that really the point of all this exploration after all – to wonder at the amazing variety of us all while also appreciating the amazing amount of intelligence and creativity we share? That’s the point for me anyway. It’s the point of life, as well as of a great yoga workshop such as The Yogic Life Intensive, which is really just a wonderful microcosm of life.
In Part 2 of Why Co-Teaching ROCKS, I’ll talk about the Pitta and Vata body differences and how those create profound learning in the context of yoga….
And, in the meantime, if you are interested in exploring the idea of teaching yoga, Neesha and I are running our fabulous Yogic Life training again this summer – it’s an RYT-200 Teacher Training, but the first three modules are focused primarily on your own practice and the conversation that is yoga philosophy and our quest for making meaning in this world. You can read A LOT more about The Yogic Life here.