Thursday, February 4, 2010

Playing the Blues

"I'll give you a little tip about the blues, folks.  It's not enough to know which notes to play.  You need to know why they need to be played."  - George Carlin

I was talking on the boards to a fellow Spring 2010 Trainee To-Be this week about learning the dialogue.  (Do I need a life?  Very possibly, but isn't that why you love me?  Let's move on.)  The guy was having a little trouble with memorizing dialogue and was kind of discouraged about the whole process, in a "Why do we have to learn this stuff?!" kind of way.

As anyone who's met me or read my blog knows, I freaking love the dialogue.  I believe that the dialogue gives you the strongest possible foundation to teach from, because it includes all the most important beginning instructions, for all the postures, in order.   It is precise, sequential, accurate, and complete.  When you really break it down, you can use it to answer virtually any question about a posture.  (I have used this trick on friends of mine many times.  Any time my roommate asks me about a posture, I usually just start telling her dialogue until we find the answer!)  There's a reason for almost everything in it, including (especially including!) the weird stuff.  It's pretty cool.

I mentioned my teacher Diane in the discussion, and another person piped up saying that she'd just taken Diane's class that weekend, and that it was the best dialogue-based class she'd ever had and the dialogue "sounded so dynamic" coming from Diane.  (Woot!  New England shout-out!!)

I loved that phrase - the dialogue "sounded so dynamic" - because to me it's always been obvious that the dialogue can be delivered with incredible dynamics.  Or not!  It's like a piece of music.  In the hands of an unskilled musician, the best Mozart works will sound boring and lifeless.  But when played by a master, you can hear the pacing, the structure, the nuances - the dynamics - of the whole thing.

My belief - though this may just be the scientist in me talking - is that is all comes down to true understanding.  Like the late and great George Carlin said about blues music: It's not enough to know what notes to play.  You need to know why they need to be played.

In my adventures with home recording equipment, I recorded audio of myself reading the entire dialogue off the page, so that I could study it in my car.  I noticed something really striking when I listened to the CD.  I can immediately tell which bits of dialogue I have really studied and which parts I was just reading off the page.  Triangle is the last pose that I had studied when I did the recording, and it sounds fine.  I studied separate leg head to knee and tree pose last weekend, and now the original recording sounds completely off - the phrasing, the emphasis, the inflection, everything!  I can't believe how blatantly obvious it is, at least to my ear, when I don't thoroughly understand what I'm saying.

It reminds me of the flute lessons I took for years, when my teacher was constantly telling me, "Phrasing, J, phrasing!  Why did you breathe there?!"  The lesson finally stuck; I listen for phrasing in music and in dialogue.  I find the little couplets and phrases that go together.  It's a song, not a grocery list!  It's not "Left leg locked thigh muscle contracted spine straight stomach in."  It's "Left leg locked; thigh muscle contracted.  Spine straight; stomach in."  It's "skeleton-muscle, skeleton-muscle."  Phrasing!!  I'm gonna have to re-record the second half of the series...

Hope the slightly rambling teacher trainee shop talk isn't boring the heck out of you guys.  I'm just a little obsessed with this stuff at the moment!  (It's my blog and I'll blog what I want to!)  Two and a half months 'til training... unbelievable.


hannahjustbreathe said...

I feel like you and I have talked about this... How one of my biggest grievances is how poorly the dialogue resonates when delivered WITHOUT phrasing, when it leaves the teacher and hits the yogis without any semblence of rhythm or reason. When that happens, I always think, "Flat. The dialogue is falling so, so flat right now."

I really like thinking of the dialogue like a piece of carefully constructed music---then my teachers serve as the grand conductors and we their orchestra.

Happy weekend, lady!

Marika utomjording(extraterrestre, alien) said...

Good on you! Just blog what you's not your problem if people don't understand or get bored.
I like your blog. I am a Hatha yogi and have never tried Bikram...well here in Rome during the summer it is rather Bikram.
Still thinking about what you have written in this post...not sure I get it...but that's my problem!

tara said...

Every time you talk about the dialogue it helps me to understand the pose a little bit better, so by all means, keep talking about it!

bikramyogachick said...

There is so much to the delivery of the dialog. There are certain teachers that deliver it in a manner so that you listen and move with the words and stay out of your head. There are others who struggle with it and I find myself tuning them out which can get dangerous.
I cannot wait to take your first class. It will be here in Vegas, so aren't I the lucky duck!!!!!

Camilla said...

I find it inspiring to read how much you care about the dialogue.

It's not enough to know what notes to play. You need to know HOW they need to be played.

Big G said...

I noticed this with every single teacher and it makes a big difference. Related to what you're saying is the idea of making the dialogue your own, so it sounds like something you would say, rather than reciting something you memorized. That's what ultimately helps with phrasing.

KatieO said...

So your flute study is coming into play. "Phrasing" does sound key, not rote material, not a shopping list. I don't even study yoga but I get it just fine. I love all the random quotes you keep in your head, calling them out at the perfect moment.

aHappyYogi said...

That is the difference between a teacher and a good teacher. The good teacher realy understands what he/she wants the students to learn and understand.

Anonymous said...

You are far along the way of "getting it". And not only is it understanding what you say in terms of phrasing, ie how you say it, it is also, I believe understanding the posture. Delivering the what and how with energy so that the student can just move into the posture. Like hannahjustbreathe says you are the conductor of the room.

By the way, I would have like to run over the people who came to my training as prepared as you are...while I stuggled, no make that STRUGGLED daily with dialogue. I could memorize, but my nervousness made my delivery SUCK! Luckily I kept improving, and didn't have to face the "panel" And thank god that is behind me! ( I did learn lots in posture clinic, even if it was my personal hell).

tracik said...

I think it's so cool how excited you are about the training! You are going to rock as a teacher!!! We'll all need to take your class...If this body of mine ever heals!

vegan salad party said...

i love it! someone once said the dialogue is a poem that the body sings

Danielle said...

This just made me think of how easily the writen word can be misread. Someone can write, "whatever", and it can be taken as "Woo hoo -yeah,l sure whatever!!" Or it can be taken as "WHAT EVER (biatch)". Same thing with the dialog. Anyone can rattle off the words after a bit of memorization. But if you MEAN the words and KNOW what they mean, ANY student can tell.

(ok- maybe a random, not so good correlation. But WHATEVER!!) :))

thedancingj said...

hannah - Totally! We are the orchestra! I can be the flute! :)

Marika - I'm getting ready to go to the Bikram yoga training, and part of the training is memorizing 40+ pages of yoga instructions - the "dialogue" - word for word! The goal is to teach an amazing class based off that dialogue. It's a pretty interesting task!

tara - Thanks! See newest post. ;)

BYC - Yes, there is NOTHING set in stone, but keep your fingers crossed for that Vegas class... I'll try to hook it up.

Camilla - Thanks! You got it; there are three thing you always need to know. "What?" "WHY?" and "HOW?" Then you're really in business!

G - Totally. And the better you can memorize, the less it sounds like you're saying something you've memorized! You just reminded me of something else, but I'm saving it for another post...

KatieO - HI MOM!

aHappyYogi - I mean, how can we expect our students to get it if WE don't get it?! Actually, that CAN still happen... I've seen it... it's kinda neat.

lynx - Thanks! And augh, that is my nightmare, that the other trainees who are struggling will wanna run me over with a truck. I've gotta play it cool and be very helpful, I think!

traci - Hopefully I'll make my way back east to teach at some point! Boston is so close to my heart.

kitson - Thanks! I like that a lot.

danielle - WHATEVER. (You knew I was gonna say that.)

lz said...

love your analogy that the dialogue is like a music composition. Everything is right there in the dialogue, it is just up to the teachers to use it effectively. It is so true that the phrasing and emphasis make all the difference!

thedancingj said...

Thanks lz! This music analogy is growing on me more and more... :)

OhMyBikram said...

I love this, I have totally overlooked these lines in the dialogue! I am going to go try create a cramp in class today.

Nice work on that one!!


thedancingj said...

Thanks, Barb! Always great to pull out the dialogue. Bikram and Emmy REALLY reinforced that for me this weekend. I was so glad. I have a lot more to write on that subject... :)