Friday, December 09, 2016

Continuing Education for Yoga Instructors That's Doable - Convenient and Low Cost

yoga instructor
By Kathryn Boland
     
Have you reflected on the value - no, necessity - of continuing education for yourself as a yoga instructor? Do you sometimes find it hard to have the time and money for it? Even so, a certain number of continuing education hours are required to uphold yoga instructor certification - no exceptions. And we see how we need to keep studying to keep teaching in fresh and informed ways. Read on for some ways to fulfill those requirements, for formal credits and informally for yourself, that are inexpensive and accessible. Happy learning, good luck, and Shanti!

Invest in a studio membership!

While you can't quite count practicing at a studio regularly for official continuing education hours, it can be an invaluable learning tool. First off because it allows you to consistently take class with a variety of instructors - who all bring unique knowledge and teaching styles to the table. With an unlimited membership, the more you go, the better value you get! Memberships range from $80-$130 per month - not nothing, but much less as a payment at one time than many other continuing education options.  

This frequency and diversity of classes allows you to adopt and adapt what works for your own teaching, and leave behind what doesn’t (as well as lead you to think critically about why). You'll also develop relationships with your teachers, who can then support you through the trials of your own teaching (while you’re also there to support them!). 

Second, you can keep cultivating your practice. Like a garden, it cannot grow and flourish if not nourished. We need healthy, inspired practices in order to authentically guide our students in their own. It also allows us to have common ground with our students. What we learn about them, and how we learn to put that to use in teaching them most fruitfully, is certainly a kind of continuing education - and an important one!



Work it all out in workshops!

Almost without exception, reputable yoga studios offer workshops. Depending upon factors like materials used (e.g. workbooks, special equipment), length (typically anywhere from two hours to entire weekends), and credentials of the teacher, these range in cost from roughly $20-$200. On the lower end, you can gain invaluable new learning for less than restaurant lunch!

Another advantage of workshops is the specificity; you can immerse yourself in a particular area of practice or instruction, with a teacher who is an expert in that area (why he or she chose to offer the workshop in the particular area, most often). This is a plus especially if you find that a particular area of your knowledge is lacking or needs a refresher. Or perhaps you're really interested in a particular area, and would like to incorporate it into your teaching more and/or start building a niche there - but you need more know-how first.

A workshop can be a great kick starter in any of those cases! You might also be able to get continuing education credits for workshops. You can find that out through the event’s promotional literature, or you can also ask the workshop teacher/organizer/hosting studio official. Keep an eye out for workshops that spark your interest (promoted or on studio websites “Workshops and Events” page). Or express your interest in learning more in depth about particular areas - to officials at your studio or your favorite teachers. These can be incredibly beneficial, enlightening, and game-changing opportunities - so try not to just let them pass you by!

Explore all that's online.

There’s a massive amount of free information on yoga instruction and practice out in there the virtual world. All accessible at the click of a mouse or smartphone keypad. Not all of it is informed and well-expressed, but it's there from which to probe and gather nuggets of valuable information. Being discerning about what we read and believe is a professional skillset that, just like any other, takes practice.

While often hazy and undefined amounts of time browsing online yoga resources (checking email and social media at least a few times, anyone?) cannot officially count for continuing education credits, through that browsing you might just find opportunities for that which are accessible and affordable for you. Some of these might count for CE credits!

As a matter of fact, that is how I found out about Aura Wellness Center’s independent study certification programs. Without that, I don't know if I ever could have been able to afford (and afford taking the time away from paid work for) yoga instructor certification. You can just never know how life changing a Google search can turn out to be. Happy internet surfing, and may the learning roll on!

Kathryn Boland is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yoga Teacher Tips

instructor education
By Faye Martins


Many people find yoga to be a great way to relax and get exercise. Yoga is a great way to mentally unwind and it promotes sports recovery. You may have thought about how great it would be to learn how to teach yoga students.

If you are interested in teaching yoga, you probably have already taken classes before. If you are new, you may wish to try different types of yoga to see which types you would most enjoy teaching. You may wish to sample a few different classes if you have been with one instructor for most of the time you have been learning. By sampling different instructors you can also get ideas based on what other teachers do for your own classes. When you are planning to teach your first class, you may want to focus on a beginner class to keep the moves simple.





There are training courses available to teach yoga instructors about how to lead their classes. These courses can give you all the tools you need to be a good instructor, though you will still need to do some planning and practice on your own. Like everything else, teaching gets better with practice. If you are nervous about teaching your first class, it may help to tell the students that it is your first class. Simply disclosing a fear can often make it seem less scary, and your students will understand if you stumble a little bit. Don't worry if your first few classes aren't perfect--you can make a note of what you thought went well or not and strive to improve the mistakes.

Yoga has a mental aspect, and consider including poses intended to promote relaxation in your sessions while instructing students on their breathing and which areas of the body to focus on. Learning how to teach others where to focus and how to relax is one of the key aspects of learning how to teach yoga students.





You may wish to write down the sequence you want to do in your class and then practice it yourself a few times, including what you will say during your class. If you are especially nervous before teaching your first class, you could even practice teaching with a couple friends first before you teach your first class of people you don't know. You can ask your friends for feedback to get a student's perspective.

Decide whether you want to provide mats or have people bring their own. The market for supplies for doing yoga is growing, so you may wish to ask if anyone has any questions about yoga mats you would recommend. This can be done after class when you are inviting students to come back to class and make yoga a regular practice in their lives. A good yoga mat can be a great investment, especially for certain types of yoga like hot yoga, which requires a mat that can provide traction and dry quickly even when its user is producing sweat. Consider the surface you will be working on, since the mats may need to be thicker on hard surfaces. If you provide mats, consider how you will sanitize them between uses.




Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yoga for Enhanced Academic Performance

improving attention and concentration
By Bhavan Kumar

The benefits of yoga are well known for adults, but many of these benefits also carry over to young students. Research has shown that regular practice of yoga techniques can help students fare better in their academic and emotional lives in various ways.

Physical Fitness

According to the CDC, childhood obesity rates have doubled over the past 30 years. About 1 out of every 3 children is obese. Improving the physical fitness of children is not only important for their bodies, but it also helps the mind. Studies have shown that practicing yoga not only improves physical fitness in children, but it also promotes better academic performance and emotional stability. The benefits of children's yoga come from a calmer heart rate that allows the brain to activate responses from the parasympathetic nervous system. Systems of the body such as immunity, circulation, digestion and glandular balance are enhanced as well.



Attention and Concentration

Yoga provides an avenue for the mind and body to relax from fast paced learning environments. This can help students apply themselves in a more effective way when learning and studying in the classroom. In a 2013 study, students reported better concentration and more restful sleep after practicing yoga for only one month. A study from the Department of Psychology at Stanford with 4th to 7th graders showed that eight weeks of practicing meditation for just one hour resulted in decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus their attention. The breathing techniques associated with yoga can increase concentration in ways that also enhance academic performance.

Behavior and Conflict

Yoga can also help students get along better with their peers which allows for a more effective learning environment. A school in Wisconsin began a yoga program for kindergarten to 8th grade students that consisted of two classes a week. These lessons emphasized breathing and movement yoga practices alongside teaching respectful behavior. After a year of using this method, the school saw a decrease of disruptive behaviors by more than half. It was found that behavior improved outside of the classroom as well. These results show that yoga may teach students how to manage their reactions and respect others in improved ways.

Stress

Many adults practice yoga to improve their moods and reduce stress. Just like adults, students are susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress. They are often pressured and stressed by their peers, social lives, family burdens and academic worries. A study published in 2009 analyzed the effects of yoga on adolescents with higher stress levels. The study showed that after seven weeks of regular yoga practice, breathing exercises and meditation, their stress levels were reduced and their academic performance improved as a result. A 2014 study showed that ten weeks of yoga practice reduced stress in a group of low-SES students.

Self-Esteem

Self-consciousness is often contingent upon academic performance, and excessive worry about it can lead to decreased performance or mental health concerns. Studies have shown that yoga can result in improvement of self-esteem to enhance mental health and improve academic performance. Students also deal with poor body image and feelings of awkwardness. A study in 2013 found that high school students that substituted yoga for standard physical education reported better respect for their bodies and improved spatial awareness. In other studies, students reported that regular yoga practice could provide incentive to refuse peer pressure to engage in destructive activities.

Practicing yoga offers a number of physical and mental benefits to students that allow them to better handle everyday stressors. This allows them to put more focus on their academic concerns with less of a toll on their health away from the classroom.

Resources:

J Educ Health Promot. 2013; 2: 55.
Published online 2013 Sep 30. doi:  10.4103/2277-9531.119043

Adolescent and School Health
http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/

Sunday, November 06, 2016

One Special Thing in Yoga Instruction and Practice – For Ourselves and Our Students

instruction and practice
By Kathryn Boland

In a prior article, I discussed ways in which I experienced a time as a yoga student when it might not have all seemed worth it, but one very valuable thing I gained as a practitioner made it all more than worth it. I’ll now discuss similar experiences as a yoga instructor, and how we can facilitate our students gaining these types of experiences – and thus keep them coming back to class for more! 

As one such instance, one time I experienced travel issues getting to a private student. I felt rushed and stressed. When I got there, and we began the lesson, she was unfocused and difficult to guide in practice - due to some significant personal issues she was going through at the time. Combine that with the fact that this student pay me at a discounted "sliding-scale" rate, and part of me couldn't help but question if it was all worth my time and effort.

At a certain point though, something clicked within her, at least for a bit. She found a certain integration and alignment, leading to a smoothness and command of her breath and body. It allowed her to achieve a level of stability and depth in a few postures that she never before had. I unabashedly commended her on that. I was genuinely fulfilled and proud, yet also hoping the positive reinforcement might encourage her to more consistently be mindful towards her practice, like she was able to at that point.  She does manage to come back to that focused, integrated state at certain times.




It wasn't necessarily easy, but I could keep my mind honed on what she achieved then - rather than let that part of me asking "Is this worth it?" take over. If it did, I might discontinue working with her. That would certainly be a loss for us both (for her in that she can't otherwise easily access or afford yoga practice instruction).

This idea also applies to our continuing education as yoga instructors. We might come away from workshops, classes, and trainings gaining one, two, or a few significant pieces of new knowledge. If we undervalue those things – small in number, yet potentially vital to our professional growth - we might think the time and money we invested wasn’t worth it. We might stop seeking such learning opportunities - and thus, for the most part, stop learning. We at least won't learn nearly as much as we could. Or if we focus on things we might feel we did "wrong" while teaching certain classes or lessons, we might get significantly discouraged. If we instead focus on something that’s improving with our teaching, even if only one thing, then we'll keep at it - continuing to seek learning and growing as teachers. If it was possible once, why not again?

We can apply this concept to our teaching itself in certain ways. Aiming towards one particular achievement makes a strong case for "theming" classes around a specific concept, idea from yoga philosophy, "peak" pose, or group of postures. It’s true that "balanced" sequencing, adding a little bit of everything, can lead to an overall feeling of wellness and contribute to whole-person health. On the other hand, being more specific with our themes can guide students towards one very notable achievement, something that they can solidly come back to and feel successful about.




In another way, students often feel down on themselves for not achieving certain postures, or even for remaining unfocused. We can boost their confidence by guiding them to re-frame their thinking. If we can encourage them to instead focus on one, or two or three things that they achieved, they’ll more likely keep coming back to their practices. And who knows, maybe that one thing will change how they practice, for the better, forever. As Patanjali clarifies for us, that type of perspective shift is powerful, because it can lead us to contentment; "from contentment, incomparable happiness is attained" (Yoga Sutras II.42).


© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Calming Children with Yoga Sessions

By Gopi Rao

As anyone who spends much time around children can tell you, sometimes it is difficult to keep them calm. Sometimes it even seems impossible. This is due to a number of reasons. Kids have a boundless energy, and sometimes they simply don’t know how to channel this energy in a positive direction. Also, kids don’t get the exercise they should, which leaves them worked up. Finally, they are living in a fast-paced world where they are constantly being herded from one activity to another without time to breathe and relax. This can leave them feeling on edge all the time, which also causes them to act up.

Yoga Is the Solution

Fortunately, yoga can be a wonderful solution for adults who need help calming children down. Yoga is a tailor-made activity for calming people of all ages, and kids are no exception. The exercise, meditation and relaxing breathing that make up yoga combine to create a powerful tool that will help to calm even the unruliest kids.



Adding Exercise to Their Days

One of the biggest reasons that kids are acting up more these days is that they don’t get enough exercise and far too many of them are playing video games or watching TV for hours each day instead of playing outside. For these kids, an immediate solution to reduce their acting out is upping their exercise levels. Having kids engage in a daily yoga practice is a wonderful way to up their activity levels and calm them down.

Helping Them Manage Their Emotions

Another common reason kids get worked up is because they do not know how to manage their emotions. When they get upset, angry or afraid, they act out because these big emotions overwhelm them. However, when kids start to do yoga, they learn how to relax and calm themselves down with the power of breathing techniques and focusing the mind. They will take these calming tools off the mat with them, using them to relax and let their emotions pass over them without upsetting them to the point where they act out.

Relaxing Before Bedtime

Nearly all parents know the seemingly eternal struggle to get kids to calm down before bedtime. Many kids seem to all of a sudden swallow a 50-horsepower motor as soon as bedtime is brought up. For parents who are sick to death of dealing with this, adding a nighttime yoga routine can be the perfect tool to calm their children and get them to go to bed gracefully.

Yoga is a wonderful tool for calming kids down in every scenario and parents can utilize it, childcare providers and schools to help reduce the amount of acting out kids do. Try adding a regular yoga practice to your kid’s daily routine to witness the calming wonders for yourself.



Healthy Habits

Children can benefit from engaging in a regular yoga practice much the same way that adults do. Through yoga, kids can develop physical and mental habits that have positive effects on their long-term health. 

Movement

It is so easy to go through life moving from one screen to the next. The Siren song of phones, tablets, and video game consoles lures children into inactivity. Studies are linking a stationary lifestyle to a host of health problems. Yoga gets kids into the habit of moving. Since yoga encourages non-judgment, it is a great way for children of all athletic abilities to incorporate movement into their days.

Body Awareness

Getting into the habit of scanning the body for what it needs can keep kids safe and healthy. Yoga encourages children to develop proprioceptive senses. Body awareness extends to understanding what the body needs in order to be well. Children with body awareness have a better understanding of their body's cues to rest, eat, or drink.

Stress Relief

The education system and social pressure are major stressors. Children are expected to learn more content at a quicker pace than ever. Growing up can be tough work. Besides burning off physical energy through movement, yoga teaches kids how to relax. Developing stress relief habits at an early age enables a child to circumvent the stress cycle that leads to health problems later in life. Breathing techniques can be transferred off the mat and into a variety of stressful situations that a child may encounter.

Self-study

Self-study is a necessary but often overlooked practice. As one learns to navigate interpersonal relationships, it is easy to lose sight of one’s own values. Giving kids the time to focus inward allows them to hear their authentic voice. By engaging in the physical practice of yoga or through meditation and pranayama, children can access a greater understanding of themselves. Through self-study, a child can learn to be kinder to him or herself and others.



Intention Setting

In many yoga classes, we can focus our movement and breath on our intention. Our intention could be in the form of a positive affirmation or a short list of things we need to accomplish with our practice. This laser-like focus allows us to discern meaning from what we are doing. Children who learn this skill of intention setting can easily transfer it from the mat and into their everyday lives.

Yoga is physically and emotionally beneficial for children. Through breath and movement, kids can strengthen their bodies and minds, and they can become better citizens of the world.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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