Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training: Introduction to the Yogic Energy Body

subtle body
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

In Yoga, and Ayurveda, the Yogic body is composed of three bodies. One is the physical body (sthula sharira), which we can easily see. Another is the causal body (karana sharira), which we often refer to as the soul.

The energy body (sukshma sharira), is often called the subtle, vital, or Pranic body. This is very often a mystery to many, and confusing to more, but let’s take a tour of the energy body and you will understand it much better.

If someone does not believe in the existence of the energy body - I would ask how the physical body runs without electricity. Without electricity, we would have heart failure, and very big problems, if our hearts are not restarted.

How is the heart restarted? Sometimes CPR is enough, but most often CPR helps just long enough for a defibrillator to be used to restart the heart. The defibrillator causes low voltage electric current to enter the body through paddles or patches, which are then applied to the chest.

At the atomic level, your body is full of electrons, flying all over the place, and some are flying around the body. We cannot see it, but we know it is happening. How is this? We have faith in science, but science cannot measure everything.

For centuries, Ayurvedic doctors, and doctors of Chinese medicine, mentioned the electro-magnetic body, but western medicine scoffed at the idea of it. How could there be energy meridians? Does acupuncture really work or is it a “side show?” How come the energy meridians of Chinese medicine line up with the Nadis of Ayurvedic medicine?

Time has passed, and western medicine has now started to work in harmony with Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Maybe there’s something to the Yogic energy body after all. So, what are the main parts of the Yogic energy body?

Nadis (Energy Meridians): There are 72,000 Nadis in the electro-magnetic body, which send vital energy (Prana) from one point to another. Shushumna, Ida, and Pingala are considered the most important to Yoga students - although, 14 main Nadis should covered, when this subject is covered during a Yoga teacher training intensive.

Marmas (Pressure or Energy Points): There are 107 Marmas, and some say 108, but they can be effectively treated for healing purposes. Unfortunately, they can also be considered strike points in martial arts, but these energy points correspond, regardless of the purpose.

Chakras (Energy Vortices): There are seven main chakras, which transform magnetic currents of the earth into energy of the physical body. This physical energy balances the central nervous system and the endocrine system. There are also many secondary and minor Chakras.

© Copyright - Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training: Becoming a Yoga Teacher after 40

how to become a certified vinyasa yoga instructor
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

There are so many Yoga students over 40 years of age, who desire a knowledgeable, mature, and careful Yoga teacher. Many beginner Yoga students are 40 years of age or more. In my Chair Yoga classes, many new Yoga students are over 65.

How is it possible that a veteran student with decades of experience and practice cannot see his or her self-worth, as a Yoga teacher? Where does this self-doubt originate from? Could a young Yoga teacher graduate understand the pains, aches, medical conditions, and limitations of older students?

Quite simply, a Yoga teacher training graduate over 40 years of age has the major advantage of life experience. This is not meant to take credit away from young, compassionate, and well-trained Yoga teachers; but how many of them can understand working around physical or mental injuries from experience.

Let’s make a comparison of the human body to an automobile. When you are a young driver, you really learn about auto parts the hard way: When they break down and cost you money. Your friends will also tell you about their experiences with auto maintenance. You can sit in a class and learn about auto mechanics to your heart’s content, but the lesson is not the same.

Time and experience are an education. Now, your students are not automobiles, but life’s lessons are very valuable when teaching Yoga. Your previous life experience is a treasure when working with your Yoga students.

So, what does hold some experienced Yoga students back from becoming a Yoga teacher? If you have been on this earth for a while, you have experienced more failures than someone who is decades younger. Past failures sit deep in our memory and haunt us - even when we know we should act.

This is a good time to examine your self-worth and realize how often the “skeletons in your closet” are holding you back from taking action. Youthful exuberance is an advantage, when making decisions within a given “window of time. Yet, hasty decisions can be avoided, when you research the demand for your Yoga teaching services.

If there is no demand, there is no point in becoming a Yoga teacher, but on further investigation, the demand for experienced teachers, who can teach students over 40 years of age, is quite strong. In Europe and North America, the numbers of people turning 50 years of age, at this moment, is huge.

According to some studies, every seven seconds one American becomes 50 years of age. Robin Kocina, President of Mid-America Events Expos said, "The 55-plus market is growing six times faster than the rest of the population, and is finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves."

Consider these words by Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Never let fear get in the way of a rational and researched decision.

© Copyright – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Monday, February 26, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training: Am I Too Old to Become a Yoga Teacher?

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

All too frequently, I am asked by middle-aged or senior students, who aspire to become a Yoga teacher, “When is the best time to become a Yoga teacher?” Has the window of time passed for this opportunity, and is a younger Yoga instructor better suited to teach Yoga to the public?

Some of these veteran Yoga students have decades of experience, but feel intimidated by the “young hard bodies.” This is a deep subject, so let’s take a closer look at what holds some of us back from becoming a Yoga teacher.

The following three ideas are worth mentioning at this point:

1. Is Hatha Yoga strictly a physical practice?

2. If Hatha Yoga were an exercise class, the value of a “coach” is worthy of note.

3. There are so many Yoga students over 40 years of age, who desire a knowledgeable, mature, and careful Yoga teacher.

Is Hatha Yoga strictly a physical practice? No - Hatha Yoga covers mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects, as well as the physical aspects of life. The public has been duped by pretzel asanas (postures) on the covers of magazines.

If you never studied Yoga, you might not know better, but I am surprised when a student, with ten or more years of practice, still sees asana as the “Holy Grail” of Hatha Yoga. Asana is very valuable, but does not govern Hatha Yoga.

Pranayama (cultivation of life force through breath) is the ruler of body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Pranayama keeps you healthy in all aspects of existence, and Pranayama governs many asana techniques. If you cannot breathe correctly, asana performance can be very frustrating - when folding, balancing, or twisting. Pranayama makes mudra (gestures), and bandha (locks), purification of the nadis (energy channels), and meditation, much more powerful.

However, Pranayama is not the only aspect of Hatha Yoga. It is just one of the many aspects mentioned within the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Maharishi Patanjali mentions eight limbs within the Yoga Sutras. Asana is just one of the eight limbs of Yoga, but asana can be seen, and can be performed, to impress the public.

Would the public be impressed by Samadhi (the settled mind)? You already know the answer – The general public is impressed by the superficial aspects of Yoga, but Yoga is much more than one aspect.

If Hatha Yoga were simply an exercise class, the value of a “coach” is still worthy of note. The definition of a "teacher" in most languages is, "One who has been there before."

When you can teach a Yoga student how to perform an asana technique correctly, but you cannot perform the same asana perfectly, that is a part of being a teacher. The fact is - you understand the mechanics as good as anyone.

© Copyright – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training: The Spiritual Aspect of Yoga

By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

How much of the spiritual aspect of Yoga should be incorporated into Yoga teacher training? Swami Vishnu Devananda, founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, believed that spiritual and physical aspects were the two most important, in relation to Hatha Yoga.

Yet, most Hatha Yoga teacher training courses offer only a small “taste” of the Vedas, Upanishads, or Yoga Sutras. In a 200-hour Yoga teacher training course, “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” by Swami Svatmarama, (which was written in the 15th century), might be skimmed over or not mentioned at all.

Since its beginning, approximately 5,000 years ago, Yoga has been attached to Hinduism. (Hinduism is the oldest of today’s major religions.) The many forms of Yoga were created for mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

Today, Yoga has many more branches, and many of the modern branches of Hatha Yoga, outside India, are no longer attached to Hinduism, but the spiritual aspect of Yoga is still readily apparent. Most serious practitioners are spiritually aware, and spiritually healthy, as a result of their own practice.

Even though, Yogic philosophy does not conflict with any religion; moral codes such as Yama and Niyama exist within most religions of the past and present. When moral codes are similar to other philosophies and religions, they do not conflict with any of them.

Spiritual awareness is developed through a variety of avenues, but even an atheist would become more spiritual, if he or she practiced Yoga regularly. Samadhi – the eighth limb of Hatha Yoga is absorption with the “Supreme Being,” God, Universal energy, or the Supreme entity.

If everyone in the world practiced Yoga and meditation, we would have a much better chance at mutual tolerance of each other and world peace. It is futile to try to force others to live or worship by a narrow view of what we consider to be right. Yoga does not endorse violence, and teaches us to accept what we cannot change.

Therefore, spiritual health is enhanced with a universal moral code and faith in a higher power. There is no need for any of us to have a conflict, when we are just trying to raise children, earn a living, and worship God.

The hardest task any of us have in life is to make friends with a perceived enemy, yet each religion tells us to forgive our enemies. Look into the scriptures of your own religion and you will see.

Now that mankind has the power to destroy himself, it is very important for us to open a rational dialog with those who we perceive to be our enemies. We may just find out that we have more in common than we ever thought possible.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training: The Value of the Sage

yoga teacher
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

We live in a time when the masses have to be impressed by the extremes. When people think of Yoga, they often think of circus tricks, pretzel bodies, and gymnastic feats. Feats of physical prowess are a wonderful thing, but you do not need a Yoga teacher’s instruction, or a sage’s advice, to perform them.

When I was visiting a colleague’s studio, a young woman signed up for a free introductory Yoga class, and a free Tai Chi class. Before the class started, she was walking on her hands, touching her heels to the back of her head, and doing full splits in every possible direction. She also put on the same performance before her Tai Chi class.

Needless to say, she did not sign up for either class. About Yoga: She claimed that one class was all she needed. She had “been there and done that.” She was bored by Yogic philosophy, Pranayama, and meditation. She had “mastered” everything about Yogic methodology in one beginner class.

My Grandfather used to say, “You can’t reason with a horse’s tail.” So, there was no point in reasoning with someone, who already has all of the answers to life’s many mysteries. In my life, my Grandfather was to be the first of many sages for me to learn from. He did not know much about Yogic philosophy, but he knew a great deal about common sense, philosophy, and how to apply them to every day life.

The value of a sage cannot be under estimated. Unfortunately, the news shows us that wisdom and common sense have been taking a “vacation” for awhile. In Yogic methodology, a sage does not need a light show, fireworks, smoke, explosions, or special effects to capture the imagination of his or her students.

In Yogic circles, we look to the sages of the past, and present, through the written or spoken word. The sage is a Yoga teacher who can capture your imagination and guide students without any special effects. Maharishi Patanjali might be the first sage that comes to your mind - when thinking about the sages of the past.

So, where do you find a sage? Please remember that a sage is usually a mentor of spiritual and philosophical subjects, who is a source of profound and innovative wisdom.

This does not mean he or she has to be a Yoga teacher, but this is someone you can constantly learn from. If you need a notebook to keep up with all of the wisdom you hear from your mentor, then you have found a genuine sage.

The true sage has been where we desire to go and is capable of teaching all of us.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Purpose Of Yoga - Physical Health

500 hour online yoga teacher training intensive
By Sangeetha Saran

Yoga is many things to many people. Yes, it has mental and emotional benefits, but who is kidding who? Do students look past the physical benefits? Let's address the needs of the people and eventually those loyal students will see how their lives changed due to yogic practices. 

Yoga for a Healthy Body

It really does a body good, both inside and outside. Famous people practice it for the simple reason that it works in a multitude of beneficial ways. You can't fake yoga. You must be committed. You must invest in a consistent yoga routine to achieve the balance and spirit that keeps a body centered.

"It puts you in the right place." – Meg Ryan

"Yoga really purifies your organs and your blood. The real lesson yoga brings you is learning to be present." - Christy Turlington

"Yoga calms me down. It’s a therapy session, a workout, and meditation all at the same time!" - Jennifer Aniston

"I do some yoga every day." – Gisele Bundchen

Of course, yoga is there for everybody, not just for the slender celebrity. This ancient practice has been embraced by many people around the world and not just for all the bending and twisting that goes with the discipline. Yoga is all about controlled breathing, yoga postures (asanas) and meditation.

Take for example the Sarvangasana, or shoulder stand. The position is fondly called the 'mother of all asanas,' because when done properly, the shoulder stand zeroes in on several key zones and functions of the body. The pose delivers a lot in the name of health and beauty.

The Sarvangasana helps many yoga students maintain a slim physique because when the body is held in that position, the thyroid gland is stimulated. The blood supply is increased in the throat area, allowing the thyroid to function normally, and therefore, to aid in weight control.

The shoulder stand is also excellent for improving circulation. The pose allows blood to flow out of the legs, especially benefitting those with varicose veins. Since the spine is inverted during the Sarvangasana, flexibility gets stronger and energy is boosted.

The Sarvangasana is an important position for asthmatics says N.V. Raghuram, a yoga guru from India. "In this posture," he says, "the diaphragm muscle is strengthened because it has to work against gravity. This opens the chest and improves lung capacity."

It's pretty amazing that practicing an asana like the shoulder stand can keep one in great health. Yoga gives back so much to the student who learns that the head, heart and hand are all connected. Reaching that harmony becomes a wonderful way of living.

© Copyright 2007 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Yoga Fundamentals: The Seven Chakras

By Shumam Fasi

In Sanskrit the word chakra means spinning wheel representing the seven spinal energy centers. The chakras correspond to your spiritual growth, behavioral characteristics and to specific areas of your body. All the charkas can be aligned together and made to spin in the same direction and speed through the art of yoga. You can bring a certain type of balance and peace to your mind, body and spirit by understanding how to fine tune and control your chakras through yoga and meditation.

Each and every part of your body from the perineum to the crown of your head is associated with the seven chakras along the spine. These chakras are connected with a particular color, body location, a central emotional or behavioral issue and with other personal aspects rights, identity, goal and other such issues.

Below you will find how these seven chakras can be categorized:

Sahasrara - cerebral cortex or top of the head.

Ajna - eye brows.

Visshudha - throat.

Anahata - heart area.

Manipura - solar plexus.

Svadhistana - lower back or hip, abdomen and genitals.

Muladhara - base of the spine.

Through the ancient art of yoga you can concentrate your energy to and from the various chakras of your body and this can help you can compensate for areas that may be out of synch with the rest of your body or are inactive.

Proper distribution of this energy called Kundalini energy, along with all seven of the chakras can help you achieve a certain level of balance and harmony.

As a coiled up snake it rests in your Muladhara chakra, in its dormant state. Energy that flows through your system is regulated by these chakras. So if you are able to realign them through controlled and purposeful movements such as yoga, you can achieve a certain level of emotional wellbeing and physical benefits.