Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Communication Skills for Yoga Teachers

500 hour yoga teacher training intensive course
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

When Yoga teachers gather in a workshop to hear a lecture about communication - what is the first topic that comes to mind? Is it cueing skills, voice inflection, or when to ask a student for permission to assist? Those are important issues for anyone who teaches Yoga, but let’s take a look at many more areas that could use some work.

Communication is a two way street. How can we exchange ideas if students are made to feel “stupid” for asking questions? Granted, Yoga classes cannot operate like an open forum, if you have a lesson plan in mind, but a student who is experiencing pain should not have to feel bad for asking about it. Nor should he or she have to wait until the end of class to ask an impatient teacher about his or her pain.

Listen Empathically: When a student asks a Yoga-related question during class time, the Yoga instructor present, should listen to all of the details. There are times when a Yoga student asks questions, which are on the mind of many more classmates.

For some students, it takes a lot of courage to ask a question in a group setting. Some students ponder questions for days before asking them. Their heart rate may rise because it took courage to ask the question.

With all this said, listening is a primary communication skill. As a Yoga teacher, you are respected by your students, so do not violate a trust by bolstering your ego. The key is to listen intently, because you may have questions of your own, which will result in a deeper answer.

Who becomes a Yoga student’s best teacher during Hatha Yoga practice? His or her body, and mind, must eventually be the best Yoga teacher. If not, we have failed to give our students the gift of self-realization. To go further: Students must learn to think for themselves. If they are dependent on a Yoga teacher, all the time, then our teaching method is flawed.

Why do I say this? If a student is not present for Yoga practice, we must make him or her gently aware of it. There is no need to make students dependent on us. Good students will always return to Yoga class.

Yoga must still be practiced after our students have rolled up their mats. Breathing, walking, talking, eating, posturing, and acting with mindfulness, is the sign of a Yoga practitioner. All of the amazing physical feats are nice, but any flexible Pilates student, dancer, gymnast, or martial artist, could do the same.

Who are some of the best teachers a Yoga instructor could have? The answer should not surprise you, but it is our students who create the best Yoga teacher from within us. Consider this: Random questions develop complete knowledge of any given subject.

Yoga students are full of questions, so let them ask, and you will find. Yoga students often have a “fresh view” of Yoga. We cannot easily absorb new ideas with a preconceived perspective of a given subject. Yoga students have no set of preconceived notions about Yoga

Socrates once said, “I know nothing, except the fact of my ignorance.” If he could be such a humble teacher about the subject of life, who are we to feel so comfortable with our knowledge on the subject of Yoga? Allow Yoga-related questions during class time, and everyone will be richer for the experience.

It is true that some Yoga teachers have found their niche by suppressing student thought, but this is not Yoga, and it is all about control. The sad fact is - Yoga students, who seek out abusive teacher / student relationships are magnetized to dogmatic personalities and have voluntarily chosen to be in the relationship.

These same primal behavior patterns run parallel to their relationships at home, in work, and in their social lives. This is unfortunate, but all of us have a place in this life, and some people crave the negative attention of an “alpha personality.” If you observe a wolf pack, you can see much similar behavior.

Getting back to communication skills - Yoga teachers, who masterfully explain concepts through cueing, voice inflection, demonstration, and assisting, have taken the time to practice the art of communication. Seasoned Yoga instructors are not good at what they do by accident. Time spent in front of a crowd, or a mirror, causes us to look within and communicate effectively.

Knowing the audience is a valuable skill every Yoga teacher should take the time to learn. What are the interests of your Yoga students? What parts of the lesson plan raise their level of motivation? Do you feel a stir of excitement or anticipation at certain points in your Yoga class? Even if none of them says a word, you can still read “body language.”

When students feel the beneficial aspects of your Yoga class, it is “written all over their faces.” Develop your intuition, but do not drive yourself crazy. If you are still not sure what motivates your students, it is time to ask them some tactful questions.

A sample question, about one subject, might be: “Do you see the benefit of practicing Revolved Triangle now?” If they do not give you an answer, you can list the skeletal benefits to the hips, spine, shoulders, and legs. You can list the muscles, which are strengthened and stretched.

You could also mention the particular internal organs, which are massaged and cleansed. Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana), like many Asanas, has many physical benefits, but it develops mental strength, as well. The student / teacher relationship is a “think tank.” Allow your students to participate completely, and the proficiency level of your entire school will be raised.

Ponder these words of Jesus: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” The answers to all of our questions are right in front of us, if we remember this.

© Copyright 2007 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

If you are a teacher, studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles) – Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the copyright above. Namaste, Paul

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Purpose of Yoga: Finding Yourself

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Some people claim to find themselves after practicing Yoga faithfully - but how can this be? Yoga is an art of living. In fact, Yoga is a 5,000 year old archive of solutions for the many forms of suffering, which plague mankind.

What causes most of mankind’s suffering? A lack of “something” can cause suffering. Which is worse: Lack of food, lack of water, lack of a job, or lack of good health? All of them are bad, and some of these situations are potentially fatal.

We now know that lack of something critical can cause serious suffering. Lack of oxygen will shorten our lives in minutes.

Many people blame lack of money for all of their suffering. If they had a million dollars, then they would be able to enjoy their family and their life.

Yet, most of the world’s rich and famous do not really seem to be living in a state of bliss. For them, money and power can be the source of their suffering. True intentions in business, relationships, marriages, and friendships, can be murky when money and power are at stake.

However, lack of thought is a common thread in many types of suffering. If you fall into a lake, with water over your head, and think you are finished - you will be. If you think losing your job is the end of the world - it might be. The real problem is not having a solution to the problem at hand.

It is also very difficult to come up with solutions to problems, without the proper training. Yet, Yoga trains your mind and body for logical thinking in a variety of critical situations.

If you are able to handle any situation that “comes your way,” your mind and body have been trained, conditioned, and prepared, for most of what life has to offer. It is not a coincidence when someone responds to a stressful situation with logical solutions and answers.

Being able to react to problems, with solutions, will also help you find that a problem could be the gateway to a better life. How is that possible?

Here is just one example: Mary has a “dead end job.” She has worked for her company for three years. She never gets a raise. She shows up to work on time, every day, never takes time off, and she works overtime, when she is asked.

Mary is ethical, honest, respected by her fellow workers, and has positive suggestions, but management does not care, and they have promoted less qualified people “over her head.”
She has many choices, even if she does not see them. She could wait for her wage to go up. She could also wait for recognition. She could wait for an opening in another department. Do you believe Mary will be rewarded by waiting?

Based on the company’s performance, it is highly unlikely that Mary will ever be promoted, appreciated, noticed, or rewarded. Mary’s best solution might be to work at another company, which will appreciate her skills and work ethic - or work for herself.

This solution may seem logical to you and I, but for Mary, this is a “great leap forward.” Unless her mind is conditioned, she will stay at her present job, hoping for success, but receiving only frustration and regret.

In truth, Mary will benefit from a Yoga class, where she will find self-worth, confidence, and build a better self-image. Yoga practice will create a true self-realization of her value at work, in life, and at home.

Mary decides to react to this situation, with a logical solution, and finding the right job, results in a 15% to 70% wage increase at a company, which appreciates her skills and character.
She saw going into business as too risky, but Mary is finding herself, and her family will benefit as a result of her solution.

© Copyright – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

To see find out more about yoga or see our selection of inexpensive yoga teacher training courses, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.
If you are a teacher, Yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

The Purpose of Yoga: Building Self-Image

By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Many times, Yoga teachers refer to the inner self or the observer from within. In a class, you may be instructed to observe without judgment, but how can we stop judging? We judge things all day long.

If you drive a car, you are judging timing, distance, and speed. In this case, judging is a matter of life and death, which concerns you, other drivers, and pedestrians. You have to judge, whether you like it or not, but you are told not to judge yourself in a Yoga class or during a meditation session.

Who do we judge the most harshly in the course of a typical day? For most of us, self-criticism is a large part of the day. We call ourselves uncomplimentary names. We do not forgive ourselves for past mistakes. We forget that we learn from mistakes and we create a negative self-image.

So how does the Yogi or Yogini get in touch with the inner being? This is a journey toward spiritual clarity, where any person can travel. Look at yourself and observe the two sides of your inner being. You can use a mirror, but I would suggest you use a piece of paper and a pen.

When training Yoga teachers, I have found that compiling lists allow them to be impartial. We can classify our traits and qualities as negative or positive, but the “big picture” is not always so clear, because some negative qualities may bring about positive results. The opposite can also be said.

Some people may talk too much, but talking has put them in a prestigious position. Other people do not speak up enough, but they have always “played it safe,” and have no worries.

Karma is not always clear to see. Which trait or path is right, and which is wrong, is not crystal clear, but when you design your list, you may want to have three categories. These categories are positive, neutral, and negative.

Neutral allows for a “gray area,” because life is not simply “black and white.” It may look that way to a child, but as a child learns more, each issue takes on more gray area.

When you classify your personal traits and qualities, you can see what you lack, and you can praise yourself for what you already have. It is most important to see what you have and appreciate it, before going after what you do not have.

When you decide to make positive changes, you may want to focus on one change at a time. Most people cannot learn to appreciate themselves overnight, but you can be thankful for your good qualities and then go after a vital trait to build your self image.

Yoga teaches us to listen from within and to appreciate what we have right now.

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