Monday, December 17, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Indian Culture

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By Kimaya Singh

Yoga was born from Indian culture thousands of years ago and is still deeply entwined with it today. Although it has made an impact on modern culture, it is still not as widely practiced in other places as it is in India. That's not to say that it is any less powerful a practice in other parts of the world, but there's no doubt that the traditions of Yogic methodology are still largely prevalent even in today's modern Indian culture. In fact, those traditions and views add to the mystical yet calm practice of modern practitioners.

Around the world, there are Yoga schools, studios, and classes are often taught within fitness centers and gyms. However, the ashrams in India are dedicated solely the practice. Pranayama, japa, mantra, asanas and meditation are a daily part of many people's lives within India. It isn't just a fad or a form of exercise, it is a central influence. It is closely linked with Indian history and many of the words associated with Yoga are taken directly from Sanskrit. It is practiced from a very young age, and the values that are inherent within the practice of Yoga training can be seen in many different facets of life.

Maintaining traditions is a very important part of Indian culture. This importance is deeply ingrained into those who practice in ways that many modern practitioners don't always readily understand. Many people from other countries who go to India to experience Yoga instructor training, walk away with a newfound understanding and respect for their practice that they didn't have before. 

That's not to say that everyone needs to go to India in order to get the full experience of Yoga. However, studying the traditions, the beginnings and the philosophy can definitely help to deepen someone's practice. For this reason any course designed for teacher training should be well-rounded and contain an overview of all Yogic aspects.

A healthy respect for the body and the importance of treating it well are just two of the many aspects of Yogic philosophy. Yet, those directives can mean something quite different from culture to culture. The careful guidance of one’s guru (Yoga teacher) can help a person build a larger awareness of the outside world while helping to built or sustain inner strength and peace. That and many other reasons are why it is still so integral and widely practiced within Indian culture.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Become a Yoga Instructor as a Lifestyle

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By Rachel Holmes

Although the last ten to fifteen years has seen an explosion in the number of yoga teacher training intensives around the world, many of these interns began studying yogic methodology as part of an exercise trend that has swept across world since it started to become popular. Yogic exercise was praised for being a low-impact physical activity and marketed to people across various demographics that needed something less cardiovascularly demanding than an aerobics class or a long morning run. People began to understand yoga training as an activity that would help them lose weight and relax at the same time, and many became avid practitioners who soon advanced to more complex and demanding sessions.

It is true that with this popularization of yogic practices, many gyms and studios began to offer sessions strictly for exercise, adapting some of the Ashtanga style sequences to create a more generalized form of power yoga. But even these students soon realized that yogic methodology is not simply an exercise routine, it is a lifestyle.

The Lifestyle

Physical fitness is one of the most popular parts of the yoga lifestyle. The promise of increased bodily health has been one of the main reasons yoga has become so accessible to such a wide range of students. The asana sequences practiced in classes strengthen muscles while increasing flexibility and cardiovascular health, an attractive combination to young and old alike who are looking for ways to get active.

A calm interior is another attractive promise yoga training gives to its students. The breathing and focus strategies introduced in even the most basic classes allow students a way to calm their minds and relax their bodies. In a stressful, fast-paced world, this is becoming ever more necessary.

Healthy diets seem to be an offshoot of regular practice. Gurus attribute this to the fact that students become more in tune with their own bodies, and they begin to actively seek out the nutrition their bodies crave. Another positive associated with a healthier diet is increased physical fitness and mental alertness.

Ethical living is another important idea that anchors the practice of yogic methods to daily life. Yoga's code of ethics include ideas about honesty and nonviolence along with contentment and self-discipline - These principles, known as the yamas and niyamas, guide practitioners toward ethical living.

Attainment of wisdom is associated with yoga's ancient practices. The connection of the individual to the universal through stronger mind-body awareness is a primary tenet of yoga wisdom, going back through the centuries. Practitioners use meditation combined with asanas and ancient knowledge to achieve personal transcendence.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Shallow Breathers

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By Kimaya Singh

During a Yoga instructor training course you practice with interns and teachers.  Yet, most of the students you teach will have difficulty with breathing. No yoga certification course will prepare you for the student who doesn’t know how to breathe.

Shallow breathers tend to take in small breaths without filling up the diaphragm or lower lungs with air. Most shallow breathers might be unaware of their habit until they realize how good they feel when they give deeper breathing a try. The chakra associated with breath and air is the heart chakra, or the Anahata chakra. There are many asanas, or yoga poses, that will help to open the heart chakra and allow it to fill with ample air. This will bring vitality and warmth into your life.

Heart Opening Asanas for Shallow Breathers

In general, heart-opening poses expose the chest and allow positive energy to flow in towards the heart. Any postures that pull the shoulders back, stretch the arms or include arching the back will help to open the heart chakra and improve airflow to the heart. It is easier to be conscious of shallow breathing when you are exposing your heart in this manner. Shallow breathers can then work to intensify each breath.

Heart Opening Wall Stretch

Kneel next to a wall, placing one palm and forearm flat against the wall. Twist slightly by pushing the outside shoulder back and slightly arching the spine. This will open the chest and provide a stretch to the heart. Hold this pose as you breathe deeply for one minute or longer. Repeat on the other side.

Side Stretch

Begin in a seated position, tucking one leg in towards the pelvis and extending the other leg out with the foot flexed. Reach to the extended leg side with that same arm, placing the forearm on the floor next to the knee or calf. Reach up and back slightly with the opposite arm, opening the chest fully. Bring your gaze upward and breathe. Hold the pose for a minute or more and repeat on the other side.

Proud Pigeon

Begin in the same leg position as the side stretch but turn your upper body forward over the bent knee. Allow the back leg to stretch long behind you. Support your upper body by bringing the opposite arm of the bent knee to rest in front of the knee on the forearm. Twist the upper body to the side of the bent knee to open the chest. Reach back with the opposite arm while you bend the back leg from the knee. Grab that back ankle with your arm, using a strap if necessary. Hold and breathe for a minute or more before switching sides.

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Anxiety Relief

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By Kimaya Singh
Once in a while, you meet a person who refuses to see the value of pranayama. When you finish yoga teacher training, you have an arsenal of stress reducing techniques, but the public has a right to choose to do them, or not. Doctors, nurses and therapists are also amazed at the mindset of their patients. The point I’m diving at is nothing works, if a person refuses to put the effort into it.
“Just Breathe.” How many times have you heard someone say this when you are anxious or stressed to your maximum capacity? Isn’t it funny that at the base of yoga, which has been around for centuries, is pranayama? It should not come as any surprise that using yoga techniques for anxiety relief is one of the top methods. I find it incredibly sad that people today tend to turn to prescription medication to calm down. I have countless friends and family members that take something for stress, and as you can guess I am constantly dragging them to yoga with me. No one should have to depend on medication to live a full life, if they have a choice.

How Yoga Kicks Anxiety
Studies over the years have concluded that yoga practice, which involves, of course, meditation and pranayama technique modulates stress response systems. Not only that, it increases the heart rate variable which allows the body to respond to stress in a positive way. Also, because stress has been proven to cause pain, and vice versa, the slow and effective stretches that yoga is made up of relieves pain and in turn, reduces stress. All of the elements of our lives are intertwined so when one is aided and soothed, it tends to relieve the others. Amazing, isn’t it? When you become “in tune” with your body through yoga training and then you can recognize when your anxiety is rising in order to tackle it before it begins.
The following is a sample yoga training routine that can help students suffering from stress and anxiety. As always be sure to guide them into focus on breathing and finding their center. Meditation is key for this ailment and many new students are not skilled in this area yet.

• First take a few moments to breathe and focus on the anxiety they are trying to relieve. Guide them into letting go of whatever it is that they are holding onto.
• Slow Sun Salutation – This is always a nice, slow asana sequence to stretch the entire body and come to a place of complete focus.
• Downward Dog – Give time in this pose to relax, stretch the spine, and release tension.
• Half Moon – A perfect pose to find balance and demand focus on something other than the stress.
• Seated Forward Bend – Guide the student farther and farther down through breaths to relieve tension in the neck.
Camel Pose – This asana is perfect for releasing tension in the front of the body.
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Heart Health

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By Faye Martins
Of all the ailments we cover in yoga instructor training, cardiovascular disease and cancer are two that most of us know a little about.  In many families, one of those two ailments has claimed the lives of family members.  You can’t ignore the importance of preventative maintenance, when it comes down to your family medical history.
Yoga is an ancient healing art based on seven major chakras that correspond with various parts of the human body. The fourth chakra, also known as the heart chakra, includes the heart, upper back and upper chest. The middle chakra, it represents love and compassion, acting as the “center” or point of integration for our physical and emotional experiences.

Even medical science now recognizes a condition called stress cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome,” that stems from sudden, extreme emotional trauma. Other ailments resulting from a blocked heart chakra include feelings of loneliness or the inability to forgive and empathize with other people. Physical manifestations include breathing-related disorders, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Back bending asanas literally “open the heart,” both physically and emotionally. While practitioners teach that self-acceptance and compassion are universal healers, they also recommend asanas to keep the heart healthy. For maximum benefit, any Yoga training session should include pranayama and meditation in addition to physical exercise.
Asanas for a Healthy Heart
• Lying stretches that arch the back over a support, such as a folded blanket
• Arm and shoulder stretches, such as Child’s Pose or Upward Facing Dog
• Backbends that lower the heart and encourage deep breathing, such as Cobra Pose
• Forward bends, such as Big-Toe Bend
• Poses that release pent-up emotions, such as Warrior, Camel or Pigeon Pose
• Seated twists that stretch the spine and rid the body of toxins and tension

In 2004, Yale University School of Medicine released data showing that Yoga lowers pulse rate, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease. Other experts agree. According to authorities at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine at Ohio State University, these benefits may result largely from the meditative component of Yoga.
More recently, however, “Harvard Health Publications” cited evidence that the actual routine of getting in and out of asanas gently exercises the body’s muscles. Anything, they say, that benefits the muscles will also improve the function of the heart and blood vessels and helps to control insulin too. Besides, yogic breathing is deeper and slower than normal breathing rates. As a result, it temporarily lowers blood pressure and halts the release of stress hormones.  While more research is needed, the use of asanas for heart health looks promising.

Side notes for Yoga Teachers
If you didn’t cover this in your yoga teacher training, be prepared for students who have heart conditions to come to your classes.  Many of the precautions are similar to high blood pressure and stroke.  Therefore, make sure your yoga student’s have their physicians approval to begin taking classes.  As a Yoga teacher, you have the right to insist on a doctor’s note.  Make sure you add a warning to your waiver form.  
Some of our students ignore medical advice, but if you decided to become a yoga instructor you want to gently point students with pre-exising medical conditions in the right direction.  As Paul has often mentioned: “We safely guide our students with yoga instruction, but if they don’t want to listen, show them the door.”  That may sound harsh, but who is to blame, if a person with a pre-existing medical condition is hurt in our class?  Do you feel like the law is unclear?  You might think people should be responsible for their own health, but the law is never clear.  Needless to say, heart patients should be in Restorative classes and stay out of the hot Yoga classes.  
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yoga Teacher Training: Hangovers

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By Gopi Rao
You might wonder what in the world hangovers would have to do with yoga teacher training.  After all, very few people in a yoga certification course would overindulge in alcohol consumption.  In fact, too much of anything tends to be unhealthy.  Paulji once mentioned how too much air (hyperventilating) can cause you to pass out and consuming too much water can cause your potassium levels to drop, which can put you at risk for a stroke.  Obviously, we aren’t going to push the limits, but many people do and alcohol consumption is more rampant than some of us care to admit.
Although I am not an avid drinker and have never personally suffered from a hangover, I have been surprised on occasion by students who regularly attend my classes while struggling through the after effects of a night’s overindulgence. Because I had always believed that physical activity makes hangover symptoms worse, I finally asked one of my students, who I’ll call Jamie, why she still came to class. Her answer surprised me.

Jamie regularly practiced yoga with me an average of four times a week, and attended my mid-day class on the weekends. More often than not, she’d walk in with her head down and sunglasses on. After awhile, I could tell when she had a hangover by how still she kept her body before we began.
When I asked her why she came to class even though she was clearly afraid her head was going to explode, Jamie laughed, grabbed her head with a cringe, and explained herself by moving her mouth as little as possible to avoid further jarring. “I am almost always tempted to stay in bed the day after,” she said, “but I’ve learned by experience that the hangover lasts much longer if I don’t practice yoga.”
Yoga for Hangovers
There are some excellent ways to use yoga to help relieve hangover symptoms. Although sun salutation series can be a good way to get your body warmed up in a low-impact way, sometimes it can be tough to do. After working with Jamie, I discovered that keeping your head raised above your heart during asana practice will prevent excessive and excessively painful blood flow to the head. Props like bolsters can be an effective way to keep the head raised.
Relaxation poses also tend to go over well for those with hangovers. Seated forward bends or the corpse pose can help relieve some of the symptoms, and there is little movement involved.
Some practitioners also recommend twists, which they say helps wring the poison out of the body a little faster. Twists are also gentle and low impact, which are definitely positives in a hangover situation.
Yoga Practices to Avoid
1. Avoid hot yoga training. When you have a hangover, your body is dehydrated and in need of replenishing fluids. This is why even the most avid Bikram enthusiasts stay away from the heated room after imbibing too much alcohol.
2. Avoid inversions. Lowering your head below your heart can increase throbbing, and inversion poses like head or shoulder stands can make this much worse, even prolonging the hangover’s symptoms.
3. Avoid berating yourself. Mindfulness in yoga necessarily means you have to be present in the present, rather than focused on the past or the future. So hone in on improving your technique or relieving neck tension or keeping your head from falling off, rather than running over last night’s events or making promises to yourself about next Friday night.
Opportunities for Yoga Instructors
Although there isn’t much specialized yoga instructor training for helping people with addictions or overindulgence, many yogic practices can help people recover from negative side effects and addiction.  In every community, there are rehabilitation clinics and the need for compassionate yoga teacher who are willing to help.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
If you are a Yoga 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 resource box above. Namaste!