Monday, May 25, 2015

Courage and Teaching Yoga: Speaking the Truth

about courage and teaching yoga
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

There is a great deal of courage required to teach Yoga in such a way that your classes are safe, effective and transformational. Of course, one of the most important aspects of any class is to maintain the safety and comfort of your students. In addition, you want to make sure that your classes are challenging enough for the majority of your students, so that your classes effectively help to improve their strength, coordination and flexibility. As you become more adept at teaching Yoga classes, you will be able to also offer classes to your students that improve both their physical health and their emotional well-being and sense of optimism. 

The term “courage” can be loosely translated to mean “of the heart.” Ideally when you are teaching a Yoga class, you want to guide your students from the wisdom of your own heart. In order to move from the essential nature of your own being, you must speak the truth. When you are teaching Yoga classes, there will be numerous occasions, sometimes even from moment to moment, when you have the opportunity to either speak the truth to your students, or to sweep the truth underneath the proverbial carpet, by ignoring what could become an uncomfortable situation to address during the course of your class. 

For example, if you are teaching a strong back bending Yoga class, and you notice that one of your students is struggling to practice Upward Facing Bow, you could quietly approach this student and let him or her know that it would be best to practice a more moderate, restorative version of the posture for safety reasons. Although this may feel uncomfortable to you at first, you will be serving your student more appropriately by gently guiding this student through a practice that is individually tailored to his or her own ability level. By allowing your students to practice Yoga postures and pranayama exercises that are beyond their ability level, you are not serving them. 

As you begin to become more comfortable with teaching Yoga classes at a variety of levels, you will notice that there are many different opportunities when you can stand in the courage of your own heart and speak the truth, or when you can shirk away from speaking the truth with courage, forthrightness and without apology. You will find, overtime, that if you speak the truth to your students in an appropriate and kind manner, your classes will go far beyond simply increasing muscular strength and flexibility. Your classes will actually become a transformational tool for your Yoga students. 

When you have the courage speak the truth, you will notice that the alchemical process of Yoga will unfold at a much more rapid pace for many of your students. In order to gauge if it is serving your students to speak the truth in any given situation during a Yoga class, the Buddhist Four Gateways of Speech are a wonderful framework in which to evaluate your verbal and nonverbal communication. If you are considering whether or not to approach a student during your class, you may want to internally evaluate if what you are about to say is true, necessary, kind, and if your timing is appropriate. 

For instance, if one of your less flexible Yoga students is struggling to practice Upward Facing Bow in correct alignment, you may want to pause for a moment and make sure that it is actually true that your student is not physically able to practice Upward Facing Bow today without risking injury. If you ascertain that yes, indeed, the student is unable physically to practice Upward Facing Bow in a safe and effective manner on this particular day, you may then want to move on to the second Gateway of Speech, and evaluate if it is necessary to verbally approach this student. 

If you find that it is necessary to quietly and diplomatically suggest that your student practice a supported version of Upward Facing Bow, or even a less strenuous back bending asana, determining the optimal timing to approach your student is an important element of teaching Yoga and in a truthful and courageous fashion. Of course, you must also keep in mind the wisdom, alignment principals and training that you learned in your Yoga teacher-training program. By approaching your students from a place of compassion, patience and kindness, you will help them to progress at a faster, safer pace during your Yoga class.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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