By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
One of the most important aspects of sharing the transformational power of Yoga with your students is to truly honor your own truth. This truth could be either physical or emotional in nature. For instance, if you are teaching a Yoga class with a slight back injury, and you are forthright with your students about your current physical limitations, they will be more easily able to identify with you when they come up against their own physical challenges during class.
As you compassionately and courageously work with your own limitations during a Yoga class, your students will learn how to honor their own bodies. If needed, they will also learn how to modify the postures and/or the sequence of asanas and pranayama exercises, in order to truly support their unfolding well-being through the course of a regular Yoga practice. Of course, it takes courage to be very candid about one’s own physical or emotional limitations during a Yoga class, especially if you are the teacher!
It is completely understandable if you feel tempted to simply gloss over any pain or discomfort you feel, so that you can impress your students with your level of physical aptitude and dexterity when you are performing any number of challenging Yoga postures. However, the deeper level of learning comes from setting an honest example for your students, by allowing yourself to appropriately share your own struggles with your personal Yoga practice during class. When you do share your own personal life experiences, including your challenges during your own Yoga practice, your students will be emboldened by your perseverance and level of accomplishment.
If you are training to become a certified Yoga instructor, or you are currently certified and teaching classes on a regular basis, without a doubt you have persevered through any number of obstacles, in order to hone your skills as a teacher and to continue to deepen in your own practice. For instance, it may have taken you months or even years to learn how to link the postures together with your breath in one long, dance-like vinyasa. Or you may have found it to be particularly difficult to balance in Handstand in the middle of the room for more than a few seconds at a time.
By sharing the challenges you have encountered during your own personal Yoga journey with your students, they will be inspired by your level of dedication to the practice and by your determination to honor and work with your own body, until you developed the necessary strength, balance and flexibility to perform many asanas safely and effectively. The underlying respect, compassion and fortitude that you exemplify in your own practice will teach your students how to honor their own transformational process during their time on the mat, as they practice Yoga in an honest, compassionate and nonviolent way.
Compassion, or nonviolence, is one of the primary injunctions of the practice, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In these short, timeless aphorisms, Patanjali systematically explains how to follow a Yogic path, while engaging in a balanced practice of postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques. Ultimately, by following the precepts and recommendations found in the Yoga Sutras, a practitioner ideally reaches a state of enlightened perfection. Although a state of enlightenment may remain elusive for many of us, honoring our own truth is a critical first step to achieving a basic level of peace and well-being.
By modeling truthfulness during your Yoga classes, you will be setting a very real and practical example for your students. As they learn to compassionately honor and work with their fluctuating physical and emotional needs during a class, they will truly begin to learn the power of seeing, speaking and moving in a truthful fashion. By sharing your own journey with your students, you will set a shining example of the transformative power of candor and nonviolence. You will also set an example for your students of the power of courage and the benefits committing to a regular Yoga practice.
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 works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.