Friday, November 20, 2015

Teaching Yoga and the Power of Truth: Mindfulness

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

A well-rounded, regular practice of asanas, meditation practices and pranayama exercises can provide a verdant setting for both personal and professional transformation, especially if you are a certified Yoga teacher. Of course, in the same way that your own personal Yoga journey has transformed your life, the practice is also replete with the potential to transform your students’ lives. A regular Yoga practice can offer students and teachers alike a deep and profound understanding of their way of moving through the world and the necessary steps to take, in order to truly maximize their own individual potential and create a life, which honors their deepest dreams. 

One way that a balanced, regular practice of asanas, pranayama exercises and contemplative meditation techniques catalyzes personal transformation, is the ability of the practice to illuminate false pretenses and to bring into our awareness any physical and emotional areas that may need some tender loving care and extra fortification. For example, you may have noticed in your own practice that you had to strengthen your upper body, in order to hold Handstand in the middle of the room for several minutes without duress. In the same way, your Yoga students may need to strengthen their own upper torsos and arms, in order to fluidly move in and out of Upward Facing Dog, while still maintaining correct alignment in the posture. 

One of the very first steps to teaching a Yoga class that encourages your students’ awareness of the state of their body and mind, is to underscore the importance of being truthful with oneself during their time on the mat. Of course, it is important to be truthful with oneself always, whether you are in a Yoga class or in a business meeting! The choice of whether or not to share that truth is also a fine discriminatory skill that can be developed over time. 

Keeping a journal can be quite helpful in generating a mindful awareness of one’s own emotional responses to daily life experiences and habitual ways of responding to various situations. As a Yoga teacher, keeping a daily record of your teaching experiences, including your own emotional responses that may arise during the course of a class, will help you to process various situations off the mat, so that you are better prepared to address any “prickly” or challenging situations in an effective and beneficent way, when you are actively teaching a class. 

In the context of a Yoga class, you can support your students in the practice of being mindfully aware of their own physical and emotional state of being, by reminding them to continue to breath throughout the practice as they focus their internal attention on what pose, or what modification of a particular posture, their own body is asking them to practice. One of the first defenses against unpleasant or unwanted feelings, thoughts or physical sensations, is to hold the breath. This essentially freezes our experience in place, which ultimately creates more emotional numbness and physical tension. This is why the very first step to encouraging your students to be mindfully aware during a Yoga class, is to remind them to continue to breath through any discomfort that may arise during the practice. 

The second step is to gently ask your students to witness any physical or emotional discomfort and to internally approach those feelings or experience, and ask themselves what they need in that moment. For instance, you may have a Yoga student in your class who has a very painful and traumatic childhood memory physically stored in her hips. As you teach your students Pigeon Pose, which is a deep hip opening posture, a plethora of unpleasant memories may arise in this specific student’s mind. 

In a situation such as this, your student may benefit from the practice of Pigeon Pose, or he or she may benefit more from moving gently into Supported Child’s Pose, while the other students practice Pigeon Pose. By encouraging your Yoga students to be mindfully aware and truthful about their own physical and emotional needs during a class, you will support them in transforming any obscured emotional places that are dark into light. You will also support your students in deepening their awareness of areas of their body that may need strengthening or elongating. 

When your students practice nonjudgmental mindful awareness and stand in their own truth during a Yoga class, they are much more likely to be mindfully aware of any negative habitual patterns that are undermining their lives off the mat. This awareness will enable them to choose more positive ways of reacting to the vast array of life experiences that we all encounter on a daily basis. The depth of self knowledge that a mindful and truthful practice offers to your students, will embolden them to choose ways of thinking and behaving that will maximize their own individual potential, both on and off the Yoga mat. 

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:

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

Please feel free to share our posts with your friends, colleagues, and favorite social media networks.


parvezbdjsr said...

It is important to be truthful with oneself always, whether you are in a Yoga class or in a business meeting! Thanks for this good posting!

Mary Wilson said...

The very first step to encouraging your students to be mindfully aware during a Yoga class, is to remind them to continue to breath through any discomfort that may arise during the practice. Its really very valuable article, So thanks for sharing it.