Thursday, November 26, 2015

Teaching Thanksgiving in a Yoga Class: Rejoicing

black friday
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed. 

In the United States, it is the beginning of Thanksgiving weekend. Over the next several days, many people will travel extensive distances, in order to celebrate this traditional harvest holiday with family and friends. Thanksgiving honors the great wealth and abundance in our lives. This wealth and abundance may come in the form of money, or it may be in the form of enriching experiences, close family relationships and friendships of all kinds. Traditionally, the Thanksgiving holiday celebrated the abundant harvest that was gathered during this season. At the present time, the abundant harvest often takes the form of a really good Black Friday sale! 



However for some Yoga practitioners, the Thanksgiving holiday may generate feelings of lack and poverty when they compare their own lives with the lives of those around them. When this happens, it may be difficult for a Yoga student to feel grateful for the good things in his or her own life. Truly speaking, the vast majority of us in the United States have access to clean drinking water and good food, almost all the time. In this simple way, many of us have more abundance in our lives than other people do in many areas of the world. In addition, if we're able to pay for a Yoga class and practice in a beautiful studio for an hour or longer, we are truly blessed with a substantial level of financial abundance and good physical health. 

If you decide to teach the underlying virtue of gratitude in a Thanksgiving Yoga class, you will help your students to see that their cup is usually half full and not half empty! By weaving in the awareness of gratitude into a Yoga class, you will help to uplift your students' spirits, when they shift their internal focus from what they're missing to the good things in their own lives. Recently, I was watching a lecture about the teachings of Buddhism, that was given by the young head of a well-known Tibetan Buddhist lineage. In this dharma talk, the Karmapa spoke about one of the primary branches of Tibetan Buddhist practices: rejoicing. 

The practice of "rejoicing" is geared towards cultivating an inner sense of happiness and well being. I have found that many Tibetan meditation practices can become quite complicated, however the practice of shifting one's mind from a negative thought pattern to one of rejoicing is quite simple and will very quickly shift one's internal state from negativity to the fullness of gratitude. Over time, by consistently shifting a negative pattern of thinking to one of gratitude, you will be able to help your Yoga students to ameliorate the negative thinking patterns, which are often the underlying, cause of depression and anxiety. 

A wonderful way to weave the virtue of gratitude and thanksgiving into a Yoga class is to begin your class by reading a passage from a poem, piece of literature or sacred text that focuses on the exuberant essence of rejoicing. You may also want to ask your Yoga students to share one aspect of their lives for which they are grateful. For instance, you may want to dedicate a brief period of sharing uplifting experiences, positive insights or other beneficent aspects of their lives, at either the beginning or ending portion of a Yoga class. In this way, you will be integrating and nurturing an uplifting awareness of thanksgiving into your holiday Yoga classes.

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: enchantress108@gmail.com.

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


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Teaching Thanksgiving in a Yoga Class: Clarifying Motivation

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

In the United States, the annual holiday of Thanksgiving is here. This is the annual time of year that many of us gather with family and friends to celebrate all of the abundance in our lives. Many of us celebrate this abundance with an elaborate meal, followed by a movie marathon or watching football games for the remainder of the day. There are also a number of opportunities during the Thanksgiving season to give back to our own communities, by serving meals to the poor or raising money during various charity events. 

As a professional Yoga teacher, you have the opportunity to illuminate the deeper virtues of the various holidays that are celebrated throughout the year. During the Thanksgiving season, cultivating your students' awareness of the great abundance in their own lives will naturally fuel a sense of gratitude in their own hearts for the rich bounty around them. By teaching Yoga postures, meditation practices and breathing exercises in your classes that release tension and expand the heart chakra area, you will help your students to become more aware of the abundance in their own lives, which will cultivate a natural sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. 



In the first 10 or 15 minutes of a class, it is helpful to have your students clarify their own motivation for practicing Yoga. In order for your students to truly benefit from their practice of asanas, Yogic breathing exercises and contemplative techniques, it is quite helpful for them to clarify their motivation for talking a class with you. The students in your Yoga classes may be motivated to practice for a number of different reasons. For instance, they may be interested in improving their physical health, emotional resiliency or spiritual understanding of the mystical side of Yoga. 

When you ask your students to clarify their own motivation for practicing, you will help them to be more grounded in their practice. This process of clarification will help them to integrate the timeless wisdom of Yoga into their lives, both on and off the mat. During the holiday season, you can help your students to nurture a sense of gratitude for the abundance in their own lives, by reading a brief passage, poem or scriptural verse that focuses on the virtue of thanksgiving.

Another teaching technique for generating a sense of gratitude in the hearts and minds of your Yoga students, is to take a few moments prior to the practice of Final Relaxation Pose, in order to ask your students to bring to mind three things that they are grateful for in their own lives. They may do this silently as they sit in Easy Seat on their Yoga mats. Alternately, you can dedicate 2 to 3 minutes during the beginning or ending portion of a class, so that a few of your students share with the whole group some of the experiences, people or places that they are grateful for in their own lives. 

As your students become aware of all the good things in their own lives, they will quite naturally want to share that abundance with others in their community. This ripple effect of "paying it forward" helps to uplift all of us during the Thanksgiving holiday season and of course, throughout the entire year. By nurturing an open and grateful heart through the particular sequence of postures, pranayama exercises and contemplative practices that you teach to your students during class, you will facilitate their ease of being and peace of mind, which are a few of the most profound benefits of a regular, committed 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: enchantress108@gmail.com.

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


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Teaching Thanksgiving in a Yoga Class: Intention

setting an intention forego training
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

The traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving is just around the corner. At this time of the year, most Americans celebrate the bounty in their lives. This holiday began during the harvest season several hundred years ago, when the pilgrims celebrated the bounty of their harvest with each other and with the Native Americans who taught them how to farm the land. As many of you probably know, there are also many levels of injustice perpetrated upon the Native Americans, even though the holiday still maintains its traditional sense of gratitude and fullness. 

When you are teaching a Yoga class during the Thanksgiving holiday season, illuminating and bringing fresh life into the virtues of gratitude, perseverance and hope, will help to elevate your students' practice to new levels. One of the first steps to teaching an empowering and inspiring Yoga class, which is based on honoring the virtues of gratitude and giving, is to clearly defined for yourself your underlying intention for teaching a particular class. One of the first steps to clarifying your own intention is to take a few minutes to quietly sink into the deep wisdom of your own heart, so that you can embody the virtues that you would like to teach to your students. 



The practice of connecting with the wisdom of your own mind, heart and spirit may feel a little bit time-consuming at first. However, over the ensuing weeks and months, you will most likely find that clarifying your own goals and intentions for the Yoga classes that you are teaching, will help you to give the practice more depth and meaning for your students. Although many students begin practicing Yoga in order to get into better shape or lose a few extra pounds, after some time on the mat, most students realize that the practice offers more profound benefits than simply a trimmer waistline or six-pack abs!

A regular, committed practice of Yoga postures, contemplative techniques and pranayama exercises, will help to provide your students with long-term happiness, health and well-being. A balanced Yoga practice, including breathing exercises and meditation techniques, will also help your students to develop strength of mind. By creatively sequencing your Yoga classes to work in tandem with the seasonal aspects of the year, you will further support your students in deepening their understanding and awareness of the delicate interplay between the cycles of nature and our own inner landscape. 

As a certified Yoga teacher, you have a regular opportunity to truly impact your students in a positive manner. As you begin to creatively sequence your Yoga classes, in order to emphasize and nourish seasonally relevant virtues, you may need to clarify your own teaching motivations from time to time. During the Thanksgiving holiday season, it is quite appropriate to help your Yoga students to become more aware of the great abundance in their own lives. The first step to imbuing your Yoga classes with the wisdom of a virtue such as gratitude is to clearly and vividly connects with your own intention for teaching a specific class. 

Do be aware that when you teach Yoga class based on gratitude and thanksgiving, a number of your students may feel that they don't quite have the level of abundance they would like to have in their lives. However, by bringing your students' awareness to the abundance that they do have, they will most likely begin to appreciate the great abundance around them; from their uninterrupted access to clean drinking water to having a beautiful Yoga studio in which to practice; and of course, by learning the art of this ancient practice from a creative and effective teacher, such as yourself!  

Ultimately, a well-rounded practice of Yoga can bring both you and your students into a vibrant state of well being and promote deep inner happiness. As you probably know, life often throws many of us curve balls that we are not anticipating. Because of the constantly changing experiences of life, always being happy may not feel that realistic for many of us. However, a well-rounded practice of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and contemplative techniques, will help both you and your students to achieve a deeper level of peace, ease of mind, physical health, and a steady optimistic mental outlook, which is fueled by an abiding sense of thanksgiving. 

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: enchantress108@gmail.com.

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


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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: enchantress108@gmail.com.

© 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.