Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yoga Teacher Tips

instructor education
By Faye Martins

Many people find yoga to be a great way to relax and get exercise. Yoga is a great way to mentally unwind and it promotes sports recovery. You may have thought about how great it would be to learn how to teach yoga students.

If you are interested in teaching yoga, you probably have already taken classes before. If you are new, you may wish to try different types of yoga to see which types you would most enjoy teaching. You may wish to sample a few different classes if you have been with one instructor for most of the time you have been learning. By sampling different instructors you can also get ideas based on what other teachers do for your own classes. When you are planning to teach your first class, you may want to focus on a beginner class to keep the moves simple.

There are training courses available to teach yoga instructors about how to lead their classes. These courses can give you all the tools you need to be a good instructor, though you will still need to do some planning and practice on your own. Like everything else, teaching gets better with practice. If you are nervous about teaching your first class, it may help to tell the students that it is your first class. Simply disclosing a fear can often make it seem less scary, and your students will understand if you stumble a little bit. Don't worry if your first few classes aren't perfect--you can make a note of what you thought went well or not and strive to improve the mistakes.

Yoga has a mental aspect, and consider including poses intended to promote relaxation in your sessions while instructing students on their breathing and which areas of the body to focus on. Learning how to teach others where to focus and how to relax is one of the key aspects of learning how to teach yoga students.

You may wish to write down the sequence you want to do in your class and then practice it yourself a few times, including what you will say during your class. If you are especially nervous before teaching your first class, you could even practice teaching with a couple friends first before you teach your first class of people you don't know. You can ask your friends for feedback to get a student's perspective.

Decide whether you want to provide mats or have people bring their own. The market for supplies for doing yoga is growing, so you may wish to ask if anyone has any questions about yoga mats you would recommend. This can be done after class when you are inviting students to come back to class and make yoga a regular practice in their lives. A good yoga mat can be a great investment, especially for certain types of yoga like hot yoga, which requires a mat that can provide traction and dry quickly even when its user is producing sweat. Consider the surface you will be working on, since the mats may need to be thicker on hard surfaces. If you provide mats, consider how you will sanitize them between uses.

Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yoga for Enhanced Academic Performance

improving attention and concentration
By Bhavan Kumar

The benefits of yoga are well known for adults, but many of these benefits also carry over to young students. Research has shown that regular practice of yoga techniques can help students fare better in their academic and emotional lives in various ways.

Physical Fitness

According to the CDC, childhood obesity rates have doubled over the past 30 years. About 1 out of every 3 children is obese. Improving the physical fitness of children is not only important for their bodies, but it also helps the mind. Studies have shown that practicing yoga not only improves physical fitness in children, but it also promotes better academic performance and emotional stability. The benefits of children's yoga come from a calmer heart rate that allows the brain to activate responses from the parasympathetic nervous system. Systems of the body such as immunity, circulation, digestion and glandular balance are enhanced as well.

Attention and Concentration

Yoga provides an avenue for the mind and body to relax from fast paced learning environments. This can help students apply themselves in a more effective way when learning and studying in the classroom. In a 2013 study, students reported better concentration and more restful sleep after practicing yoga for only one month. A study from the Department of Psychology at Stanford with 4th to 7th graders showed that eight weeks of practicing meditation for just one hour resulted in decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus their attention. The breathing techniques associated with yoga can increase concentration in ways that also enhance academic performance.

Behavior and Conflict

Yoga can also help students get along better with their peers which allows for a more effective learning environment. A school in Wisconsin began a yoga program for kindergarten to 8th grade students that consisted of two classes a week. These lessons emphasized breathing and movement yoga practices alongside teaching respectful behavior. After a year of using this method, the school saw a decrease of disruptive behaviors by more than half. It was found that behavior improved outside of the classroom as well. These results show that yoga may teach students how to manage their reactions and respect others in improved ways.


Many adults practice yoga to improve their moods and reduce stress. Just like adults, students are susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress. They are often pressured and stressed by their peers, social lives, family burdens and academic worries. A study published in 2009 analyzed the effects of yoga on adolescents with higher stress levels. The study showed that after seven weeks of regular yoga practice, breathing exercises and meditation, their stress levels were reduced and their academic performance improved as a result. A 2014 study showed that ten weeks of yoga practice reduced stress in a group of low-SES students.


Self-consciousness is often contingent upon academic performance, and excessive worry about it can lead to decreased performance or mental health concerns. Studies have shown that yoga can result in improvement of self-esteem to enhance mental health and improve academic performance. Students also deal with poor body image and feelings of awkwardness. A study in 2013 found that high school students that substituted yoga for standard physical education reported better respect for their bodies and improved spatial awareness. In other studies, students reported that regular yoga practice could provide incentive to refuse peer pressure to engage in destructive activities.

Practicing yoga offers a number of physical and mental benefits to students that allow them to better handle everyday stressors. This allows them to put more focus on their academic concerns with less of a toll on their health away from the classroom.


J Educ Health Promot. 2013; 2: 55.
Published online 2013 Sep 30. doi:  10.4103/2277-9531.119043

Adolescent and School Health

Sunday, November 06, 2016

One Special Thing in Yoga Instruction and Practice – For Ourselves and Our Students

instruction and practice
By Kathryn Boland

In a prior article, I discussed ways in which I experienced a time as a yoga student when it might not have all seemed worth it, but one very valuable thing I gained as a practitioner made it all more than worth it. I’ll now discuss similar experiences as a yoga instructor, and how we can facilitate our students gaining these types of experiences – and thus keep them coming back to class for more! 

As one such instance, one time I experienced travel issues getting to a private student. I felt rushed and stressed. When I got there, and we began the lesson, she was unfocused and difficult to guide in practice - due to some significant personal issues she was going through at the time. Combine that with the fact that this student pay me at a discounted "sliding-scale" rate, and part of me couldn't help but question if it was all worth my time and effort.

At a certain point though, something clicked within her, at least for a bit. She found a certain integration and alignment, leading to a smoothness and command of her breath and body. It allowed her to achieve a level of stability and depth in a few postures that she never before had. I unabashedly commended her on that. I was genuinely fulfilled and proud, yet also hoping the positive reinforcement might encourage her to more consistently be mindful towards her practice, like she was able to at that point.  She does manage to come back to that focused, integrated state at certain times.

It wasn't necessarily easy, but I could keep my mind honed on what she achieved then - rather than let that part of me asking "Is this worth it?" take over. If it did, I might discontinue working with her. That would certainly be a loss for us both (for her in that she can't otherwise easily access or afford yoga practice instruction).

This idea also applies to our continuing education as yoga instructors. We might come away from workshops, classes, and trainings gaining one, two, or a few significant pieces of new knowledge. If we undervalue those things – small in number, yet potentially vital to our professional growth - we might think the time and money we invested wasn’t worth it. We might stop seeking such learning opportunities - and thus, for the most part, stop learning. We at least won't learn nearly as much as we could. Or if we focus on things we might feel we did "wrong" while teaching certain classes or lessons, we might get significantly discouraged. If we instead focus on something that’s improving with our teaching, even if only one thing, then we'll keep at it - continuing to seek learning and growing as teachers. If it was possible once, why not again?

We can apply this concept to our teaching itself in certain ways. Aiming towards one particular achievement makes a strong case for "theming" classes around a specific concept, idea from yoga philosophy, "peak" pose, or group of postures. It’s true that "balanced" sequencing, adding a little bit of everything, can lead to an overall feeling of wellness and contribute to whole-person health. On the other hand, being more specific with our themes can guide students towards one very notable achievement, something that they can solidly come back to and feel successful about.

In another way, students often feel down on themselves for not achieving certain postures, or even for remaining unfocused. We can boost their confidence by guiding them to re-frame their thinking. If we can encourage them to instead focus on one, or two or three things that they achieved, they’ll more likely keep coming back to their practices. And who knows, maybe that one thing will change how they practice, for the better, forever. As Patanjali clarifies for us, that type of perspective shift is powerful, because it can lead us to contentment; "from contentment, incomparable happiness is attained" (Yoga Sutras II.42).

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Calming Children with Yoga Sessions

By Gopi Rao

As anyone who spends much time around children can tell you, sometimes it is difficult to keep them calm. Sometimes it even seems impossible. This is due to a number of reasons. Kids have a boundless energy, and sometimes they simply don’t know how to channel this energy in a positive direction. Also, kids don’t get the exercise they should, which leaves them worked up. Finally, they are living in a fast-paced world where they are constantly being herded from one activity to another without time to breathe and relax. This can leave them feeling on edge all the time, which also causes them to act up.

Yoga Is the Solution

Fortunately, yoga can be a wonderful solution for adults who need help calming children down. Yoga is a tailor-made activity for calming people of all ages, and kids are no exception. The exercise, meditation and relaxing breathing that make up yoga combine to create a powerful tool that will help to calm even the unruliest kids.

Adding Exercise to Their Days

One of the biggest reasons that kids are acting up more these days is that they don’t get enough exercise and far too many of them are playing video games or watching TV for hours each day instead of playing outside. For these kids, an immediate solution to reduce their acting out is upping their exercise levels. Having kids engage in a daily yoga practice is a wonderful way to up their activity levels and calm them down.

Helping Them Manage Their Emotions

Another common reason kids get worked up is because they do not know how to manage their emotions. When they get upset, angry or afraid, they act out because these big emotions overwhelm them. However, when kids start to do yoga, they learn how to relax and calm themselves down with the power of breathing techniques and focusing the mind. They will take these calming tools off the mat with them, using them to relax and let their emotions pass over them without upsetting them to the point where they act out.

Relaxing Before Bedtime

Nearly all parents know the seemingly eternal struggle to get kids to calm down before bedtime. Many kids seem to all of a sudden swallow a 50-horsepower motor as soon as bedtime is brought up. For parents who are sick to death of dealing with this, adding a nighttime yoga routine can be the perfect tool to calm their children and get them to go to bed gracefully.

Yoga is a wonderful tool for calming kids down in every scenario and parents can utilize it, childcare providers and schools to help reduce the amount of acting out kids do. Try adding a regular yoga practice to your kid’s daily routine to witness the calming wonders for yourself.

Healthy Habits

Children can benefit from engaging in a regular yoga practice much the same way that adults do. Through yoga, kids can develop physical and mental habits that have positive effects on their long-term health. 


It is so easy to go through life moving from one screen to the next. The Siren song of phones, tablets, and video game consoles lures children into inactivity. Studies are linking a stationary lifestyle to a host of health problems. Yoga gets kids into the habit of moving. Since yoga encourages non-judgment, it is a great way for children of all athletic abilities to incorporate movement into their days.

Body Awareness

Getting into the habit of scanning the body for what it needs can keep kids safe and healthy. Yoga encourages children to develop proprioceptive senses. Body awareness extends to understanding what the body needs in order to be well. Children with body awareness have a better understanding of their body's cues to rest, eat, or drink.

Stress Relief

The education system and social pressure are major stressors. Children are expected to learn more content at a quicker pace than ever. Growing up can be tough work. Besides burning off physical energy through movement, yoga teaches kids how to relax. Developing stress relief habits at an early age enables a child to circumvent the stress cycle that leads to health problems later in life. Breathing techniques can be transferred off the mat and into a variety of stressful situations that a child may encounter.


Self-study is a necessary but often overlooked practice. As one learns to navigate interpersonal relationships, it is easy to lose sight of one’s own values. Giving kids the time to focus inward allows them to hear their authentic voice. By engaging in the physical practice of yoga or through meditation and pranayama, children can access a greater understanding of themselves. Through self-study, a child can learn to be kinder to him or herself and others.

Intention Setting

In many yoga classes, we can focus our movement and breath on our intention. Our intention could be in the form of a positive affirmation or a short list of things we need to accomplish with our practice. This laser-like focus allows us to discern meaning from what we are doing. Children who learn this skill of intention setting can easily transfer it from the mat and into their everyday lives.

Yoga is physically and emotionally beneficial for children. Through breath and movement, kids can strengthen their bodies and minds, and they can become better citizens of the world.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Yoga Practice After Knee Surgery

500 hour restorative yoga instructor certification program
By Kimaya Singh

There are many variables in the type of Yoga training each of us might choose to practice and there are many ways to injure one's knee. Let's look at the safest way for a person to enter a class, without slowing down the recovery process or causing self-injury. Therefore, medical clearance in the form of your doctor's approval is imperative before considering asana (posture) practice. A conference explaining your surgery, with a certified Yoga instructor before you take a class, insures that you will get proper attention. 

The type of physical Yoga suggested for recovery is a style that holds postures for a significant length of time. Therefore, flowing, vinyasa, lunar flows and sun salutations might not be such a good idea at first. You might be wise to attend Yoga schools that have classes such as: Restorative, Viniyoga, Therapeutic or Iyengar. 

Returning to, or starting, Yoga sessions after an injury can be done, but keep in mind there might be some modifications that will be needed, especially at first. One of the most common injured areas of the body are the knees. Muscles and ligaments can tear due to injury or age and that often results in the need for surgical intervention. Many people fear they will be limited after such a surgery, but with modern medicine that is most often not the case. Some people might try to avoid surgery and live with the pain, but that often causes more limitations and can lead to more serious injury to the knee area.

Practicing asana after knee surgery (or any surgery) can be done in order to strengthen the area. Keep in mind that stiffness and some joint pain might occur, which will require you to listen to your body. One of the reasons that people do Yoga is to strengthen and tone their bodies in a low or no impact way. Doing high impact activities can make the problem worse, especially soon after surgery. Yoga can be used as the first step on the path to a full recovery. Starting with seated, supine, and prone, asanas that put no pressure on the joint is probably a smart idea. You can always work up to the standing poses, but it is extremely wise to keep a chair handy or practice near a wall that you can use for support. 

Since Hatha Yoga is a total body exercise, it will help you to tone and increase flexibility in all areas. This is particularly important while recovering from surgery, as the body needs to get its strength back gradually and heal properly. Trying to do too much too early won't do anything except lengthen recovery time.

Advancements in medicine have greatly reduced the invasiveness of knee surgery, as well as recovery time. Now, many people are walking very shortly after surgery and are released for normal activity more quickly than ever. Yoga can help to keep that forward momentum going. It can also have other health benefits, which is why so many people do it and have been doing it for thousands of years.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

See videos, demonstrations, and lectures related to affordable yoga teacher training courses and specialized continuing education programs. 


Ethgen O, Bruyere O, Richy F, Dardennes C, Reginster JY: Health-related quality of life in total hip and total knee arthroplasty. A qualitative and systematic review of the literature. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2004, 86-A: 963-974.

Losina E, Thornhill TS, Rome BN, Wright J, Katz JN: The dramatic increase in total knee replacement utilization rates in the United States cannot be fully explained by growth in population size and the obesity epidemic. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012, 94: 201-207. 10.2106/JBJS.J.01958.

Jourdan C, Poiraudeau S, Descamps S, Nizard R, Hamadouche M, Anract P, Boisgard S, Galvin M, Ravaud P: Comparison of patient and surgeon expectations of total hip arthroplasty. PLoS One. 2012, 7: e30195-10.1371/journal.pone.0030195.

Raut S, Mertes SC, Muniz-Terrera G, Khanduja V: Factors associated with prolonged length of stay following a total knee replacement in patients aged over 75. Int Orthop. 2012, 36: 1601-1608. 10.1007/s00264-012-1538-1.

Mallory TH, Lombardi AV, Fada RA, Dodds KL, Adams JB: Pain management for joint arthroplasty: preemptive analgesia. J Arthroplasty. 2002, 17: 129-133.

Kerr DR, Kohan L: Local infiltration analgesia: a technique for the control of acute postoperative pain following knee and hip surgery: a case study of 325 patients. Acta Orthop. 2008, 79: 174-183. 10.1080/17453670710014950. 

Yoga Community Outreach for Prevention of Violence

By Kimaya Singh, CYT 500

Yoga community outreach is a reality around the world. Teachers often give time for the benefit of the less fortunate. There are many lessons from the Yoga Sutras that can be applied to humankind today. Ahimsa, the concept of non-violence, is one of the chief moral restraints (yamas) in yogic philosophy. Non-harming is the basis for almost all of a true yogi's decision-making. Choices about how others should be treated, which food is best, and how one should think of oneself can be boiled down to how closely the options adhere to ahimsa. Yogic philosophy is universally applicable - even in locations in which yoga is not easily accessible. Yoga community outreach programs can prevent violence regardless of the circumstances.

Asana and pranayama practices can teach people to be present and mindful. In West Englewood, Illinois, I-Grow Chicago has set up a safe haven for members of a community riddled with gang violence. Children in West Englewood may go to the I-Grow house to receive breakfast and practice yoga. Members of the community, including some ex-gang members, participate in these public practices. I-Grow helps to stem violence by teaching children mindfulness techniques at a young age, but it also breaks the cycle of violence that results from years of trauma.

Segments of communities that tend to be reactive can benefit from yogic methodologies. Outbursts of violence and emotion are some of the most destructive symptoms of PTSD. Programs such as the Veterans Yoga Project provide trauma-sensitive approaches to asana and pranayama in order to disrupt these outbursts. Veterans are not the only individuals that can benefit from trauma-sensitive yogic methodologies: programs such as Exhale to Inhale aid victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through work on the mat.

The Prison Yoga Project addresses incarcerated individuals, who undergo tremendous stress while navigating the prison system. Providing access to yoga for prisoners can help to decrease violence within prisons, but the techniques can also aid inmates when they must reintegrate with the outside world.

Some community outreach programs are aimed at working with children in schools. Calming Kids is a curriculum designed to end bullying in school through mindfulness techniques. Preventing the trauma of bullying can decrease the likelihood of violent responses to other stressors later in life.

Violence is complicated, and ending it requires a multi-faceted solution. Community outreach programs which include yogic practices are able to tackle the issue at several stages. Whether the practitioner is a child, a former service member, a victim of trauma, or a prisoner, yogic practices can meet people where they are and transform their responses to others.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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