Saturday, March 18, 2017

Yoga Instructors and Student Types - Part II

student types
By Kathryn Boland

In a prior article, I shared some views of my fellow yoga instructors about what types of students they find difficult to teach. I also asked what strategies they use to overcome those challenges, and thus best guide those students in practice. My goal with this was to open up dialogue that can help us instructors learn from each other about how we can move past personal difficulties as teachers to best serve the students who come to us. 

No matter who they are, or how they challenge us, our task is to be the strongest channels of the ancient and wise practice that is yoga. On the other side of the token, there are other students who remind us why we so love the work of yoga instruction. They’re open to trying to new things, insightful, curious, mindful, and playful. To discuss how the pleasant experiences we enjoy with these students might benefit our teaching in general, and perhaps for a bit of joyful levity, I asked those same fellow instructors the following. They responded as follows. 

KB: Not to play favorites, what types of students do you most enjoy having in class? Is there in anything in how you interact with them that's beneficial for your teaching in general? 

Tara Jackson: Hmm...I enjoy students who can allow themselves to be present on their mats in their own bodies. I understand how yoga can be scary and intimidating to the new and beginner, but it's such a joy when students are really able to let themselves drop into the moment - as opposed to letting their anxiety take hold. With these students, I can notice how my words land when I describe the next set of actions as they flow. I always try to deliver clean and clear cues to [my] students, and with this group I can really observe the aftermath of the delivery.

Johnathon Holmes: My favorite types of students are the ones who approach their practice in a playful way. I love the practice, and although it has its serious moments, there is plenty of room for laughter and fun. I’m so happy to watch students make progress in asana, but I’m even happier when they smile and laugh along the way. Watching these students practice reminds me to always approach my teaching from the same mindset.

Tiffany O’Connell: I love the students who are curious and ask questions, during or after class. I especially appreciate when they come up to me afterwards and express that they really enjoyed the sequence, or that what my message/intention was for the class was just what they needed to hear. It contributes to my purpose of making yoga for them more than just asana on the mat. It makes me feel validated in the work I do, and ultimately feel more connected to them - which isn't that the point?!

Jessica Pate: I love having students that respond! A little bit of a joke, but I have noticed (both as a teacher and a student)  that students are afraid to answer questions in class. I love when a class becomes interactive and some dialogue can open up. While we obviously don't want to be chatting the entire class, I think that taking time to pause when exploring some specific action or sensation in the body can be incredibly useful. We all are built differently, with unique bone structure, musculature and connective tissue stories. As a teacher, this dialogue gives me insight into how to better guide my students. However, on a larger scale, taking this time to share different experiences can help both the teacher and student begin to appreciate the beauty that lies in everyone's own unique experience, both on and off the mat.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yoga Instructors and Student Types - A Few Perspectives

By Kathryn Boland 

Do you ever talk to yoga instructor colleagues about certain types of students that you experience, and through that collaborate on effective teaching techniques for such students? As long as this does not venture into petty gossip, this can be very useful dialogue. I recently wrote an article for this blog about different types of challenging students that we encounter. Each student is unique, and a gift of presence, in his/her own way - and stereotyping never helped anyone. Yet looking at students in general categories can help us yoga instructors develop and refine certain strategies for best serving them.

I described these types from my own experiences - as an instructor, as a student, and from media about yoga I’ve taken in (books, videos, et cetera - which is also taken in through the lens of my own experience). I became curious about what types of students other yoga instructors have perceived, and how that has played into their teaching. I reached out to a few fellow instructors on the matter. These instructors are all active and experienced instructors based in Boston, MA. I hope that sharing their responses contributes to dialogue about how we instructors can best offer our knowledge, skills, and intuition as vessels of yoga for the world - to all whom we guide.  

KB: What are some challenging types of students that you encounter? Why? How do you seek to best serve them as an instructor despite those challenges? 

Tara Jackson: Some challenging students I've encountered are ones who don't know how to express what exactly they're looking for in a class. Months after graduating in 2014, I had a student after class demand from me, "make us sweat" and to move faster next class. I was so confused and offended at her tone.  The next week when I taught that class I focused on more core and a strengthening sequence.  To my surprise, although we moved slower than the student requested she noticed she gained more at this level.  She told me, "I actually struggle with planks, that was very challenging for me.  Thanks for class."

Johnathon Holmes: For me, the most challenging students are the ones who tend to “do their own thing” in class. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I find it distracting.  It impacts the overall energy of the group to have one student having a “home practice” in the middle of class. I’m always encouraging students to modify or level something up if it’s available, but that is not the same as seeing a student completely ignore you and take themselves a different direction. As a new teacher (2.5 years in), I struggle with how to deal with these students - do I leave them be? Do I politely ask them to follow along with the class? Do I speak with them after class (this is what my gut tells me)? As a teacher it is my job to hold space for everyone in the class – and if a student is acting in a way that is disruptive to me or other students, it is my job to remedy the situation. 

Tiffany O’Connell:  Oooh, this is a tough one because I really appreciate having students of all levels and limitations in class because they challenge me to be a better teacher. I am an extremely sensitive person and so I would have to say when I sense a struggle with a student, be it a pose or a mental/emotional block. I will often use humor, sarcasm or a relatable experience of my own to lighten their burden. 

Jessica Pate: The most challenging student in class is the student who comes in looking to achieve something. This type of mindset is SO hard to escape in our culture because "achievement" is often used as a metric for success. Coming into a yoga class trying to achieve (whether that be a specific shape, state of mind, or feeling) can limit your experience and take away from the beauty of noticing things as they arise organically. My favorite part of the yoga practice is the unexpected. While I teach a strong, alignment based class, I try to take [my] students out of the mindset of a goal-driven practice by bringing attention to some of the intricacies of the body. By noticing small relationships within a pose and how our body and mind respond, we can start to shift our mindset into curiosity and acceptance rather than achievement and judgement.

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

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Yogic Path to Coping With Stress

By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
It is possible to relieve your stress with a variety of yogic practices, including meditation or exercise. Using natural methods to eliminate your stress can prevent the uncomfortable side effects from long-term use of prescription medications. Use these types of yogic methodology to reduce your daily stress.

1: Yoga Poses and Movements
If you begin performing yoga exercise each day, then it will help to reduce your feelings of stress. Have a soft mat to place on the floor, and change into comfortable clothing before beginning to exercise. The best poses and movements for your stress include stretching or deep breathing. You might want to try child’s pose, bridge pose or cat pose to relax your body and mind. By using asana practice after work, you can enjoy your evening without experiencing stress from a difficult day. 

2: Consuming a Nutritious Diet

Another important part of yogic methodology is consuming a healthy diet. A diet that is rich in natural plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and brown rice is recommended by yoga practitioners. In addition, experts recommend eating small portions of food to avoid obesity and its health complications.  

3: Pranayama Practice

Breath control can also reduce your stress, and this is another yogic practice that you can learn from a professional practitioner. This stress-relieving practice involves performing simple breathing exercises before advancing to difficult breathing techniques. However, after you master the breathing techniques, you can use the practice to eliminate stress while you are in difficult situations.  

4: Meditation For Relaxation

At the end of a yoga routine, you will relax in a sitting or reclining pose so that you can meditate for a few minutes. Learning how to meditate is an essential way for you to reduce stress. As you get better at meditating in a class, you can learn to clear your mind anywhere. Understanding how to meditate can help to prevent racing or anxious thoughts that can make you spiral into feeling additional stress. 

5: Aromatherapies

You can use aromatherapies such as fragrant essential oils or scented candles while meditating, controlling your breath or exercising with yoga poses. While bathing or showering with warm water, you can use aromatic soaps to soothe your mind and relax your body to relieve your stress. You can also use fragrant scents such as sandalwood or lavender in your home and workplace to relieve your stress naturally.

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