Friday, February 23, 2018

Teaching Yoga by Example: Gratitude

teaching yoga by example
By Virginia Iversen, M.Ed 

As a professional Yoga teacher, you have the opportunity to positively impact the students in your class on a daily basis. Although you might feel initially that the most important aspects of teaching a Yoga class are correct cueing techniques and offering appropriate modifications, over time you will find that helping your students to cultivate an optimistic outlook on their own life is just as crucial as maintaining the correct alignment in Triangle Pose. Of course, being comfortable and familiar with guiding a group of Yoga students through a balanced sequence of postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques, is one of the core aspects of being an effective teacher.

However, many experts agree that the vast majority of our communication occurs on a nonverbal level. In the context of Yoga class, this means that the way that you interact with your students, and even the quality of your own inner state, will be directly communicated to those around you, whether you like it or not! If you have had a particularly difficult day, or are in a negative frame of mind, many of your students will pick up on this negativity. As part of your preparation for teaching a Yoga class, taking a few minutes to cultivate a peaceful mind and a grateful heart will go a long way towards truly supporting your students in the process of cultivating their own inner joy. 

A very effective and uplifting way to cultivate the awareness and feeling of gratitude in your own being, is to simply take a few moments before your students begin to arrive for class and mentally review 3 to 5 aspects of your own life that you are grateful for on that particular day. These “gratitude items” may include certain people in your life, beautiful places out in nature, or even hearing a favorite song on the radio on your way to the studio. The items on your gratitude list are not as important as the feelings of gratefulness that remembering them creates in your own heart. 

When you prepare to teach your Yoga classes in this way, your students will feel the positive energy that you are creating in the class, and will be nourished by the uplifting environment in the studio, while they are practicing with you. In addition, you can also share this gratitude exercise with your students during the course of your class. For instance, you may want to begin your Yoga class by asking your students to sit in Easy Seat on their mats, while they take a few deep, full breaths. In order to facilitate an awareness of the many blessings your Yoga students have in their own lives, you can suggest that they take a few moments to bring into their conscious awareness several different items, people, places, or experiences for which they are grateful on that particular day. 

In this way, you will be facilitating the deeper aspects of a balanced Yoga practice, both in the way that you comport yourself and through the introductory or closing exercises that you offer to your students, in order to help them become more consciously aware of the many positive aspects of their own lives. By focusing on gratitude within the parameters of a comprehensive flow of Yoga postures, pranayama exercises and relaxation techniques, you will create a beautiful, serene and uplifting environment in your classes, which will offer your students a place of refuge and restoration for the hour or so that they spend with you on the mat. 

In addition, by embodying a sense of peace, equipoise and gratefulness in your own being, you will nonverbally communicate the higher virtues of Yoga to your students. If you find it challenging to sustain an optimistic and grateful spirit on a daily basis, keeping a gratitude journal will help to highlight the aspects of your life that bring joy and peace to your own heart and mind. By doing so, you will naturally begin to embody the higher aspects of a dedicated and committed Yoga practice, which will inspire and elevate the hearts and minds of your students.

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

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Chinese New Year and Resolutions

By Michael Gleason

Happy Chinese New Year!  And Nihao if you are celebrating Chinese New Year!  The change in the calendar is very often a time to start anew, namely starting resolutions.  Anyone with a resolution will have a reason, or reasons, to hit that [REFRESH – F5] button of life.  Yoga as a New Year’s resolution, or part of your regiment of reasonable, attainable resolutions, is a great way to address the heavy foods we just consumed over the holidays and football season. Yoga as a New Year’s resolution also gets us back in touch with everyone in your immediate surroundings instead of using hand-held devices.

Sally Susinno, RYT-200, of Wellesley, Mass. Cautioned that “resolutions can be wasteful [and that] there’s no past or later, there’s always now.”  Susinno did encourage students not to wait but start with something specific vs. striving for the unattainable.  She also voiced her concern that “we live in a diet culture…[and we] binge before dieting.”  The best approach to Yoga as a New Year’s resolution then is to find a practical, productive intention such as, “May I be right with myself.”

Overall Susinno likes to see people take a more meditative approach making yoga as a New Year’s resolution such a relevant opportunity.  Other helpful, healing mantras she likes are, “May I forgive the people who imposed upon me” and “What does health mean to me?”  Furthermore, this could mean watching to make sure we did not have a donut for breakfast vs. oatmeal or anything else that keeps us full longer.  Yoga for New Year’s resolutions can also mean getting away from the ceremonial aspects of the time of year.
A way to avoid any drudgery with Yoga as a New Year’s resolution is to open ourselves to the different yoga poses and to experiment with that broad spectrum of yoga classes.  If time or money is a challenge, consider learning one yoga asana per week for 52 weeks.  While doing so spend January through August to explore the eight limbs of yoga, one per month.  More often than not most New Year’s resolutions come to a crashing halt before Valentine’s Day.  So focusing on one pose per week (one breathing exercise, one sitting exercise, one standing exercise) is the chance to stop and embrace when Susinno talked about the now vs. past or future.

With all this embracing of personal strengths and weaknesses, this recognition to forgive ourselves and others it is good then to focus on the best yoga poses for New Year’s resolutions.