Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Revenge of the Trolls Invades Your Yoga Studio

invades your yoga studio
By Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500

Maybe I'm weird, but I loved trolls in folklore and literature. They were not so good looking, they didn't smell good, lived in caves or under a bridge, and sometimes, they ate the local farmer's goats. Snoopy used to laugh about rabbits while reading in the library, and as a kid, I laughed about trolls. Now, the Internet has the 21st century troll who antagonizes everyone. Suddenly, it has become popular to be a public troll on commuter trains, during traffic jams, and places around town.

How would you know a troll?

He might try to hide in your closets without signing up for a class. He'll definitely refuse to sign your waiver form and he might say things like: "Believe me! Political correctness is killing this studio!"

When most people enter a yoga studio, they long to experience a zen-like feeling and uplift their spirits. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for everyone. There are some people who like to stir up drama and contention. Just like there are trolls that invade the Internet and the government, trolls can roam anywhere. This includes a yoga studio. When you, yoga practitioners and yoga students are trying to be on one accord and have a great session, trolls will do their best to make sure this doesn't happen. However, there are ways to handle the situation. 

1. Be introspective. 

You don't want to be in this space for too long. However, you do want to go inward for a second to consider the other person. You need to have a momentary dialogue with yourself to communicate and translate what's happening on the deepest level. At the core, when you're dealing with a troll, you're dealing with someone who's carrying a significant amount of hurt. Their behavior is just a manifestation of what's happening on the inside. When a person has peace, they have no desire to cause a scene and disturb others. 

2. Control your emotions. 

This is a perfect time to think and meditate on your feet. As you approach the situation, take some time to do some deep breathing exercises. As you breathe in and out, the body will have a better opportunity to get rid of any negative emotion and toxic energy. You don't want to absorb the other party's aura. Intentionally control your emotions, with breathing techniques and a thoughtful perspective on what's happening in front of you. 

3. Calmly communicate. 

When you're dealing with a person who's snappy and intentionally causing problems, they probably aren't communicating rationally. They might be really rude, confrontational and disrespectful. Don't return evil for evil. You need to respond in a calm manner. When you remain calm, you'll have a better chance of diffusing the situation. It also does a great job of disempowering the person. If the other person's voice rises in volume, don't try to match it. Stay at a consistent tone of voice as you communicate. Many people communicate soft-spoken language with weakness, but it can be the most powerful tone in a conversation. 

4. Refuse to emotionally engage. 

When a person is giving off toxic energy, it tends to throw other people off. When a person is screaming and carrying on with a bad attitude, to most people, it feels natural to go to that same emotional space as well. However, that is exactly what a troll wants. Since trolls are dealing with such emotional turmoil, they get pleasure from their ability to control the emotions of others. Don't engage on an emotional level. Don't try to reason with them. You should communicate, but understand that they might try to engage in conversation in order to completely waste your time.  You could catch him red-handed taking photos of students in your class and he'll respond: "I have tremendous respect for yoga." You're thinking: "Seriously!"

5. Think of solutions. 

It's important to be solution-driven. Most parents with small children understand the need for a contingency plan. While many days may go as planned, this isn't the case for every single day. When you have irate students and troublemakers, it's wise to think of solutions to handle their temper tantrums. If it's disrupting the class, it's good to have someone in place to handle their complaints, such as an administrator or customer service representative. 

6. Call in reinforcements. 

Unfortunately, there might be a time or two when a person becomes so disruptive that it threatens the safety and integrity of the people in the studio. In that case, it's best to call for reinforcements. Reinforcements might include security and the police. You never want to be in a position where your safety is at risk. Always have a way to manage the situation so that it can be quickly handled. Be prepared for him to give one last parting shot, such as: "I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers."

As you are closing the door on him for the last time, he says your school is really boring. Don't say a word, close the door now and take a deep breath - the troll is gone.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Help! My Yoga Students are Yelping Me!

negative reviews
By Bhavan Kumar

As a yoga teacher, you are your own brand. You might be stationed at a specific studio, but students can opt to attend your class. As a result, it's not uncommon for many teachers to build a strong fan base and following. After taking this into account, it's important to recognize that your students might leave a review on about you. After first, this can seem a little nerve-wracking. However, there are a few good ways to handle this reality. 

One of the parts that gets most people concerned is the negative review. Just by nature, people want to hear really good remarks about who they are and what they bring to the world. It can be really challenging to hear negative feedback. On top of this, it can be really challenging to read negative feedback on a public platform. This means that other people can see it. Furthermore, the feedback will influence a person's desire to work with a specific teacher. So, a good or bad remark can make the difference in whether or not you receive a sale. This can be understandably challenging. So, there are a few ways to approach this ordeal. 

1. Take note of the criticism. 

While it can be tough to read negative reviews of your service, it's best to use those uncomfortable experiences and allow them to refine you. Use the negative reviews as notes on how you can improve. Run the reviews past a few of your most trusted colleagues and friends. If they are able to agree with the sentiments in a gentler way, it's time to step your game up. Keep in mind that you'll always continue to learn and grow. Knowing this, don't get too hard on yourself. Come up with an action plan to help you become proactive about improving. As you learn more about the process, you can shift your mindset and look at the criticism as a great way to become the best yoga professional you can be. 

2. Be responsive on Yelp. 

Whether the review is positive or negative, make sure to leave a comment. It helps users realize that you see their feedback and have a desire to be responsive. Attentiveness is very important. When a brand lets anything go unchecked online, it's bad for optics. Instead, sign up for Google Alerts or another service that notifies you when someone leaves a new comment or review. Promptly respond to it. If it's a positive review, make sure to express gratitude to the person who left it. If it's a negative review, it might be a good idea to approach it in a different way. A negative review might cause you to have a similar reaction. Your response can make a big difference in whether or not other reviewers are attracted to your brand. Apologize for the person's experience. Offer an opportunity to connect offline so that you can learn more about what they would've wanted to experience. In some cases, the reviewer might not even respond. However, if they do, they'll appreciate the fact that you were responsive to their experience. In many cases, negative reviewers want to be heard and understood. 

3. Make it a part of the narrative.

Whether you like it or not, you're living in the digital age. Social media and the internet are here to stay. Additionally, there are so many ways people benefit from these entities, so embrace the fact. Instead of fighting against it, adopt the narrative and make it work in your favor. At the beginning of each class, make sure to introduce yourself. At the end of the class, reintroduce yourself and encourage students to leave a review of how the course went for them. In this case, you get to welcome and encourage positive reviews. It's all about making the experience work for you!

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Teaching Yoga Classes that Dissolve Anger: Relaxation Breath

Dissolve Anger
By Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Although it is snowing today, the spring season is one week away and with the advent of a new season; many Yoga practitioners and teachers will be starting new projects, courses and various training programs. As the pace of life begins to shift from season to season, many of us can easily become overwhelmed with the increased number of items on our to-do list. As anxiety levels begin to escalate with the increased pace of life and number of daily obligations, irritation and even angry feelings may begin to arise.

When this happens, many people find that they are holding quite a bit of stress and tension in their bodies, including breathing in a shallow manner. By offering your Yoga students a balanced and comprehensive practice of postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, you will help them to maintain an inner state of equilibrium. The more physically challenging and vigorous forms of Yoga is wonderful for relieving stress and tension from the body and increasing the flow of vital life force energy throughout the entire body-mind complex.

Some of the more vigorous forms of asanas that help to wring deeply held muscular tension out of the body are the Ashtanga and Power Yoga systems. These systems are based on linking the postures together by continually flowing through a series of Sun Salutations.

This long, dance-like flow, which usually that lasts up to an hour or longer, leaves little room in the body or mind for holding onto physical tension or focusing on distressing thoughts in the mind. Flowing, vinyasa-based Yoga practices are especially powerful when they are performed in conjunction with pranayama exercises.

During the physically active portion of a power or vinyasa Yoga class, the postures are usually performed in tandem with Ujjayi Pranayama. This ocean-sounding breath is both energizing and relaxing. It also effectively stokes the inner fire that nourishes our vital life force energy. At the end of a Yoga class, a very effective breathing exercise for promoting deep rest is the Relaxation Breath.  Essentially, the Relaxation Breath shifts the body from being propelled by the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is also known as the fight or flight nervous system. Yoga practitioners as high levels of adrenalin and intense activity often experience this. For instance, imagine that you have just enjoyed a double espresso at your favorite coffee shop. As you start to feel the caffeine elevate your mood and your energy level, you probably feel like you could take on the world! This is the more positive side of the sympathetic nervous system. However, this heightened level of energy can also quickly swing into impatience, irritation and anger, which is the less attractive aspect of the “double-edge sword” of the sympathetic nervous system.

In order to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems during the course of your classes, it is important to guide your students through a comprehensive practice of both active and relaxing Yoga postures, as well a few well-placed breathing exercises. The Relaxation Breath is a very simple breathing exercise that is optimally practiced during the final portion of a Yoga class.

Practicing this calming pranayama technique is a wonderful way to lead your students into a deeply restorative Shavasana. When you are ready to teach Relaxation Breath, ask your students to sit in a comfortable seated position or to lie down in Shavasana.

You may wish to offer your students Yoga bolsters to place underneath their knees if they are resting in Corpse Pose. This additional support will help to relieve any accumulated tension in the lower back. When your students are ready, have them breath in for a count of four and exhale for a count of eight. Continue the practice of Relaxation Breath for several minutes in a continuous fashion. By elongating the exhalation, the body naturally shifts from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, which will allow anxiety, impatience and anger to naturally dissolve from the body and mind.

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

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Friday, March 09, 2018

Common Dangers in Backbending and How We Cue to Prevent Them

how we cue
By Kathryn Boland 

Do you see students practicing backbends in similar potentially dangerous ways? Do you have strategies for working against this - proactively and/or retroactively? Backbending has incredible benefits- contributing to strength-building, stretching out various muscles, and offering energy boosts. We're dealing with the spine, however, so the potential for significant damage is very real.

Let's look at four common misalignments in back-bending, and how we can help students avoid them (both proactively and retroactively). This accomplished, your students can enjoy the benefits of these poses without the dangers. As part of balanced yoga practice, the results can turn around one's day, one's week, and even one's life, for the better. Om Shanti, dear instructor colleagues!

*Note: Ideally, we prevent our students practicing poses potentially dangerous ways, but the truth is that will happen, and it's best to have strategies for those cases as well - a "plan B", if you will.

1) Going back before lengthening the spine upwards or outwards

-Seen in: backbends from standing poses, Camel Pose (Ustrasana), and Bow Pose

-Proactive cues: for standing pose backbends and Camel Pose, "Before letting your head and shoulders go backwards, lift up from your bottom ribs all the way up through your torso."; for Bow, enter the pose from Locust Pose (Salabhasana) and guide students to keep the same length and lift (emphasis on the former) of Locust throughout the practice of the pose.

-Retroactive cue (for all the above cases): inform students that practicing this way might very well lead to back pain, so please come down, then guide them through properly lifting upwards or outwards (depending upon the pose) for a second attempt at the pose

2) Losing the pose's anchor

-Seen in: hips shifting backwards in Camel Pose; releasing necessary abdominal engagement in Bow Pose; losing the grounding of the feet and stability of legs in standing backbends

-Proactive cues: In Camel Pose guide students to engage the front of the thighs to keep the hips from moving backwards; in Bow Pose instruct students to pull their bellies into their spines, up and away from their mats; in standing pose backbends remind students of Mountain Pose feet and the outer thighs wrapping outwards (away from each other) yet the inner thighs squeezing in towards each other

-Retroactive cues: all of these cues can be offered, and their effects created, at any point, and thus solve the aforementioned potential dangerous action in these backbends

3) Progressing more deeply than the body indicates is safe for it

-Seen in: reaching back to touch the heels in Camel Pose, despite pinching feeling in the low back; the same with raising the legs and/or touching the big toes in Locust pose or taking full Bow, or reaching for the ankles rather than the tops of the feet in the pose; going from Bridge (a perfectly effective backbend) into full Wheel and remaining there even with pinching in low back and a struggle to stay up in the pose (leading to potential strain or a dangerous fall) *mostly evident to instructors only in students' sudden shortening of breath, grimacing facial expression, muscles tensing up, misalignments, and other similar non-verbal cues

-Proactive cues: in Camel Pose cueing students to keep blocks by their sides and/or dig in their toes to raise their heels, which are closer reaches than all the way to the heels with the feet flat; guiding students to progress into those further steps in Locust, Bow, or full Wheel only if there's no pain or significant struggle, to think honestly about how they're feeling and if it's best for their bodies on this particular day

-Retroactive cues: guiding prop use, digging toes under, lowering legs in Locust or Bow (or reaching for tops of feet rather than ankles in Bow), or coming back down to Bridge Pose from full Wheel with any notice of struggle (look for any shaking or misalignments, observe quality of breath and facial expression)

4) Letting associated joints move into unsafe alignment

-Seen in: knees going wider than hips in Bow and Bridge poses; front knee going past same-side ankle in standing backbends

-Proactive cues: have students place a block in between their inner-upper thighs in Bridge Pose, imagining they're doing so in Bow Pose (in a private lesson or very small class, you could place a block there for students, but it's very cumbersome for students to attempt doing so themselves); asking students to make sure their front knee doesn't go past their ankles in standing backbends

-Retroactive cues: squeeze inner thighs towards each other to draw the knees to hips-distance apart in Bridge and Bow; have students lessen their deep bend into the front knee in standing backbends (options to help with is to lengthen stance or take the grounded version of the pose, dropping back knee and untucking the toes)

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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