Teaching Yoga by Example: Compassion

July 28th, 2015

yoga and compassionBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

During the course of your Yoga teaching training program, you are probably immersed in a great deal of information about correct alignment principals during the practice of the postures, the intricacies of human anatomy and learning the classical Sanskrit names of the asanas. What you may not be so closely connected to is the profound importance of compassion and teaching the finer aspects of how to incorporate the teachings of Yoga into your students’ daily lives “off the mat.”

As your own personal Yoga practice begins to deepen, you will find that the transformative richness of the practice lies not only in the beneficial effects of the physical postures and breathing techniques, but also in the integration of the principals of a Yogic way of living into daily life. When you experience the power of Yoga to transform your own life from the inside out, you will naturally want to share this wisdom and experience with your own students.

One way to share the benefits of a regular Yoga practice with your students is to embody the peace, lightness and vibrancy that are cultivated in your own body and mind with your students during the course of your classes. Imagine, for example, that a new student is struggling to simply touch her toes in Standing Forward Fold, and the teacher approaches her and impatiently insists that she hurriedly touches her toes, because the class is ready to move onto the next posture!

There are an unending amount of negative scenarios that we could all come up with that would exemplify negative, demoralizing and critical behavior on the part of a Yoga teacher. Clearly, this kind of behavior would not be conducive to cultivating the positive inner qualities of Yoga that are spoken of so highly in the ancient Yogic texts, such as Narada’s Bhakti Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. Some of these highly esteemed inner qualities that are nurtured by a regular practice are patience, courage and compassion.

The word “compassion” has a many different meanings that can essentially be encapsulated by terms such as mercy, charity, sensitivity, love, and tenderness. Take a moment to imagine again that the aforementioned impatient Yoga instructor took a deep breath and remembered to be compassionate with her struggling, beginning student, as she attempted to touch her toes in Standing Forward Fold. Instead of impatiently insisting that the student touch her toes, regardless of the degree of flexibility in her hamstrings, imagine that the teacher took a deep breath and approached her student in a compassionate, gentle manner.

In this instance, the Yoga teacher through a soft touch and a quiet encouraging word might exemplify a compassionate, gentle manner or two to her student to simple breath deeply, exhale fully, and allow her body to soften and relax into the forward fold. In this way, instead of creating more tension and stiffness in the back of the legs in reaction to her teacher’s impatience, the student will be able to release tension and move more deeply into the posture than she would otherwise be able to do.

In this way, the next time this particular student is faced with a challenging situation, she will remember to breath deeply and treat herself with patience and compassion, which truly reflects the beauty and alchemical potential of a regular Yoga practice. When the lessons of Yoga “on the mat” begin to be woven into our daily lives “off the mat,” the potential of Yoga to truly uplift and inspire us becomes quite apparent. As a certified Yoga teacher, you will have the opportunity to effect long lasting positive change in your community, one student at a time.

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

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Ingredients in a Fruitful Yoga Experience

July 21st, 2015

fruitful yoga experienceBy Kathryn Boland

Challenges, Success, and Fun

How can you create classes that are a fruitful yoga experience for your students? In Dance Studio Life Magazines November 2014 issue, master modern dance teacher Bill Evans states that he seeks to offer his students three elements in every dance class – challenges, success, and fun. Challenges offer growth; without pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones, people can’t expand their skills and achievements. Success, in some measure, keeps us coming back for more. Without feeling some sense of accomplishment, after a certain amount of time and trial-and-error, we (some might argue, wisely) often move on to other pursuits. Success also brings the confidence we need to be at our bests. Fun engages students, and also puts them in a positive, confident frame of mind. That kind of mindset allows them to learn effectively. I propose that yoga students can achieve the most when we as yoga instructors offer them classes in which they can experience some measure of each of those three elements, in balance and in flow with one another.

Yoga is a dynamic and incredibly extensive practice, with a body of knowledge and accompanying practices that have arisen from centuries of yogis and yoginis’ dedicated study and practice. Consequently, there is a never a shortage of new things to learn and new skills to achieve. With each approach of a never-before-tried asana, fresh meditation approach, or yet-to-be-mastered pranayama exercise, there is a new challenge. That’s true for us as yoga instructors, just as much as it is for our students – we’re all learning together! In this line of thought, I love the quote I’ve heard from a few different instructors – “that’s why they call it a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect!” As instructors, we can serve our students best by consistently seeking new challenges in our own practices. We can then have more to offer our students.

When it comes to our actual instruction, we can do our best to ensure that each student in our classes has some reasonable measure of challenge available to them. Dear readers, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that it can be difficult to teach classes to those with twenty years of experience and newbies, all in the same class! Thankfully, yoga has tools within it to help us meet those mixed-levels challenges; along with that extensive body of knowledge and practice within yoga, there are numerous modifications for any given asana or other yogic exercise. We can guide our students to approach the level of challenge that helps them to grow, yet is realistically attainable, by informing them of some of those options. The next step is to guide them in approaching chosen variations in ways that enhance their practices. All of that takes keen observation, patience, mindfulness, and a desire to understand how they are experiencing your guidance.

Most often, some measure of success results from that kind of mindful and patient process of guiding students in an appropriate practice for them. That is necessary for sustained learning, because it most often takes the experience (physical, mental, emotional, et cetera) that something worked in order to register it to longer-term memory. That’s necessary for the learning to move from something achieved once to something that beneficially becomes habit. Over the course of time, those small successes added on to prior ones, our yoga practices build. There’s a challenge to that natural process, however; a good amount of research in psychology describes how – most likely for evolutionary survival reasons – we humans are more likely to recognize and remember negative things over positive ones.

We see that effect play out with those who want to try yoga, but are afraid of that beginner “learning curve”, or those who try yoga once but don’t go back for the same reason. As instructors, we can engage more people in what yoga has to offer by helping them to recognize their own successes – no matter how minor. That doesn’t have to be fake and plastic praise for its own sake. In my experience as an instructor, there’s always something that we can see our students have newly reached. For instance, even a new student’s focus and dedication is something to acknowledge – even if their biggest achievement of the class is a more stable Mountain Posture (hey, that’s even a victory to praise!). Setting up our students for success also comes with designing sequences that are attainable for them – yet that offer some level of challenge as well. With that delivered, we can keep newbies as well as more experienced students coming back to our classes for more.

With a dose of challenge sweetened with a bit of success, fun results. In that way, helping our students reach a healthy and enjoyable balance of those first two elements leads to the essential third. The additional magic of that balance can be a beautiful flow state, for both you and your students; challenges are surmounted and successes achieved without any one even thinking in those terms. Other elements can add even more fun. As one, creative sequencing can bring those moments of students thinking (and maybe even sometimes saying) “Ohh, ahh, thanks, I’ve never tried it like that!” Fun, and maybe even a bit of self-care, can occur for yourself as an instructor from building and rehearsing such sequencing on your own. That’s one reason maintaining your own personal practice is so essential!

Another element that can bring fun is showing a sense of humor, such as with jokes and sometimes even a bit of silliness (that stays within a professional demeanor, of course). I find, and have even shared with my students at points, that many people take yoga too seriously. Yes, it is an ancient and venerable lifestyle to follow, but that doesn’t mean no smiles and laughter allowed! The way I see it, those who teach and/or practice Laughter Yoga are on to something! In any case, showing a sense of fun and humor can make instructors seem more approachable and friendly. That can put students in the mindset to be more willing to approach challenges, and more able to appreciate their own successes. Like a cake, yoga classes aren’t quite right without all of those necessary ingredients. By honing your skills at offering classes with those elements well balanced and in flow with each other, you’ll keep your students practicing, filling your classes, and experiencing the most for them that yoga can offer.

© Copyright 2015 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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How to Teach Yoga by Example: Gracious Acceptance

July 19th, 2015

how to teach yoga sessionsBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Do you want more tips about how to teach Yoga by example? Like most dedicated teacher, you continually strive to make progress in your practice. Most likely, this drive to succeed comes into play in your life, both on and off the mat. As a professional Yoga instructor, you may find that many of your students will emulate your way of approaching the practice in the way that they, themselves, approach their own practice. In addition, many of your students will also model your psychological approach to difficult poses and other personal challenges that arise during class, in their daily interactions off the mat.

As a certified Yoga teacher, the exemplary bar is quite high in terms of how you nonverbally communicate the deeper aspects of this ancient physical practice and spiritual approach to life to your students. There are many different scriptural Yogic texts that enumerate in great detail the optimal way of practicing asanas and pranayama exercises, in addition to how to integrate the wisdom of the practice into your day-to-day life. Some of this detail includes advice on how to cleanse the body, how to control the unruly nature of the mind and how to best approach difficult situations in our lives.

When you begin to understand the ultimate goal of a well-rounded Yoga practice, you will develop a deep respect for the ability of a regular practice of asanas, breathing exercises and meditation techniques to balance and cleanse the body and calm the mind. A few of the most well-loved Vedic scriptures that outline the optimal way of practicing Yoga and harnessing the deep knowledge and well-being that the practice generates, in order to be more efficient in our day-to-day lives, is the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Both of these texts outline in detail how to integrate the practice of Yoga into every level of your body and mind. When your experience of Yoga deepens to the point where you begin to naturally and spontaneously “walk your talk” off the mat, you will find that your life begins to resonate with more balance and well being. When this happens, you will quite naturally teach Yoga by the way that you comport yourself during a class. In addition to instructing your students on how to do the various postures and pranayama exercises, the way that you approach perceived challenges and obstacles during the course of a Yoga class will have a profound impact on your students.

One of the inner attitudes of Yoga that is extolled in the Vedic scriptures is the expansive and calming nature of gracious acceptance. This term essentially means to calmly and openly accept a situation as it is, before taking appropriate action. It does not mean to simply passively accept an unacceptable or unsafe situation and to do nothing about it! However, in our fast-paced, multi-tasking culture, pausing long enough to even register how a situation is before trying to change the situation to fit our ideal scenario is often overlooked.

This sense of always rushing to change or fix a situation, in the course of only a few minutes, takes away the opportunity to see and understand a situation, or a way of approaching a problem, as a coping mechanism that has served a helpful purpose in the past, but which may be derailing our goals in the present situation. For instance, you may have a student in your Yoga class who is used to ignoring the signals of his or her body and just pushing past the pain, in order to achieve a specific physical goal. In turn, this student may be quite prone to injury if he or she aggressively tries to do some postures that are out of reach of his or her current level of flexibility.

In this example, you have the opportunity to model a state of gracious acceptance for your student, by asking the student to pause for a moment and notice how his or her body feels right now. As your Yoga student becomes aware of what his or her body truly needs in the moment, without negating, minimizing or justifying another course of action, you will have the opportunity to model a state of gracious acceptance of “what is” for your student. In this way, your student will feel more accepting of his or her own physical aptitude and level of fitness. This state of open, gracious acceptance will then allow both you and your student the ability to choose appropriate Yoga postures and breathing exercises that will truly nurture the student’s strength, flexibility and a deep, inner sense of respectful equanimity.

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

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Teaching Yoga by Example: Cultivating Patience

July 18th, 2015

teaching yoga for healingBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

How can you start teaching Yoga by example? One of the most transformational aspects of Yoga “on the mat,” is how this practice transforms our lives “off the mat.” As a professional teacher, you are probably well aware of how your own practice of asanas, pranayama exercises and breathing techniques has transformed your own life. This may have been one of your main reasons for pursuing a teacher certification, so that you are able to share the profound physical and psychological benefits of this practice with others in your community.

You may have also enrolled in a Yoga teacher certification program, in order to deepen your own experience the myriad of benefits that this ancient and time-tested practice offers to regular practitioners. Additionally, you may be interested in exploring the classical Indian scriptures, such as the Yoga Vasistha and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, that form the foundation for many of the various forms and styles that are practiced today. As you begin to explore and understand more of the layers of profound wisdom that are found in the pages of these classical texts, you will be able to offer this wisdom back to your students.

An important aspect of teaching Yoga classes that is often overlooked is the modeling of the wisdom of classical Yogic texts by the teacher during class. In other words, the teacher ideally models many of the noble qualities that are enumerated in the scriptural texts from around the world, including patience and compassion, during the course of his or her class. For example, imagine the irony of being short-tempered with one of your students, if he or she is not able to stay up in Headstand for a full three minutes!

Let’s just say, that this level of impatience would certainly not be in alignment with the advice of the ancient sages and seers of India. By personally modeling the noble qualities and virtuous actions that are recommended by the classical Yogic texts during your class, you will be providing a very real and tangible example for your students to follow. Many of these noble qualities and virtues, such as honesty, generosity and patience, are not necessarily valued in our world today.

Certainly being dishonest is not valued either, but getting ahead and multi-tasking at all times of the day and night are held in much higher regard than slowing down enough to be patient with oneself or those around us. Behavioral experts estimate that 93% of our communication is nonverbal. According to their research, approximately 38% of our communication is through the tone and cadence of our voice and the other 55% is through our body language. A paltry 7% of our communication is through the words that we use!

As a professional Yoga instructor, this means that by embodying the spirit of the ancient scriptures, including fostering an internal state of patience and compassion for your students, is of the utmost importance. Over time, your students will learn to be patient with themselves and with each other, by watching the patient and kind way that you treat them. With a consistent and dedicated Yoga practice, the wisdom that is elucidated in the ancient scriptures will begins to arise from within the hearts and minds of your students. This will allow your students to truly integrate the practice of Yoga “on the mat,” into their everyday actions in the world.

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 specializes in writing customized articles that are 100% unique. 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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Invitatory Language in Yoga Instruction

July 16th, 2015

about language in yoga instructionBy Kathryn Boland

Language in yoga instruction is extremely important. Being invited to something – to a party, to a meaningful life passage event, even to do something that just plain feels good – carries its own special joy. It’s even difficult; at least for me personally, to put into just the right words that special feeling of allowance and/or inclusion. Invitation can also be part of when one seeks to direct another in more formalized, structured activity (that which we might not commonly associate with such simple joy). As yoga instructors, we can both direct and ease our students through using “invitatory” language. Furthermore, it opens up opportunities for students to make their practices truly their own – versus our ideas of what we think those practices should be.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “invitatory”, an adjective, as “containing or conveying an invitation”. Language with that quality suggests options and opens up possibilities, rather than commands. Yoga teachers have many opportunities to use this type of language in their instruction. One way to do so is present multiple options, using such transitional words/phrases as “perhaps” and “or maybe.” Particularly fitting times in typical asana classes to do that are during beginning meditations and closing relaxations.

For the former, an instructor might suggest setting an intention or calling to mind something one is grateful for. The instructor could then say “Or, if it feels more right for you today, simply tune into your breath and see if that helps to quiet your mind.” For closings, instructors could offer guided meditation options – such as envisioning a walk through a peaceful favorite place or a self-guided body scan – or simply time to let the mind remain silent and eased. Giving options in those ways gives students helpful doses of guidance, yet allows them freedom to put into practice what they sense will most benefit them.

When it comes to leading students through specific asanas, invitatory language has similar benefits. For instance, I often give students the option to point or flex their feet in certain postures where either is possible (such as Half-Moon and Warrior III). I explain that flexing the feet especially stretches the calves, and pointing gives the shin a good stretch – “so, perhaps try both and see what feels better for you today”. My students do typically experiment with both, and some settle on either option as best for them right then. Leaving both of those choices open also allows students with certain injuries or sensitivities to respect their bodies’ pain signals. That helps avoid further, more serious injury – as some students will continue doing something even if it hurts (as much as we might advise them against doing that) simply because we as instructors asked them to.

Guiding students in using props also offers opportunities for instructors to use language that invites instead of commands. That is especially helpful when it comes to props – because practitioners can have very varied and individual needs, desires, and past experiences when it comes to using props. For myself as a practitioner, I tend to not heavily use props, but in recent years I have challenged myself to learn more about using them through direct experience. I believe that I developed that helpful openness because many of my favorite instructors guided me in how I might use props, yet never ordered me to do so.

As an instructor, I’ve seen how one prop use I suggest is helpful for one student, yet not for another. Resting a hand on a block in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) makes one student feel more balanced, while doing so just feels limiting and awkward to another, for example. Unique anatomies often account for such differences, and we as instructors serve our students best by respecting those variations. In most – if not all – cases, students know their own bodies better than we could ever hope to!

Just as with anything, invitatory language has its limitations. As one, beginning students often feel overwhelmed, confused, and lost if given too many options. Most helpful for them seems to be an approach that is directive, but also includes many questions and “check-ins” (as in, “how does that positioning feel?”). That way, instructors can guide such students as necessary; yet gain insights through consultation about their practice experiences at the same time. That allows instructors to guide such students in ways that keeps those experiences the students’ own.

Other instances in which invitatory language should be avoided involve those with safe positioning and alignment in specific asanas. Instructors should never lead students to believe that it’s a good option to place their feet on their knees in Vrkasana (Tree Pose), for instance. All in all, however, invitatory language allows us as instructors to guide students in executing the yoga practices that they come to understand are those that are best for them. Such a process is a beautiful part of life as a yoga practitioner. We can invite, rather than command, as we travel it with them.

© Copyright 2015 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Keeping an Open Attitude in Challenging Yoga Teaching Environments

July 15th, 2015

yoga teaching environmentsBy Kathryn Boland

Are you in challenging yoga teaching environments? It’s clear that yoga instructors have a lot to offer with their skills and knowledge in guiding various individuals to greater holistic wellness – Opportunities for doing so range from nursing homes to health clubs to schools. Many resourceful and creative yoga instructors have taken advantage of such diverse opportunities, often apart from the specialized yoga studio atmosphere. It’s also clear that yogic philosophy often differs from Western’s cultures perspectives on wellness, including the best ways to both work towards and maintain it.

The result can be a clashing of philosophies between yoga instructors and those at the sites where they find themselves teaching. In the long run, then, places where offering yoga isn’t a central mission can present challenging environments within which to teach. If we can exercise our practice tools – such as keeping full breath, and remaining detached from needing to achieve “ideals”, and above all remain open and curious – we can persevere. We can continue to offer all that we know how to, even in those challenging environments.

My personal experience teaching yoga in a low-income preschool this year (through my graduate school internship in Dance/Movement Therapy) clearly demonstrates these dynamics. Yoga philosophy holds that individuals have the potential to know what is best for them, and they can reach their greatest potential wellness when they listen to that innate wisdom. With children, this often translates to being incredibly active and energetic (“squirming” and “fidgeting”, some might call it). Capable children’s yoga instructors most often engage this energy through creating practices with more movement, and fewer still postures, overall. Underlying that strategy is an acknowledgment of children’s physical and emotional needs, rather than condemning of its resulting behaviors.

Despite my best efforts to do just that, some of the children have difficulty maintaining focus and following the postures and movements I have been guiding them in. The atmosphere has therefore sometimes devolves into overall chaos, me losing control of the group. At those times, the teachers have sometimes not intervened. At other times, they strongly and clearly have. For instance, one teacher has taken children out of the group, for what I sometimes perceived as minor infractions. Other teachers have yelled at the children, with clear anger in their voices, to stop “fooling around” and listen to me. I haven’t felt comfortable attempting to override those disciplinary actions; though they have been directly against my philosophies and instruction practices, and the groups are mine to lead, they are still the teachers’ classrooms. To me, it hasn’t been worth it to create more negative energy through further objections.

I sought another avenue, however, to express my views on the matter. The children at the site nap for a solid two hours mid-day, everyday. That time offers a great opportunity to connect with the teachers. I have had many good conversations with them during those mid-day periods, often about matters of discipline and the most effective ways to guide children to more pro-social and otherwise desired behaviors. In the beginning part of my internship, I listened attentively and sometimes offered my views – but I remained somewhat closed-off to their “old school”, so to speak, views on guiding children to their potentials.

At one point, however, my supervisor advised me to come at presenting my opposing views to the teachers with a “curious” attitude – what could I learn from what they’re saying? That helped me to understand that there are parts of what they believe and practice that I can adapt and put into practice, that fit with who I am and what I believe. As one example, that attitude helped me to more clearly hear the value in the teachers’ beliefs of how children test limits in order to learn what those are. Guiding adult figures need to enforce those boundaries in order for the children to begin respecting them.

With this developed understanding, I could still energetically engage the children (playing upon their interests in animals and nature, for instance). I could be more comfortable lovingly challenging the children, with a firm and neutral tone – such as saying “Is that what we’re doing? Come join your friends, come do this with us!” when children have not been following along with the class’s sequence and structure. The situation demonstrates that the key is knowing one’s students. I still fully believe and put into practice the yogic philosophy that individuals know what’s best for them at heart. I also acknowledge, however, that it’s a lot to expect of preschool children to put that into practice when there are so many fun and tempting alternatives.

Finding that balance between what I came to those classes with initially, and what the teachers believe and practice, was possible because I remained open and curious. I stayed open to what they had to teach me, and the children have benefited in the end; my most recent groups have still been fun and energetic, but I have been able to keep them more regulated through acting as a more clearly boundary-enforcing figure when necessary. It seems like the children have felt safer and more in community with each other (and me) as a result.

The same holds true in other challenging environments. Fitness-directed environments might pressure instructors to base their practices to fitness-directed goals, to the detriment of work in the other seven Limbs of yoga, for instance. Corporate environments might try to force instructors to “economize” practices, maximizing goals in ever-shortening spans of times and dwindling available resources. Wherever instructors find themselves, however, we can adapt to where we are – and therein offer the people there all that we are capable of offering. We can do that through clear communication, using yogic tools for remaining calm and collected, and remaining open and curious to perspectives and practices that we might first resist. Doing so can certainly be difficult at times. For all of the healing and empowerment that we can bring to various corners of this earth with our knowledge and skills, however, it’s a small thing to ask of us.

© Copyright 2015 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Yin Yoga Benefits Cancer Patients: Relaxation

July 8th, 2015

yoga for cancer recoveryBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

We often her that Yoga benefits cancer patients, but how does this happen? For those of us who are regular Yoga practitioners, and who are facing a cancer diagnosis, maintaining a daily or weekly Yoga practice can help to engender a sense of normalcy and promote self-care during a very difficult time period in your life. This is particularly true if you are accustomed to practicing several times a week, in order to generate energy, balance and well-being. However, if you are undergoing treatment for cancer, you may find it difficult to do the same kind of Yoga practice that you are used to doing for months, or even years to come.

During the time period when you are healing from cancer and any cancer treatments that you have undergone, including surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, you may find it to be more manageable and respectful of your own body to engage in a slower-paced, restorative practice. Of course, it is prudent to check with your family doctor or surgeon before engaging in any Yoga practice post-operatively. Do keep in mind that if you push yourself too quickly back into a challenging physical practice, you may find that you are undermining the healing and well-being that you are seeking.

For instance, you may still be in the process of healing from major surgery, and by pushing yourself into doing a vigorous asana practice too quickly, you may weaken the healing process by putting undue strain on fragile surgical sites. Although you may feel impatient to get back to your “normal” life, you may need to create a new normal that fits you own individual needs during your cancer recovery process. For some Yoga practitioners, this may mean a time period of practicing only supported, restorative asanas and breathing exercises, rather than a vigorous, vinyasa-based practice.

For other Yogis and Yoginis, it may be necessary to abstain completely from practicing asanas for a period of time while you are healing, and to focus instead on calming breathing exercises and contemplative meditation practices. Simply maintaining your regular time on the Yoga mat, even if all you do is ten minutes of pranayama and five minutes of meditation, will help you to carve some time out for yourself that is focused on health and well-being, instead of disease.

Yin Yoga classes are a wonderful way to receive many of the benefits of a regular practice, while still allowing your body to deeply rest and restore its vital life force energy. Yin poses are usually practiced at a much slower pace and allow your body time to settle into the postures and feel supported by the earth. The underlying mechanism of the stress relieving benefits of Yin Yoga is the passive action of gravity on the muscles and connective tissues, as deeply held tension and stress begins to melt away over the course of several minutes.

The relaxing benefits of Yin Yoga postures can be further enhanced by the use of props, such as bolsters, blocks, folded blankets, and aromatherapy eye bags. All of these props allow your body to feel supported and free to release the tension that accumulates over time, due to stress and anxiety. For many cancer patients, surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation treatments can cause a great deal of physical and emotional discomfort, fear and pain. Yin Yoga postures are quite effective at releasing this physical and emotional tension, which is frequently held in the connective tissues of the body.

The connective tissues in the body often hold surgical trauma and emotional bracing. Yin Yoga postures are very effective for releasing some of this deeply held fear and tension, by undoing the physical constriction in the body and washing away some of the anxious thoughts in the mind, in a safe and effective manner. The deep sense of relaxation and release that comes from a practice of Yin Yoga will help to further support you during your cancer recovery process, which is understandably a very challenging and difficult time for most Yoga practitioners.

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 specializes in writing customized articles that are 100% unique. 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

See our testimonials to find out what our graduates have to say about our selection of online yoga teacher training courses.

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Generating Enthusiasm in a Yoga Class: Music

July 5th, 2015

practicing heron pose in classBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

Is music generating enthusiasm in your classes? There is nothing quite as unsettling in a Yoga class as showing up for a Power Yoga class and having melodic new age music playing in the background, or attending a Yin Yoga class with hip hop music playing at a high enough volume that you can feel the reverberations through the floor boards. As a Yoga instructor, a very simple and straightforward way to generate enthusiasm in your classes is to choose appropriate musical selections that match and enhance the postures and breathing exercises through which you are guiding your students.

If you choose musical selections that are “at odds” with the sequence and pacing of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques that you are teaching in any given class, you may dampen your students’ initial enthusiasm for the class. For instance, if you are teaching a restorative evening class, and you are playing very upbeat, techno tracks on your iPod or stereo system, you run the risk of undermining the very state of relaxation that you are trying to create in your students.

On the other hand, if you are teaching a vigorous, flow-based Yoga class during an active part of the day, such as early morning, noon or early afternoon, and you play very soft, soothing, quiet music, you also run the risk of dampening your Yoga students’ enthusiasm and energy for the class. In India, traditional musicians are very adept at choosing appropriate melodies for certain times of the day and evening. Each raga is said to stimulate and balance the flow of prana, or life force energy, through the physical and emotional structures of the body and mind.

In this way, by matching a particular melody or raga to the time of day or evening, classical Indian musicians are able to enhance the balance and flow of energy, both within the listeners and between the listeners and the external environment. Different ragas are also said to evoke different emotional states of being. For instance, some ragas elicit a beautiful, melancholic longing, while other ragas generate energy, enthusiasm and buoyancy. Quieter ragas often help listeners to fall into a relaxed meditative state, as the mind’s chatter is attenuated by the soothing music.

As a professional Yoga teacher, you can use this ancient knowledge of how to match the tone, pace and sequence of the Yoga class you are teaching with the specific melodies and musical selections that you play during class. During some classes, you may also find it to be helpful to begin playing soothing music at the start of your class, and then increase the pace and tempo of the music you are playing as the class begins to peak in intensity. As the class begins to wind down and your Yoga students are practicing inversions, forward bends and other finishing postures, you may find it helpful to play tracks that are calming and lead your students to a state of quietude and relaxation.

During the most active and vigorous portion of your Yoga class, you may find it to be a nice change of pace to play contemporary musical selections by artists such as Michael Franti, Krishna Das, or even Bruce Springsteen! Although Bruce Springsteen’s music does not readily come to mind as the type of music one would hear in a Yoga class, sometimes playing traditional rock and roll songs is a great way to generate enthusiasm and energy during a vigorous flow of Power Yoga asanas.

There are also a number of beautiful recordings of ancient meditation mantras that help to quell the mind and support a state of meditation. By playing a 5-10 minute recording of one of these mantras, such as Om, Om Namah Shivaya, Guru Om, or So Ham, you will help your students to glide easily into meditation. By matching the rhythm of your Yoga class with the musical selections that you are playing, you will support your students in flowing through a sequence of Yoga postures, pranayama exercises and meditation practices in a seamless, non-verbal fashion.

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 specializes in writing articles that are 100% unique. 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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Yin Yoga Benefits Cancer Patients: Inclusion

May 12th, 2015

yin yoga for cancer patientsBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

How can Yin Yoga help cancer patients? It is quite unfortunate that the cancer rates have jumped so dramatically over the last few decades. Many experts believe that this exponential increase is due to the high levels of toxic chemicals in our food, water and air, in addition to the depleted soil that much of our food is grown in. According to some of the experts, the cancer rates have risen from 1 in 20 people confronting a cancer diagnosis during the 1920s, to 1 in 2 men or 1 in 3 women experiencing cancer at some point in their lives today.

This daunting increase in the cancer rates means that many Yoga practitioners will be faced with a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. In turn, many “cancer warriors” will turn to the strengthening, balancing and relaxing benefits of Yoga to augment their healing cancer strategy. Additionally, many teachers will have students in their classes who are currently fighting cancer, or who are cancer survivors. You may even be a cancer survivor yourself and know firsthand the profound benefits of a regular Yoga practice, during cancer treatment and recovery.

If you are a Yoga teacher, and you have a number of students in your class who are battling cancer, you may want to start a class designed specifically for the needs of those students. Maintaining a regular fitness regime, both during and after cancer treatment, helps to support an individual in maintaining his or her physical and emotional health and well-being. However, many of the conventional cancer treatments often leave a cancer patient feeling weak, dizzy and self-conscious.

Not feeling energetic or at their peak physical shape, will often dissuade a cancer patient from attending Yoga classes. By designing a Yin Yoga class that is gentle and restorative in nature, you will enable your students who are contending with cancer to continue with a regular practice of Yoga, which will support their overall well-being. The simple act of being able to attend classes at a studio with other students during cancer treatment is a morale booster, because it maintains a sense of normalcy and hope in a cancer patient’s life.

The key is to offer classes that are challenging, but manageable, for those students who are fighting cancer. Yin Yoga is particularly good for cancer patients, because of its emphasis on longer holds and supported postures. This quieter, restorative form of Yoga allows deeply held tension in the connective tissues of the body to be released, as the nervous system and mind begin to quiet and come to a place of rest. Releasing physical tension and allowing the mind to rest is of quintessential importance during cancer treatment and recovery. Often, the emotional experience of having cancer and the physical trauma from the medical and surgical procedures employed to treat cancer, leave a cancer patient reeling.

If you are in treatment or recovering from cancer, by participating in a Yin Yoga class at your local studio, you will re-establish a sense of normalcy in your own daily life. Some Yoga studios even offer classes that are specifically designed for cancer patients. As you begin to recover from cancer, you may find that you are able to participate in more vigorous forms of asana practice over time. As you get stronger, a balanced practice of Hatha and Yin Yoga postures may be the perfect fit for you, during your cancer recovery process.

If you are a teacher, designing a Yin Yoga class for those students who need a slower paced, restorative practice will help to ally any fears that your students have about practicing Yoga during a time of illness. This is particularly true while your students are recovering from serious illnesses and major surgical procedures. By creating a soothing flow of restorative postures, you will be supporting the students who are in the process of recovering from cancer and other illnesses, both through the practice of the physical postures and the compassionate, welcoming sense of inclusion they will feel when they walk into your Yin Yoga class.

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 specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. 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 Meditation in a Yoga Class: Creating Time

May 9th, 2015

about teaching meditationBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

What should Yoga instructors  know about teaching meditation and creating time for it? The definition of Yoga as the stilling or cessation of the thought waves of the mind is far different than the popular, secular view of Yoga that is presented to us in a wide variety of marketing campaigns for products as diverse as vitamins, cashew milk and iPads. According to the ancient Indian scriptures, regularly practicing a sequence of physical postures and breathing exercises is intended to create a firm and comfortable “seat” for dropping into an internal state of expansive consciousness and bliss.

When a Yoga practitioner connects with this pure unbounded awareness, the mental chatter in the mind stops and one’s consciousness is able to perceive the essential divine reality that flows through all of creation. Dropping into a state of pure, unbounded awareness is also very rejuvenating and replenishing for both the body and mind. If you are a Yoga teacher, briefly introducing your students to the history and depth of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, will open the door for your students to further explore the systematic practice of asanas and breathing exercises that leads to a state of calm equipoise, both on and off the mat.

Although many of us would like to live in a state of expansive consciousness and bliss, simply calming down the incessant mental chatter that fills most of our minds, most of the time, will bring profound relief to many of us! This mental relief is not dependent on whether or not we can perform a handstand in the middle of the room or hold Crow Pose for a full minute. By introducing your Yoga students to the profound practice of meditation at the end of a class, you will enable them to experience a deep, restorative state of peace and expanded consciousness, before reentering their daily lives off the mat.

One of the main challenges to introducing and practicing meditation in a Yoga class is often the perceived lack of time. If you study Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, you will know that the ultimate goal of all of the physical postures and breathing exercises is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. A simple way to have enough time for meditation during a class is to create a sequence of asanas and pranayama exercises that is completed ten to fifteen minutes before the scheduled end of your class. Even a brief period of ten minutes of meditation will give your students a taste of the profound stillness that is available to them, when their minds settle and their bodies are comfortably at rest.

A very easy and seamless way to gently guide your Yoga students into a period of meditation at the end of class is to lead them out of Shavasana and immediately into a meditation posture in Easy Seat on their mats. The closing postures of a Yoga class are traditionally calming and restorative, so gliding gently into meditation after practicing some seated forward folds, inversions and Shavasana is quite natural. In addition, most of your students will have put on some extra layers of clothing before resting in Shavasana, which will help to keep them warm and comfortable as they sit in meditation.

Practicing a brief period of meditation at the end of a Yoga class will also minimize the amount of transitional time needed to prepare for meditation, because most of the preparation of putting on socks and having a folded blanket to sit on will already be in place. You may also wish to read a short, uplifting passage that helps the minds of your students to settle into an expansive, thought-free internal space, as you guide them into meditation. Your choice of what kind of passage, poem or haiku to read is one of the most creative aspects of teaching Yoga.

The ancient sages of India did not just practice Yoga for physical health and well-being, although these benefits are clearly very valuable. They practiced the ancient method of knowing the divine through the systematic practice of Raja Yoga, as outlined so succinctly by Patanjali, in order to preparing their bodies and minds for the sacred practice of meditation. By including a period of meditation into your class, you will be inviting your students to experience the essential goal of all Yoga practice: to drop into the expansive, internal space of unbounded freedom and joy.

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 specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. 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

See our testimonials to find out what our graduates have to say about our selection of online yoga instructor certification programs.

Please feel free to share our posts with your friends, colleagues, and favorite social media networks.

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