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

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Teaching a Detoxifying Yoga Class: Twists

May 2nd, 2015

500 hour yoga instructor training courseBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

As the warming rays of the sun gently saturate the earth, many of the early spring flowers of the Northeastern United States are beginning to unfurl and grace us with their beauty. With the coming of the springtime, many of us feel the natural urge to do some deep spring-cleaning, both of our external living spaces and our own bodies. Within the context of the rhythms of the year, the springtime naturally lends itself to detoxification and cleansing regimes, including detoxifying Yoga classes.

In Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India, detoxifying periodically throughout the course of the year is a very important aspect of maintaining one’s overall health and well-being. These detoxifying practices can take the form of juice fasts, cleansing diets, hydrotherapy, heat therapy, and warming oil massages, in addition to other purifying techniques. When you are teaching a Yoga class, incorporating detoxifying asanas will support your students in the release of ama, or the heavy toxicity according to Ayurveda, which can build up in our systems over time.

Ama can build in the body and mind from undigested food, toxic chemicals and unresolved emotional experiences. Detoxifying Yoga postures also help to encourage the physical removal of waste products through the lymphatic system, which is one of the primary ways that the body has of cleansing itself. Of course, a balanced, regular practice of Yoga postures and cleansing pranayama exercises helps to detoxify both the body and the mind. By including specific twisting asanas into the sequence of postures that you are teaching in your Yoga class, you will further increase the beneficial detoxifying benefits of the practice.

Some of the most beneficial twisting poses that are accessible to most Yoga students are Twisted Triangle Pose, Seated Spinal Twist and Twisted Standing Leg Extension. If a student is particularly tight in the outer hips, outer legs or hamstrings, all of these Yoga postures can be performed with the assistance of props, which will make the poses easier for your students to practice safely and effectively. Depending on the posture that you are teaching, the props needed are a Yoga block, belt and/or a chair. Twisted Standing Leg Extension may also be practiced with a chair and against a wall for further support.

* Twisted Standing Leg Extension

Twisted Standing Leg Extension is a powerfully effective Yoga posture for elongating the outer leg, hip and hamstring muscles. This posture also expands the neck, throat, upper shoulder, and chest areas. In addition, Twisted Standing Leg Extension helps to improve balance, coordination and strengthens the legs. This posture is usually practiced after series of warming Sun Salutations and some of the classical standing Yoga poses, such as Triangle Pose and Side Angle Pose.

When you are ready to lead your students through the practice of Twisted Standing Leg Extension, ask your students to come to the top of their Yoga mats and ground for a moment in Tadasana. With their next inhale, instruct your students to shift the weight of their body onto their left foot, as they grasp the outside of their right foot with their left hand. With their next exhale, ask your Yoga students to fully extend their right leg, by pressing gently against their left hand.

As your students extend their right leg, instruct them to extend their right arm away from their body, in line with their shoulders with their palm facing the front of the Yoga studio. This action will expand the heart area and release tension throughout their upper torso, including the neck and the shoulders. Ask your students to hold Twisted Standing Leg Extension for five complete breaths, and then release the posture and come back to Mountain Pose at the top of their Yoga mats. When your students are ready, repeat Twisted Standing Leg Extension on the left hand side.

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 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Teaching a Detoxifying Yoga Class: Hip Openers

April 25th, 2015

how to become a vinyasa yoga instructorBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed. 

Spring is a quintessential time to detoxify. This means detoxifying the extra items in your car, your closet and, of course, your body! Engaging in a systematic process of detoxification on a seasonal basis will help you to release toxic chemicals, emotions, and experiences from your body and mind. You may even find that you are confronted with a toxic work environment or a relationship that no longer serves your highest good. If this is the case, you may also wish to find a compassionate way to move on from those situations and/or relationships.

Practicing Yoga postures and pranayama exercises several times a week will help to detoxifying both your body and your mind. This is particularly true of flowing, vigorous Yoga classes that are practiced in a heated room. Of course, it is important to balance the pace and type of Yoga class in which you participate, with your own physical and emotional needs on a daily basis. For instance, although you may be an intermediate to advanced Yoga practitioner, you may need to engage in a series of restorative postures after a particularly busy or challenging week.

Honestly and accurately gauging your own personal needs and the needs of your students in terms of a Yoga practice is one of the most fundamental aspects of creating a cleansing, safe and rejuvenating practice for both you and your Yoga students. There are many ways to increase the intensity of the detoxification benefits of a Yoga class. By leading your students through a challenging sequence of flowing standing asanas, arm balances, backbends, and inversions, you will support your students in their natural inclination to detoxify during the spring season.

Hip openers are some of the most effective poses for releasing painful emotional experiences, which are often held in the hips. Although many hip opening Yoga postures appear to be less strenuous than standing or arm balancing postures, these poses can be just as detoxifying and can help to release painful emotional experiences that cause deep-seated muscular tension, which impedes the free flow of life force energy. There are many different hip openers that are accessible to a variety of students, including Pigeon Pose, Fire Log Pose and Thread the Needle Pose.

* Thread the Needle Pose or Sucirandrasana

Thread the Needle Pose is a very effective hip opening posture that is usually practiced towards the end of a class as one of the finishing poses. Thread the Needle Pose gently stretches the hip, groin, shoulder, and neck muscles. It can also help to relieve sciatica and strengthens the quadriceps and abdominal muscles. To guide your students through the practice of Sucirandrasana, or Thread the Needle Pose, have them lie on their mats in a prone position.

To begin, ask your students to bend their knees and place their feet flat on the mat, and then place their right ankle just above their left knee with their right foot slightly flexed. Remind your students to keep their hips in a straight line and their lower back gently curved on the mat. Next, instruct your students to thread their right arm through the space between their legs and clasp their hands just below their left knee joint. With an exhale, ask your students to melt back into the Yoga mat.

This backward release down onto the mat will extend the muscles of the shoulders, neck, arms, groin, and hip, which will help to release muscular tension in these areas. Ask your students to hold Thread the Needle Pose for five complete breaths, and then release the posture and come back to a neutral position on their mat with their knees bent and their feet flat on the floor. When your students are ready, have them repeat Thread the Needle Pose on the other side. If any of your students experience pain in this posture, you may wish to suggest that they practice Supported Fire Log Pose with their arms extended, as an alternative to Sucirandrasana.

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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“Take a Second Time Around” in Yoga Instruction and Practice

April 17th, 2015

about yoga instruction for teachersBy Kathryn Boland

In a prior article I described how my father took me to a great little shop/art gallery down a windy and dusty road, and how that led me to reflect on the advantages of going “off the beaten bath” – exploring the unconventional for new knowledge, skill development, and enjoyable experiences. My father said something else while we were in that “arty” little store that led me to reflect on another general theme. He said something to the effect of (I paraphrase) “There’s so much to see, it’s almost overwhelming – but if you take a second time around the whole store, you’ll see totally new and cool stuff.”

Yoga instruction can similarly feel overwhelming, with so much sensory input from multiple sources – some internal (within our bodies), and others external (within our environments). This can be true for beginners, new to such a myriad of sensations, as well as advanced practitioners challenging themselves with complex postures and pranayama exercises. The sixth of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs, dharana, refers to cultivating focus and perceptual awareness. We can put that concept into action, in both yoga practice and life, by focusing on one consideration at a time. We can then explore other aspects, and ultimately put it all together to build informative experience. Following that general process can help us to beneficially make sense of all of that complex information.

Stepping outside of yoga specifically can help to put this in helpful context; empirical, accepted science tells us that the human organism can only take in so much information – be it visual, kinesthetic, et cetera – at once. This is simply evolutionary, as human beings wouldn’t have survived to become who we are today if we were too distracted by every sight and sound to follow a lead on a viable food source, or take note of threatening skies to move elsewhere before an ensuing storm. Not to mention, life would indeed be overwhelming and over-stimulating if we naturally took note of every sound, smell, and image in our environments.

Each yoga practice situation is its own unique environment, with sensory information to offer for practitioners’ enhanced holistic health (in body, mind, and spirit). Yet, there is only so much of that which any given individual can beneficially perceive at one time. As yoga practitioners, one approach to meeting this complex dynamic is to key into the maximum amount of beneficial information we can at one point – discovering what that limit is and gently pushing it until it expands. At other points, we can constructively rest from such hyper-awareness by letting what sensation might come simply come to us (Savasana being a great point in standard practice in which to do that, for instance). This is balancing of sensory information by actively engaging with it sometimes, at other times letting sensation come, as it will. In so doing we can balance yin and yang energieswork and rest. As instructors, we can guide our students to practice that balance with all of our standard tools – imagery, carefully crafted verbal instruction, physical cueing, prop use, et cetera. We can also simply, and perhaps more subtly, lead by good example.

Another way to make the most of the sensory information we might receive in practice, given the difference between all there is to perceive and what we can usefully absorb at one point, is to pick a specific focus and be present with it at that moment. The next time, we can pick another focus. Ideally, that process will be additive – something learned and integrated the first time and the next thing added on to it on subsequent occasions. For instance, while executing Triangle Posture (Trikonasana), one could focus on maximally opening the chest (through purposeful torso placement in relation to the hips, and in the shoulders to the ribs) in order to have fuller breath in the posture.

Later on in that practice, or on the next day (and so on, some other time in the future), one could take Trikonasana again – yet this time focus on relaxing and flattening the feet, and connecting through them to the legs to establish a firmer (yet balanced and eased) base in the posture. The practitioner might not be aware of it, but – as an instructor and practitioner – I predict that he or she would have a slightly more open chest when approaching the posture with a different specific focus the second time. After that trial, I foresee that – just from that time of pointed and mindful focus – he or she would also have a firmer, yet more eased base of support in the posture, in addition to a more open chest (and deeper breath as a result). Some individuals do need multiple reinforcements of certain positive changes, them not occurring that quickly and easily. The above method is a good start to establishing those changes as permanent, however.

To me, such a process is along the lines of what my father advised me to do in that little shop/gallery; with more to experience than one can take in at one time, and more than would even be useful to, pick one focus for now and then “take a second time around”. True, we can also strive to take in and balance the most possible sensory information in our yoga practices (before becoming unproductively overwhelmed) at one time. We can alternate that with other times of letting ourselves feel, as we will, as a good overall balance of work and rest. Another option between those extremes is to fully attend, but only to so much at one point – with the awareness and acceptance that there is a next time to specifically explore something else. I believe we, as practitioners and instructors, are blessed with the fact that yoga is a journey that we can travel on all our lives. There is thankfully always another time to discover something new and amazing.

© Copyright 2015 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Addressing Fear in a Yoga Class: Modifications

April 16th, 2015

yoga instructor training onlineBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

One definition of fear is to be anxious about an unpleasant or painful event that you feel is likely to happen in the future. For instance, if you are pursuing your Yoga teacher certification, you may be afraid that you are going to fail your final anatomy exam because you have not spent an ample amount of time studying. This fear may be completely reasonable and understandable, or this fear may be largely exaggerated if you have spent an adequate amount of time preparing for the anatomy final, but you are prone to anxiety.

In the same way, any number of your Yoga students may be afraid of what may befall them during class if they are struggling with any number of physical or emotional challenges. These challenges may be as simple and straightforward as tight hamstrings, due to running on pavement or playing tennis without stretching. On the other hand, some students’ physical and emotional challenges may be as serious as a traumatic brain injury, invasive cancer diagnosis or clinical depression.

Some students may even feel fear when they step onto the mat because they are afraid they will not be able to meet their own high expectations of themselves or the perceived high expectations of their teacher or the class at large. For instance, in some Yoga teacher training classes, there is a strong emphasis put on being able to drop back into Upward Facing Bow from a standing position. However, dropping back into this challenging backbend may not be appropriate for all teacher trainees, during every class.

If you are a committed Yoga practitioner, you know that your physical and emotional state of being fluctuates daily, and sometimes even over the course of the day. For example, in the morning your may be more stiff and your body might take more time to warm-up before you begin to practice challenging standing postures and arm balances. Similarly, the physical nuances and emotional needs of your students will fluctuate daily, if not hourly. Keying into the needs of your students is one of the hallmarks of a truly great Yoga teacher.

However, being attuned to your Yoga students’ individual needs and keeping your class moving at a decent pace, is another undertaking all together. This is where the conscious integration of modifications helps to create a cohesive class, which is safe, challenging and accessible to the vast majority of your students. Weaving modification instructions into the flow of your Yoga class will allow each individual student to tailor your class to his or her particular needs, on any given day.

There are many ways to modify the classical Yoga postures that are practiced in most classes. For example, using a block to support a student in his or her practice of Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose, will help that student to practice the posture in correct alignment, while keeping up with the pace and the intention of the class. Similarly, instructing your students who have tight hips to place a folded blanket under each knee while they practice Reclining Goddess Pose will help them to relax more fully in this restorative posture without putting undue strain on their knees.

One key to weaving modified Yoga postures into your class is to be very familiar with the postures and with a variety of modifications for the poses that you are teaching. Another key to seamlessly leading a group of students through a safe and effective multi-level class that offers them a variety of modifications is to have plenty of props available. There is nothing quite as disruptive to a class then when a number of students start rummaging around the back of the studio for blocks, bolsters or belts during a flowing sequence of postures!

In order to avoid this disruption to your Yoga class, it is advisable to announce at the beginning of class which props are recommended. It is also a good idea to let your students know how many of each prop they should place near their mat. For instance, if you know that a handful of your students have difficulty maintaining the correct alignment of their spine in Triangle Pose, placing a block next to their mat will facilitate the easy use of a prop during their practice of this fundamental Yoga posture.

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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My Light in the Technological “Dark Ages”

April 15th, 2015

yoga lifestyle todayBy Kathryn Boland

There is one aspect of my life that makes me quite unusual amongst other “Gen-Xers” (members of my young-adult, 20-something generation); the most technologically advanced thing I own and commonly use is a “flip” phone. While others my age sitting next to me on public transportation feverishly text or check e-mail (or bounce back and forth between those tasks), I read or write – or stare off into space while lost in my thoughts.

Granted, it can be quite difficult to balance the demands of graduate school (at Lesley University), other professional tasks, and personal matters with the limited access to computers I can manage to obtain – an hour here, ten minutes there at a computer on the Lesley campus (and only on certain days of the week, given my hour-long commute there from my home). My distance from the latest technologies has had immeasurable benefits for my life, however, both personally and professionally. Those advantages are a large part of the reasoning for pratyahara, or sense withdrawal, one of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs. As I disconnected from an over-stimulating amount of sensory information from screens, the reduced amount that my senses then took in began to mean more for my overall subjective well-being. As the saying goes, less can be more.

I lost most of my devices (several laptops and “smart” phones, and an iPod shuffle a while back) due to technological failures. The breakdowns seemed catastrophic at the time. Those adversities were new opportunities, however, to fill the void of those broken devices with more presence, more authentic engagement in my here-and-now. I reflected a bit on this process for myself after reading one particularly poignant section in Marion Woodman’s The Pregnant Virgin Woodman.

Given my process of disconnecting from technology’s grip on my life, I heard my heart’s truths in the author’s statement that “[a] machine, however intricate, has no soul, nor does it move with the rhythms of instinct” (15).  I can now more clearly understand that “[a] computer may be able to vomit out the facts of my existence, but it cannot….compute the depth and breadth of the human soul” (15). Some things are concrete – the number of unread messages in my e-mail inbox, the price of a book I would like to purchase – but those things are not all of life. While our technologies have granted society many incredible advancements, we are still the same humans with the same biological drives and needs – for relational connections, for the pleasures of our many senses, for engagements with our surrounding environments.

When those concrete things come to dominate experience, as began to happen to me with the pressures of higher education increasingly filling my life, life can lose the luster that makes it most worth living. I feel fortunate to have undergone this process of having to learn the hard way, so to speak, the value of remaining connected to life’s truest elements rather than constant absorption with screens and keypads. Now, rather than perfectly clean out my email I read a book that interests and educates me, or journal to beneficially process professional or personal matters. Or, I take a minute for an unexpected chat with a friendly fellow commuter or to simply close my eyes and check in with body sensations such as level of muscle tension and breath. All of that results in less anxiety and clearer thinking than I used to experience.

I see others in the grips of the technological addictions that were beginning to take hold of my life – not only 20 and 30 somethings (per the cultural cliché), yet also those younger and older. A part of me – perhaps that part that is now mindfully observing my process of technological disconnection – wants to help (at least some of) them see how they are becoming “cut off….from their own instincts” (15), as Woodman describes can happen. While giving them the full autonomy of choice over how they spend their time, I want to help them return to presence through the body and greater use of its connection to the mind.

I believe that yoga has much to offer in this regard, such as in leading individuals to more fully experience their bodies in space – beyond crouching over their phones and iPads, texting or surfing the internet.  In any case, in whatever work I may come to engage in as a yoga instructor, becoming more present through my process of technological disconnecting will most likely help me to be more engaged with and helpful for whomever I come to serve. And along the way, I am happy to share my story of moving from attention to screens to that of my larger world – if it might be contextually appropriate and helpful for a fellow yoga practitioner or student. I believe that all yoga instructors can similarly set a positive example in this area, through our practices in mindfulness and pratyahara – being as we are among those living yoga as a lifestyle.

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Addressing Fear in a Yoga Class: Pranayama

April 13th, 2015

teaching pranayama techniquesBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed. 

In an ideal world, the idea of practicing Yoga solicits feelings of calm equipoise, energy and vibrant health. However, for many people the idea of practicing Yoga in the context of a structured class can bring up feelings of apprehension and fear. There may be any number of reasons for this apprehension. Some of these reasons include being physically or emotionally fragile. This sense of being physically fragile can come from being injured or in the process of healing from a surgical procedure.

For instance, imagine that you have recently undergone a total hip replacement surgery and this is your first time “back on the mat” in a group context. You would most likely feel very cautious about your body’s ability to safely practice most of the Yoga postures, which are routinely performed in multi-level classes. You may also have concerns about how you should modify the postures, in order to protect a vulnerable hip joint. In addition, if you are used to being quite physically agile, asking your teacher for help and slowing down during the practice may cause further anxiety, impatience, and even anger.

In the same way, if a Yoga student is feeling very emotionally fragile while he or she is traversing a difficult life event, such as a divorce or death of a loved one, engaging in vigorous Yoga postures and/or pranayama exercises may feel overwhelming. If you are a Yoga teacher, you are aware of how many of the postures and breathing exercises of Yoga can release deeply held muscular and emotional tension. When painful and difficult emotional experiences are brought to the surface through the practice of the asanas and purifying pranayama techniques, a student may be unsure how to cope with the ensuing tears or waves of anxiety.

These are only a few of the examples of fragile physical or emotional states that can make just stepping onto the mat an act of great courage for a student! As a Yoga teacher, addressing feelings of fear in your class in an accepting and straightforward manner will help your students to relax, when they realize that their anxious feelings are understood and acknowledged. There is any number of ways to address and ameliorate anxiety and fear during a Yoga class. The very first step is to set a tone of acceptance, by addressing your students at the beginning of class and letting them know that it is fine to drop into Child’s Pose if they need to rest during class.

It is also important to let your students know that you are available to assist them or offer them appropriate suggestions for modifications of classical Yoga postures; if they feel that they need to move at an individual pace. The practice of Yoga can be tailored to each individual student with the strategic use of props and modified postures. By embodying a compassionate and accepting attitude, your students will be more likely to quietly come to you and let you know if they are currently struggling with physical or emotional health issues, which need some special accommodations during the practice.

* Relaxation Breath

It is not uncommon for Yoga students to experience waves of anxiety during the practice of Shavasana or meditation. We are all so used to running in many different directions that when we slow down, anxious feelings may rise to the surface quite quickly. A very simple and effective way for calming down an overactive nervous system and quelling anxiety is to lead your students through the practice of Relaxation Breath. Essentially, this breath is comprised of elongating the exhalation in at least a 2-1 ratio to the inhalation.

The practice of Relaxation Breath can be seamlessly woven into the final portion of your Yoga class during Shavasana. It is also quite nice to practice this pranayama exercise during the beginning of a seated meditation session. If one of your students is experiencing a great deal of anxiety or emotional upset during class, you may want to suggest that he or she sit quietly in Easy Seat and practice Relaxation Breath for a period of 5 minutes or so. This simple pranayama exercise, in addition to being acknowledged and taken care, may be all a student needs to release unwanted feelings of anxiety and fear.

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 distance learning yoga instructor certification courses.

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

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Addressing Fear in a Yoga Class: Awareness

April 11th, 2015

addressing fear in a yoga classBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

If you practice Yoga regularly, when you think of doing Yoga you probably envision practicing in a subtly lite studio, which is adorned with some well-placed statues and graced with bouquets of fresh flowers. This image may resonate with accuracy and provoke a sense of relaxed equipoise. On the other hand, if you are new to the practice of Yoga, or if you are an experienced practitioner but you are contending with some physical challenges or emotional issues, walking into the same subtly lite studio may provoke feelings of intimidation, anxiety, dread, and even fear in some cases.

As a Yoga instructor, one of the primary goals of teaching a challenging, invigorating and simultaneously relaxing Yoga class is to create a safe space for the practice to unfold naturally for all of your students. Some of your students may already have a strong practice established and be very comfortable performing a whole range of asanas and pranayama exercises in the context of a structured class. Other students may be brand new to the practice, or they may be apprehensive of practicing in a group context for any number of reasons.

Some of the reasons that a student may feel apprehension, anxiety or fear at the thought of practicing Yoga postures in a group context may entail issues around body image, dexterity, physical injuries or a fragile emotional state. If you are a regular Yoga practitioner or teacher, you are aware of the deeply transformative effect of a regular practice of asanas and pranayama exercises. A great deal of the transformative effect of Yoga is that it exposes our underlying physical and emotional weaknesses and, in doing so, gives us the opportunity to address our weaknesses and transform them into areas of strength.

However, if you are teaching a student who is new to the practice of Yoga, the student may feel quite intimidated about trying to flow through a series of Sun Salutations and standing postures. This feeling of intimidation may be especially poignant if he or she is unfamiliar with the postures. Additionally, if a new student is overweight and has a limited amount of strength and flexibility, even attempting to perform beginning Yoga postures can feel demoralizing and provoke anxiety.

The first step to addressing fear in a Yoga class is to become aware of and tuned into any of your students who may need additional support to be comfortable in class. Through the process of meeting and talking with each one of your students, you will be able initially pinpoint the students who are prone to injury and/or who may need to practice modified and supported postures, until they are ready to engage in more traditional series of postures. Maintaining a sense of humor and warmth is also important when your are teaching Yoga. This levity and embracing compassion will help to put your “special consideration” students at ease.

Do be aware that it may not only be your new Yoga students who need some extra care and attention. At times, even experienced students may need some extra guidance and a watchful eye during class if they are recovering from an injury or a surgical procedure. In fact, it may be particularly hard for an experienced student to ask you for specialized modifications or props, in order to practice familiar Yoga postures safely, while they are recovering from an injury or surgery. As we all flow through the ups and downs of our lives, many of us often feel emotionally and physically fragile and vulnerable during the more challenging times in our lives.

The same is true of your Yoga students, of course! An excellent way to foster communication with your students is to have each new student fill out a health questionnaire prior to taking Yoga classes with you and to update it on a periodic basis. This will facilitate a more intimate level of knowledge of each student’s physical and mental health concerns and challenges By tuning into the ebb and flow of your students’ lives, as much as possible, you will be able to offer appropriate guidance and modifications, when needed, in order to truly facilitate your students’ growth, healing and over all well-being.

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 distance learning yoga instructor certification courses.

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

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Balancing Teaching Methods with Wisdom: Teaching Teenagers

April 5th, 2015

about teaching yoga to teensBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Teaching Yoga can be uplifting, inspiring and challenging. In many ways, this is never truer than when you are teaching a group of teenagers how to focus, concentrate and complete a series of challenging Yoga postures! Teenagers, by their very nature, often vacillate between period of intense focus and periods of lethargy, apathy and oppositional behavior. This is particularly true when a teenager is struggling with any number of difficult issues, which frequently produce defiant and uncooperative behavior patterns.

Some of these issues may include depression, ADHD, eating issues, self-esteem issues, and difficult family dynamics. As you get to know your teenage students, you may even find that some of the teenagers in your Yoga class are being bullied at school, experiencing homelessness, drug addiction or even violent behavior, to name only a few of the many potential difficult situations teenagers face. Although we may fondly remember our own teenage years as mostly idyllic, many of us faced many serious issues such as these, which have lost their intensity over time.

However, the issues facing today’s teenagers are just as serious as the one’s you may have faced in the past, and may even feel more overwhelming to them, because of the increased academic demands on their time and energy, and the ever-increasing pace of our highly technological society that demands that teenagers today be constantly socially connected. This increase in the demand to always be socially available increases the stress level of many of today’s teenagers, which makes it even more difficult for them to stay on track and focus well on one task at a time.

There are many benefits to engaging in a well-rounded and comprehensive practice of Yoga poses, breathing exercises and contemplative techniques, such as writing in a journal. This is especially true when you are teaching Yoga to teenagers. Not only will they benefit physically from a regular practice of Yoga postures, they will also benefit emotionally from practicing soothing breathing techniques and contemplative exercises. For instance, there are a number of non-profit organizations that offer Yoga classes to teenage inmates. In some of these programs, teaching mindful awareness and relaxing breathing techniques has helped a number of the teenagers literally turn their lives around.

Additionally, if you incorporate some time during a Yoga class for them to journal and express their feelings, you will be supporting them in developing understanding and empathy for themselves and for each other. This sense of understanding, compassion and empathy can cut the impetus to bully at its roots. The process of writing out their thoughts or feelings in a journal can be as simple as taking ten minutes or so at the beginning or end of your Yoga class to do some writing, while leaving time at the end of the writing session for students to share their process with the other students in the class.

Do keep in mind that it is important to modify your teaching methods with your own wisdom as a Yoga teacher, so that you can adeptly and fluidly alter the sequence of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and contemplative techniques that you have chosen to teach to your students, on a moment-to-moment basis. For example, if your teenage students come into class frazzled and exhausted from a week of mid-term exams, you may want to begin the Yoga class with some more vigorous standing postures and sequences, and then guide your students through a slower, rejuvenating sequence of seated forward folds, which are very calming and grounding.

By teaching a Yoga class to your teenage students that is a balance between the more active sequences, such as the Sun Salutations, followed by a series of restorative seated forward folds, you will help them to discharge anxious energy and bring their nervous systems back to a state of balance. In addition, by responding to your students’ level of energy and to the group dynamics that are unfolding during class, you will also be offering them the opportunity to integrate their experience on the mat with their experience in the world and with each other. In this way, they will learn how to put the uplifting and sublime teachings of Yoga into practice in their own lives.

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 reasonably-priced hatha yoga instructor certification programs.

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

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