develop courage through physical masteryBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

Throughout the ages, there have been innumerable stories of individuals who faced their fears and surmounted unbelievable odds, in order to achieve their ultimate goals. These goals are far ranging. Some examples of courageous individuals who achieved their goals with courage and persistence are the first blind man to climb Mt. Everest and a veteran who is a certified Bikram Yoga instructor, even though he is a double amputee. In fact, Iyengar, who is credited with being one of the very first teachers to bring the practice to the west, healed himself of a disabling physical condition, through the rigorous and dedicated practice of Yoga postures.

So practicing Yoga postures that foster courage has a long and illustrious background! The noble quality of courage is highly regarded in Indian culture and in many of the myths and stories that have been told in a variety of cultures throughout the ages. Another example of the high regard for the development of courage is the Native American practice of sending a young adolescent on a vision quest. During this traditional four day time period, the young person fasts and spends four entire days and nights alone in a specified sacred circle of only fifteen feet or so, usually on a mountaintop.

Development of Courage

The Vision Quest tradition allows enough time and solitude for the young person on a quest to become aware of his or her fears, strengths and weaknesses. In the same way, by spending a dedicated amount of time on a Yoga mat several times a week, a practitioner has the opportunity to become intimately aware of his or her strengths, weaknesses and individual ways of perceiving experiences as they arise. As different sensations, emotions and ways of perceiving the world become apparent; a Yogin has the opportunity to learn how to approach various situations by tapping into a range of noble qualities, such as gratitude and courage.

As a certified Yoga teacher, you have the opportunity to structure your classes in such a way that the series of asanas, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques that you offer to your students, generates different emotional states. Many vinyasas are particularly suited to leading your students into a courageous and optimistic state of being. Simply completing a Yoga class may be enough for many of your students to feel expansive, courageous and confident in their increasing abilities on the mat.

For other Yoga students, offering challenging asanas during the course of your class that are “on their edge” will help to further facilitate an awareness of their preconceived limitations and how to overcome those limitations. At times, the most optimal and safest way for these students to overcome their physical limitations on the mat may be to back off and practice a more moderate version of a challenging Yoga posture. At other times, pushing past their fears and attempting to do a challenging asana in a safe and monitored fashion, will facilitate both courage and confidence in their expanding abilities on the Yoga mat.

Handstand is one of the most challenging arm balancing postures, which often elicits fear in the hearts of many beginning and intermediate Yoga students. This challenging arm balance can be practiced initially on the wall, so that a student develops the requisite upper body strength, balance and coordination to practice the posture in the middle of the room, without the support of the wall. When you are teaching Handstand to your students, you may find that a number of students can practice the posture safely and successfully with some support from you.

Other Yoga students may benefit from the preliminary practice of Dolphin Pose, until they develop the necessary strength and flexibility to hold Handstand without duress. Over time, many of your students will develop the necessary confidence and physical strength to comfortably practice Handstand, either on or off the wall. As their physical abilities increase on the mat, the cultivation of a courageous “can do” attitude during their Yoga practice will positively impact the way that they relate to the obstacles and challenges that are presented to them, during the course of their daily lives.

© Copyright 2016 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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