What is the link between discipline and teaching Yoga? As a professional Yoga teacher, you have a great deal of opportunity to truly influence your students in the way that they move both on and off the mat. Of course, while you are leading a class, your students will practice the asanas according to your guidance. However, what is often overlooked is the impact that you can have on your students, both verbally and nonverbally, through the way that you approach challenges in your classes. Just as a child takes cues from his or her parents about the appropriate steps needed to address problematic situations in their lives, your students will also take cues from you about how to approach obstacles and challenges both on and off the mat, as their practice unfolds and deepens.
For example, if one of your Yoga students is having difficulty holding Plow Pose for three full minutes, it may be most optimal for your student to back off the posture and practice an alternative inversion, such as Legs Up the Wall Pose. In this situation, by communicating to your student that respecting the current limitations of his or her body and elevating the guiding principle of self-respect and self-love over the accomplishment of forcing his or her body into a certain asana, will translate into everyday situations off the mat. By elevating the importance of self-care and compassion over an external goal, such as holding Plow Pose for three full minutes, your student will learn a beautiful lesson about truly applying the principal of loving kindness to him or herself.
In this way, you will be offering your Yoga students far more than a good workout; you will be guiding them through the ancient alchemical process of Yoga! There are many different lessons and insights that you can offer to your students during the course of a Yoga class, which go far beyond the external practice of the postures and pranayama exercises. For instance, you can teach your students to respect both their physical and emotional needs during a given class, and you can also teach your students diligence and disciple, within the context of the practice.
By diligently applying self-effort to their Yoga practice, most of your students will see a substantial improvement in their physical fitness level, including their level of strength, flexibility and coordination. Additionally, many of your students will experience more calmness and sustained energy throughout their day, as their nervous system comes into a more optimal balance. A balanced practice of Yoga postures, in conjunction with a pranayama technique such as Ujjayi Pranayama, helps to restore the balance of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, which creates both heat in the body and calmness in the mind.
In order to truly benefit from a regular Yoga practice, your students will need to apply consistent effort in a disciplined manner. Although the word “discipline” may have a negative connotation from the system of punishment that has been implemented by schools and at times, employers; it also can be quite elevating. According to a number of online dictionaries, the term “discipline” can also mean a regime, exercise program or activity that develops and improves a certain skill set. On a psychological level, the application of discipline can also be expected to generate optimal patterns of behavior, especially in terms of improving one’s moral character and mental outlook on life.
Clearly, a balanced practice of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and contemplative techniques lends itself quite easily to improving one’s physical capabilities and mental outlook on life. By weaving some of the timeless wisdom of Yoga into your classes, you will further support your students in applying the wisdom of the ancient scriptures to their practice and to their lives off the mat. Furthermore, if you teach your Yoga classes in a disciplined manner, with a higher goal in mind, your students will pick up on how you approach your own professional role as their teacher, and they will quite naturally apply the same dedication to their own practice.
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 works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: [email protected].
© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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