ON TEACHING YOGA
500 RYT book report © 2014
Text by: Alexey Baykov
500 RYT book report © 2014
Text by: Alexey Baykov
1. Agni Raj Breathing
From my own experience of different styles of yoga, if one may call them «yoga», most of them don't teach students Bandhas and Moola Bandha especially, and also some of them don't pay attention on breathing, so that yoga practice becomes a simple fitness with the emphasis on body postures and how a student should put his body parts in geometrically correct order. This makes people believe that yoga is about making beautiful body forms to show off for effect and impression.
What makes Agni Raj breathing so essential to personal yoga practice and also teaching of yoga is that it includes mindful breathing and Moola-Bandha practice at the same time. As for most contemporary people don’t use lower abdomen and pelvic muscles in their everyday life – this breathing technique challenges them to move these muscles and be concentrated on breath – so this practice draws students minds inward – away from the outer distractions like class-neighbors, from the urge to look good, repeat others mistakes or examine the teacher.
Agni Raj breathing warms up the whole body with simple movements, which is easily understandable by yoga-newbies but also hard to implement on the first run which makes students be conscious of their breath.
Drawing students’ attention into Agni Raj technique makes them be mindful of their breath. Students begin to understand how stability of breath influences the stability of postures, that the slower the breath, slower the mind, lesser thoughts in the brains, and more consciousness in the current moment appears, which makes easier to control the body in the pose and not to fall down from it – students become conscious of their overall body shape, they learn how to quickly adjust themselves, being aware of proprioception.
Also Agni Raj breathing trains the weak pelvic muscles, bringing students’ consciousness into this intimate zone, which holds a lot of karmic unconscious stuff, drawing them slightly into more advanced yoga practice by teaching Moola-Bandha technique.
So Agni Raj breathing creates right attitude toward yoga asanas creating proper breath: from the bottom to the top as if a vessel is filling up with water, making student be aware of the connection between breath and mind and therefore movement, so that the state of consciousness slows down the frequency of breathing, which slows down the mind, and as a result the whole body becomes more mindful and in control.
2. Comfortable Seat
At Teacher’s classes a huge amount of time (though in the beginning it looked as a waste of time) was devoted to finding a comfortable seat of each student.
It’s interesting that a lot of students didn’t know about the importance of a seated position, especially those who really decided to teach yoga, including me.
This was a real breakthrough. And also it’s amazing how many how-to’s exist to apply different props, including cushions, pads, bolsters, blankets and bricks, numerous ways of folding blankets and a lot of ways of mixing these props to make a student comfortable, and these props can fully take into consideration the peculiarities of western body types, which are not used to sitting cross-legged on the floor.
For now I see that students at a yoga class should be taught the ways to seat, they should be explained the importance of sitting, as in the primary school pupils are explained the basis of sitting at the table so that the spine is kept in mind all the time.
At the yoga class students should be challenged to find the way to sit upright with straight spine, and the yoga teacher should be very attentive to physiology of students, be conscious on his own and teach the students to be conscious of what their body need for being comfortable, taking into account the body’s condition of the present momen, and not what student is expecting from it to perform.
So that teaching a comfortable seated position is almost to teach the whole yoga concept: to recognize the present state of affairs, take it into account with humility (say “ahimsa”), to be aware of the body condition when taking the position and be conscious in the process of the seat, so that the physical aspects of the body won’t interfere and students will be able to prepare to meditate, so that further yoga classes will create the best basis possible for real yoga experience.
3. Vinyasa Krama
One of the main and challenging topics of teaching yoga is the concept of Vinyasa Krama. It was always a big question for me what asanas should be practices and in what order in my own practice and what is more important in a yoga class, where a yoga teacher must feel the audience and understand the needs of the students. What really became revealing for me in that concept is the mentioning about Vinyasa Krama in the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali, where it tells us that “we never fully understand a process until it is over”, and it’s the same as in system analysis (one of the field in my job) which says that a system can’t describe itself until it goes beyond its limitations.
And now it became obvious for me applying to yoga, however before seeing this highlighted in the manual, I was trying hard to find a ready-made system of practicing and teaching yoga. For now I understand that this is a very creative and intuitive process, which should be guided by such core elements of tantric science as:
1) Smarana (Self-remembrance), or as I understand its application to practice – it is the vector of all the sequence, and the “instrument” or “vehicle” that delivers practitioners to Smarana is Sthira (stillness) and Sukha (inner peace). So the teacher should use the sequence as an instrument to engage students into stillness and spaciousness leading them into experience of Smarama.
2) Tapas (Practice) and energy aspects of asanas and the sequence are to consider in the yoga class so that transformation of the initial state (density and darkness) into the state of Smarana is achieved through friction of Tapas which ultimately becomes Tejas, which is the flame of digestion new energy and information. So the teacher of the yoga class wisely uses all the tools available to focus Tejas to eliminate the obstacles on the way to Smarana.
That is very important about Tapas that it’s not the same for everyone, and the yoga practice can’t suit all.
The tools of a yoga teacher:
a) Creating a detailed map of a yoga class determining what to do, in what order, and over what period of time;
b) using the knowledge of six categories of asanas, including preparation and counter poses – pratipika;
c) taking into account not only physical aspects of the body structures and mechanics;
d) body’s conditions (physical: muscular, organic, cardio, including any ailments), mental (stress, psychological stability and patterns, mental clarity, ability to adapt to change), and also required therapeutic and strength of the class;
e) but also understand the subtle energies that influence the conditions of the mind and body;
f) the more we can employ techniques rather than asanas in the yoga class, the more change can be made in less time.
That’s why a yoga teacher should be aware of that small shifts in the subtle body can lead to big changes of the whole body-mind-spirit system of a human-being.
...at the same time:
g) a yoga class should be sequenced for pleasure of students, so that transformational capacities of the class will be experienced with joy.
ॐ Sri Sat Guru Paratman Namah