Tag Archives: Teacher Training

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 14)

Teacher Training (TT) programs often avoid the spiritual aspect of yoga. Just a brief review of some of these schools and seminar offerings will reveal that in many modern yoga teacher training programs, only a small percentage of the curriculum deals with the spiritual aspects of Yoga, and these spiritual aspects are to be the true focus of yoga. Here again we see this modern focus leaning heavily toward the physical aspects of yoga and so limited compared to the authentic yoga of the ancients.

In many of these TT programs one can become a "certified" yoga teacher without having spent a single minute engaging the face-to-face instruction of a teacher studying the traditional yoga texts.

Do you really want to become certified with no face-to-face teaching of authentic yoga? The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras are two of the most authoritative texts in Yoga. Sadly, as a common example of the current state of modern yoga teacher training, the most well known agency in America (that claims certifying authority for yoga schools) has structured its standards with such a focus on the physical that it is possible for a student to become a certified yoga teacher without having spent a single minute in the face-to-face instruction of a teacher who is well versed in these texts or any of the other traditional Yoga texts.

About yoga in the US: Georg Feurstein, a well recognized scholar and teacher says: "It's a mess"

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 14) 

As if the state of yoga and yoga teacher training here in the west were not already bad enough, there’s an online company that has started to offer a $49.99 online yoga teacher training program. All you have to do is purchase their program via credit card, read their material, and take a written online exam, which consists of multiple choice questions. You can become a "Certified Yoga Instructor" and will also receive an online transcript that mentions your score, which can be used "to prove your certified credentials". Interestingly, their promotional material even explains that the certificate that you will receive does not even mention the word “online.”

When asked by LA Yoga Magazine, “How would you describe Yoga in the US today?” Georg Feurstein elaborates:

“It’s a mess. And you can quote me on that. Anything that comes to America or the West in general, immediately gets individualized and commercialized. There has always been great diversity in traditional Yoga, and this diversity was based on the experience of masters. Today even beginning teachers feel qualified to innovate and create their own trademarked Yoga system.

"So, looking at the Yoga movement today, part of me feels very saddened by it, but then I also see that it contains the seeds of something better. Also, amazingly, Yoga can be beneficial even when it is reduced down to posture practice. But people shortchange themselves when they strip Yoga of its spiritual side."

It’s distressing that there are Asana teachers who say that they do understand the authentic goals of yoga, and would like to share these higher teachings with their students. However, some of them who teach at well known "Yoga Studios" around the country (USA) have privately confided that they have been directly told by studio owners to not teach this, and that if they do, they will no longer be allowed to teach there. This puts these teachers in an awkward position. Even though they understand and seek authentic yoga in their personal lives they’re discouraged (sometimes forbidden) from sharing this with students out of fear for losing students and their payments for classes.

Be positive, there’s a good chance the pendulum will swing back. Although modern yoga teaching may have gone far off track in recent years, there is some movement towards providing training that focuses on the authentic and every yoga teacher should be encouraged to head in that direction. It seems that the pendulum has swung so far away that it might slowly be starting to swing back to the real goals of authentic and traditional yoga.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 15).” This next blog article will illustrate some modern styles of yoga, their names and how they differ from the four traditional schools of yoga.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 10)

Yoga and money – Is it wrong to use the subtle methods and powers of yoga as a money making technique?

We don’t have to look far to find a seminar about making money with Yoga. If calling yoga a fitness program, physical therapy or medical treatment isn’t already over the top, it has now also become common to promote yoga seminars and books in respect to yoga being a money making technique, especially here in the West. These so-called “yoga” promoters oftentimes don't openly proclaim their instructions as a means for making money, but instead, they commonly use the terms like prosperity, success, abundance or affluence. They insinuate that with their guidance the student or practitioner will attract those attributes to themselves.

This isn’t referring to teachers that charge money for training students and teaching classes. That is an entirely different matter. This is talking about intentionally using the subtle methods and powers of yoga to generate monetary wealth or to cause riches to come their way. The fruits of practicing yoga come naturally to sincere students as a byproduct of yoga. However, to conduct seminars on how to channel genuine convictions and practices into producing financial wealth is contrary to the ultimate goals of true yoga practice.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 10)

It has been said (Joseph Goebbels), “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Be careful what you choose to believe!

"Yoga is a moneymaking technique.”

It doesn't take a great amount of reflection to see that this statement is a reframing of attachment, hedonism and/or greed, which yoga would have us see as being obstacles to spiritual practice, rather than goals to be attained.

There is a commonly accepted assertion that teachers must meet students where they are. Proper instruction is the epitome of that process, while on the other hand; greedy teachers provide well packaged and marketed seminars to greedy students. They promote the use of “yoga” as a vehicle to make money. By doing this, the seekers are misled, receiving a form of pseudo-validation for their inner (or subconscious) longings for external pleasure. This is not to suggest that yoga should have absolutely nothing to do with any acceptable moneymaking propositions or that aspiring yogis should live in abject poverty. It is simply a result of confusing goals and methods.

Yoga is not a moneymaking technique, nor was it ever meant to be. Any use of yoga for such a purpose is a corruption of true yoga practice and devolution of authentic yoga.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, the head of the Himalayan Institute of the USA writes in an article entitled “Real Yoga” that:

"Yoga has become the health and fitness system of choice. This is odd because it is the mind – not the body – that is the main target of all genuine Yoga practices …. To regard Yoga primarily as a set of practices for increasing strength and flexibility while calming the nervous system is to mistake the husk for the kernel.”

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 11).” This next blog article will discuss the commingling of yoga and fitness programs and the resulting consequences.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 5)

The last posted article dealt with the six classical schools of Indian philosophy and gave a brief description of each. This article will focus on Vedanta as it applies to yoga, more specifically what Dr. David Frawley writes about the nature of yoga and its relationship to Vedanta.

Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 5)

The following is excerpted from Dr. Frawley’s book, “Vedantic Meditation: Lighting the Flame of Awareness.” …

"The first teachers who brought Yoga to the West came with the profound teachings of Vedanta as their greatest treasure to share with the world. They presented Vedanta as the philosophy of Self-realization and Yoga as the methodology by which to achieve it. Such great masters began with Swami Vivekananda at the end of the nineteenth century and continued with Swami Rama Tirtha, Paramahansa Yogananda, and the many disciples of Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh. They called their teaching Yoga-Vedanta, which they viewed as a complete science of spiritual growth.

"However, in the course of time asana or Yoga postures gained more popularity in the physically-minded West, and the Vedantic aspect of the teachings fell to the sidelines, particularly over the last twenty years. The result is that today few American Yoga teachers know what Vedanta is or can explain it to others. If they have an interest in meditation they generally look to Zen or Vipassana, not knowing that meditation is the very foundation of classical Yoga and its related traditions.

"Even students of related disciplines like Ayurveda or Vedic astrology may know little about Vedanta, the path of self-knowledge that is the spiritual support and goal of these systems. Meanwhile, those who study the great Vedantic gurus of modern India, like Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta Maharaj, generally look at the particular teacher as the source of the teachings, and they may fail to understand the tradition that they are part of. In this way the heart teachings of India's great sages have become progressively lost even to those who claim to follow their teachings in the West.

A bit about David Frawley: He has been a student of Ramana Maharashi’s teachings since 1970 and has written for their magazine The Mountain Path since 1978. He is a visitng professor at the Sringeri Shankaracharya Math, the oldest vedantic center in India, and has receive the personal blessings of the Shankaracharya. He teaches at Vedantic centers in America and is one of the few Westerns recognized as an authentic Vedantic teacher by the Vishva Hindu Parisha, the largest Hindu religious organization in the world. Frawley directs the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A brief Biography: Dr. David Frawley (aka, Pandit Vāmadeva) is a Vedic teacher and educator who is the author of over thirty books in several Vedic and Yogic fields published worldwide over the past thirty years. He is the founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies (www.vedanet.com), which offers on-line courses and publications on Ayurvedic medicine, Yoga, mantra and meditation, and Vedic astrology. He is involved in important research into ancient Vedic texts and is a well known modern exponent of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma. He has a rare D.Litt in Yoga and is a recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award, one of India's highest civilian awards for "distinguished service of a higher order." His work is highly respected in traditional circles in India, as well as influential in the West, where he is involved in many Vedic and Yogic schools, ashrams and associations.

Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 6).”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Overweight? Yoga is for You Too!

Do a Google “Images” search using the word “yoga,” and you’ll notice most of the people in the photos are thin and fit (and most of them are women). You’ll see a thin woman on the beach in warrior pose; there’s a thin woman in front of the sunset in tree pose; and then there’s a skinny woman in a nature setting in lotus pose. This constant theme of skinny yogis isn’t necessarily wrong, and it’s hardly surprising—thin sells. But, the overwhelming number of all these yoga images is a bit deceptive, as it implies yoga is exclusive to thin, fit women, especially when these images tend to include only asanas (poses) conducive to skinny bodies.

If you’re like most people, you might well begin the get the idea that yoga and its health benefits, such as stress/anxiety reduction, improved flexibility and balance, relief from depression, pain and insomnia, plus improved fitness, are meant only for thin people, and not so much for the 63% of American adults that are overweight and the nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults who are classified as obese. This is absolutely not true! Yoga is for all types, shapes and sizes (and let’s not leave men out either), but you might just need to know how to get started.

If I’m overweight why should I do yoga?

For those people who are carrying excess weight, low-impact exercises like yoga may be more comfortable (and suitable) than other forms of exercise like running, jogging, aerobics, dancing, jumping rope, stair climbing, tennis, person-on-person contact sports, and gymnastics to name a few of the high-impact activities often recommended. And, keep in mind, most asanas can be modified to fit your body size and type.

Yoga definitely isn’t that spin class with the instructor that has a drill sergeant’s mentality. It’s not any type of “Insanity Workout.” The mental component of yoga; deep breathing, positive meditation and increased awareness, can boost confidence for people of all sizes and shapes.

How is yoga asana practice different for people who are overweight?

When overweight people consider heading to a beginners’ yoga class, one of the scariest parts is walking through the door for the first time. Just like the Google Images mentioned above, the class may be full of women who are half your size, and some of the asanas, and the pace of going through the transitions from one pose to another may be particularly challenging (if not downright daunting) for larger bodies.

If you’re overweight, you’re going to need to move slower, especially when transitioning from one asana to another. It’s kind of like a luxury liner trying to keep up with a kayak.

There are also some poses; inverted and balancing asanas, that will not work for bigger-bodied students, especially when beginning. Sometimes you may have to observe other practitioners in these poses and think, “I’m not ready for that yet.”

Nevertheless, don’t be intimidated by joining a group class, assuming you’ll fall behind and have to sit out certain asanas. Before class, call or meet with your instructor and see if they have experience with bigger students. Oftentimes the two of you can work together to prevent pacing issues and plan modifications and alternative poses instead of those that will be uncomfortable or embarrassing.

Some tips that can make yoga more comfortable for overweight students?

Try widening your stance. In many standing postures, your feet are often supposed to be hip-width apart. But if you’re bigger than normal, it may help to spread your feet farther apart until they’re at a comfortable distance, this will help to increase balance and stability.

Remain in touch with your body. Take the initiative to make yourself more comfortable.

Use props whenever appropriate. If your instructor wants you to touch your hands to your toes during a hamstring stretch, don’t respond with an eye roll. A yoga strap will probably help you to eventually achieve this stretch and it may support you in other asanas, too. A yoga block can also provide support, by helping you connect with the ground. Your instructor should be willing to demonstrate the best practices for using these props.

Be positive. Remember, yoga isn’t about competition, and it’s not about being perfect. Use yoga practice as an opportunity to connect with your mind and body.

Don’t get discouraged. There is no overnight success, and patience is part of yoga too. There may be setbacks, but stay focused on the progress being made.

If you’re overweight, watch the following video for some inspiration…

The Awesome Benefits of a Yoga Retreat

What is a retreat? It’s a quiet or secluded place where you can rest and relax.

What are a YOGA retreats: Quiet and secluded places where you can rest, relax, eat healthy, gain knowledge, insights, personal strength and PRACTICE YOGA.

Is your daily routine getting you down? Have you ever wondered what might happen to you and to your life if you would just make the time to retreat to a place where you’re offered delicious, nutritious food and someone leads you in daily yoga and meditation practice? Where you’re in the company of other like-minded/like-hearted seekers of truth, love and beauty? Once you’re on a yoga retreat (or yoga holiday, as they’re sometimes called) all your regular daily obstacles will be gone and your day to day hassles will be put on hold, while you’re hooked up to a program that offers solutions for you when you return, so that your “normal” daily routine will have some pizzazz, a new energy and a new and refreshing feel. You’ll return rejuvenated and recharged and with a whole new attitude, plus you’ll be feeling energy you haven’t felt since you were a kid.

Most yoga retreats take place in very special (and secluded) corners of the world (like National Parks, remote beach areas, or camps in the mountains), special places where time seems to slow down, providing a new and insightful perspective. If you’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a yoga retreat (or even if you have) and/or you feel your practice could use a bit more spark, your adventure is not as far away as you might imagine, why put it off, with a little planning you can make it happen! This unique type of getaway tends to bring like-minded/like-hearted seekers of truth, love and beauty together and creates a fertile ground for awakening the miracle that is you. A yoga retreat will affect you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, basically producing a profound and positive effect on your entire being.

Retreats provide a break from your normal routines and time to focus on releasing, discovering and applying new found tools. Retreats that are well constructed allow for personal attention given to your own specific areas of need. This personal attention gives you a tool box filled with plenty of options. There is nothing more inspiring then returning from an experience empowered with new found strength. The power gained on a yoga retreat continues to help you as you return to your regular daily life with a new set of tools to release pain, regain strength, and find deep rest and peace plus you’ll be able find and open doors to possibilities where there were just blank walls before.

There are times on a Yoga retreat when adventurous activities like hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, etc. are offered and other times when silence is to be observed while doing cooperative communal service. There will be new dietary experiences to taste and enjoy, learning to practice “Ahimsa” (non-injury to others) while savoring plant based foods – both raw and cooked. There may be a time for cleansing/detox and giving the body a break from un-healthy habits.

On some retreats you’ll be surrounded by beautiful settings, while on others you may focus on sensual pleasures like massage, energetic healing or bodywork. A Yoga retreat may involve early morning meditation to stop the constant chatter of the mind. Also, there’s Vipassana (insight meditation) for those interested in self-reflection or looking for a more spiritual experience. There may be instruction which will help you learn Pranayama and other advanced breathing methods.

What kind of people go on Yoga retreats?

∙ Some are young; others are elderly (and all in between).

∙ Some are loose and flexible, while others are a stiff as a board.

∙ Some may be exhausted or at a crossroads in their life.

∙ Some simply want a chance to get away from it all.

∙ Others want to take care of just themselves for a change.

Here are a few of the most common reasons people go on a yoga retreat:

∙ Deepening an existing practice

∙ Restarting a practice that was dropped

∙ Testing the waters (if you’re new to Yoga)

∙ Finding a new direction in life

∙ Meeting new, exciting people

When you leave your daily routine and go for a yoga retreat, you set the stage for:

∙ Stress and pain relief

∙ Deep Rest

∙ Increased knowledge and understanding

∙ Greater appreciation for all things

∙ Diet improvement with delicious healthy food

Tip: Knowing exactly what kind of experience you’re looking for before signing up will help ensure you pick the retreat perfect for your needs. Selecting retreat with a time frame suited to your schedule is also important; whether it’s a day retreat, a few days, a week, or even longer. And, perhaps most importantly, it is always recommended that the retreat you select is lead by certified yoga instructors who are prepared to work with you at your skill level. Spending intimate time with an experienced yoga teacher is one of the most potent opportunities for change available today; being a mixture of instruction and inspiration, it will guide you toward being a more authentic and powerful human being.

In conclusion: Yoga retreats are the latest trend in yoga where you will be able to gain many profound benefits beyond those found when participating in a few hours of yoga sessions or classes. Those who attend such retreats and are guided by a yoga master, report experiencing a silent, inward revolution; one that produces a conscious growth and outward “evolution” of their body and mind. Contrary to the general belief that yoga is limited to an individualistic practice, a yoga retreat allows you the opportunity to explore the social aspect of yoga. Plus, the closeness to nature and having the time and opportunity to re-examine your motivations, goals, and beliefs helps you to become re-united with yourself and the awesome person you really are, both when you’re alone and in the company of others.

The Importance of Attitude & Yoga Practice

Attitude applies to the way we express or “carry” ourselves. How interesting that it is derived from the Latin word for ‘fit’, and from the French word “attitudine” which means “position” or “posture”. How ‘fitting’ this word is for Yoga practice, because in yoga (as in life), much of a person’s attitude is carried in their posture.

A good teacher can easily encourage students to adapt a positive attitude. From a Yoga perspective, proper attitude is established by observing the yamas (the do-nots) and the niyamas (the dos) from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras’ “Eight-Fold Path”. These observances lead students towards a non-harming, non-grasping, focused Yoga practice and harmonious lifestyle. One of the main things that yoga students need to be reminded of is that a posture (asana) is not about perfect results but about total effort. Remaining in touch with your body while putting in the right amount of effort so that each asana challenges you, while at the same time, respects your needs and avoids the risk of injury is the key attitude to developing a balanced practice.

Equally importantly in a Yoga class is the teacher’s attitude, because this sets the tone and the pace for the entire session.  When teachers realize that the way they carry themselves is the first thing students will notice as they come into the studio, then their body language can be a simple yet powerful tool that will create an atmosphere of trust and confidence for their students.

A teacher’s attitude is mostly a reflection of their history and personal approach to Yoga; is their attitude serious or playful, strict or accommodating, or is it somewhere in between? Quite possibly, the most important thing for a teacher to consider is whether or not they are acting according to the basic principles of Yoga. Beware of teachers that are teaching from their ego; ask yourself, are they seeking acclaim or admiration from their students? The best, most effective and respected teachers instruct in a way that knowledge can be channeled through you, without insisting you imitate them.

The Importance of Attitude & Yoga PracticeDevelop “Yogatude”, a yoga attitude…

One of the most important factors in your practice of yoga is not about your physical alignment but your mental alignment…your “yogatude”. A well aligned yogatude demands a high degree of acceptance and humility. These are traits that can be difficult to cultivate in the social setting of a class. For many students it’s easy to be hard on themselves if they’re the only one who can’t do a pose properly, or to beat themselves up if they’re the one needing the most props to do it. It’s also easy to be tempted into indulging feelings of superiority when you’re able to go deeper into a pose than anyone else.

A useful approach is to be nonjudgmental about yourself and/or others and to nurture one of the best attitudes you can possibly cultivate: a “beginner’s mind.” Engage every pose as if it were for your first time, exploring new ways to stand, breathe, and move about. Adapting a beginner’s attitude is an awesome way to “connect” with any asana and keep your yoga practice fresh and exciting, regardless of how many times you have done the same pose.

Final thought… “Suppose somebody looks at you and says, ‘Hey, how come you seem to be super happy today?’ What does that person see? Does the person see your mind? How does he or she know that you are happy? It shows in your body. That means the happiness of the mind immediately is reflected in the body. That is the proof. The same way, if you are unhappy you may be asked, ‘What’s wrong with you? You don’t seem to be happy today.’ So that means every mood immediately gets reflected in the body. Every thought has a say over every molecule of the body. Even though we see the change more visibly in the face, that doesn’t mean other parts of the body are not changed. From head to foot you change. There’s no doubt about it. That is the power of mind.” ~Sri Swami Satchidananda

Asana – Protect Your Joints with Proper Alignment

One of the most important responsibilities of a yoga teacher is to help their students get back in touch with their bodies. As we grow older, most of us gradually “grow out” of our bodies, often decreasing our ability to understand how our bodies really function, and then we tend to miss or ignore the built-in signs and/or warnings that can alert us to any current or potential future problems with our joints and connective tissue. By re-learning (or even learning for the first time) about the basic structures and functions of your body, with the help of your yoga instructor, your practice becomes a great starting point for getting back in tune, avoiding complications or problems.

Learning how to protect and care for your joints, tendons and connective tissues (knees, elbows, hips, etc.) during yoga, – is one of the most important step to help ensure you have a lifetime of safe and rewarding asana practices.

Your feet are the foundation…

When practicing yoga, start with your foundation, your base (the feet), and then build from there. If the feet aren’t properly aligned, then it’s likely that the rest of the body, starting with the knees is also misaligned.

A good place to start is by looking at your body in Tadasana (Standing or Mountain Pose). When you stand in Tadasana, look down at your feet. Some of us stand with our toes pointed out (outtoeing), or our toes pointed in (intoeing or “pigeon toed”). In yoga, it’s important that your feet to are parallel.

Next, notice how your weight is distributed on your feet. Do you tend to put more weight on the balls of your feet or do you tend to lean back with more weight on your heels? Check a pair of shoes that you’ve worn for a few years, you’ll get a good idea where you place most of your weight on your feet.

During yoga practice, you are encouraged to distribute your weight onto the “four corners of your feet;” this includes the inner and outer heel, and the ball (both the big toe and the pinky toe side of the feet). It is good for students to practice lifting their toes, spreading them out and then lower each toe, one by one, back down to the floor or the mat.

Now take a quick look at your knees. It’s common for students to lock their knees when they come up into Tadasana or the half-lift from forward fold and quite often they don’t realize it’s happening. Locking or hyper-extending the knees are hard on them and will tend to cause pronation or supination in the feet (see illustration above). Be aware of that habit and correct it by micro-bending the knees.

The Warrior Poses

Asana - Protect Your Joints with Proper Alignment

Warrior I

The Warrior poses are an awesome way to help you learn the basics of protecting your knees throughout your yoga practice. Starting with Warrior I and II, it is necessary for you to watch the alignment of your feet, the distribution of your weight on your feet, as well as well as the alignment of your knees. You also want to make sure you stand tall in the torso, drawing the belly/core up and in for support; avoiding leaning the torso forward.

Make sure you check the position of your feet. For example, while in Warrior II, look at your feet. Your front heel and back heel should align or your front heel may line up with the arch of the back foot. As far as the set distance between your feet, find what is most comfortable but make sure that your front (bent) knee stays above or slightly behind the front ankle.  Essentially your feet should end up below your wrists.

Asana - Protect Your Joints with Proper Alignment

Warrior II

Next, press into the big toe and pinky toe sides of the front foot, as well as into the outer edge of the back foot as you simultaneously lift up through the arches of both feet. At this point it’s important to engage the inner thigh muscle (the vastus medialis) of your front leg along with the other quadriceps muscles so that you properly align the knee. Pressing down into the big toe as you lift up through the arch of the front foot helps engage these muscles.

Keep a close check on your knees to ensure that your front knee always stays above or slightly behind the front ankle. If the knee drifts or creeps forward in front of the ankle, this will generally cause strain to the area.

You can protect your knees and strengthen the vastus medialis by following three basic rules for the warrior poses.

  • 1. Make sure your knee is bent properly to a right angle, so the weight is centered in your heel. If your toes are gripping, it’s a sign that your knee is going too far beyond your heel.
  • 2. Don’t let the inner arch of your foot collapse, for this is a sign that your knee is turning inward too much. (These two actions—grounding and lifting—will keep the knee from turning inward or outward too much.)
  • 3. Make sure that the heel, kneecap, and hip joint of your bent leg are in the same plane by allowing a slight turn of the hips.

With appropriate instruction from a certified yoga teacher you will soon become aware that there are many details to learn in terms of proper alignment and form in yoga. These principles are not to make your sessions burdensome, but rather, they are there to ensure that your practice supports and strengthens your body for many years to come. So, with a “certified” yoga teacher you can rest assured that he/she fully understands anatomy, kinesiology and proper alignment, and that they are qualified to teach you and help you practice safely every time you roll out your mat!

The Ethical Standards of a Yoga Teacher

As teachers of Yoga it is important to remember that we forever remain humble students of the science. Yoga truly is a lifelong endeavor. Much more than teaching asana, the responsibilities of a Yoga teacher are many since we are in a position to greatly influence others’ lives.

The following list of ethics has been compiled to guide both the student and teacher of Yoga in their efforts to evolve spiritually:

1. Setting a good example – we must devote ourselves to practicing what we preach;  not just “talking the talk” but also “walking the talk.” We need to live as close as possible to the yogic lifestyle that we recommend for our students and also the lifestyle that is prescribed by our teachers. Authenticity, both with ourselves and with our students, will not only gain their respect but will facilitate the proper atmosphere for instruction and learning.

2. Remaining students of Yoga forever – this allows us the opportunity to continuously give our students something more and to cultivate our own personal growth along with the growth of our students.

3. Conducting ourselves professionally and with integrity at all times – due to the inevitable closeness of relationships within the student/teacher dynamic, people share some of the most sensitive parts of themselves with you and their vulnerability needs to be protected. Group and individual discussions that are shared in confidence with you must not be divulged to others under any circumstances, other than an emergency.

4. Accurately relating the training that we received – not exaggerating our accomplishments (or minimizing them), but giving an accurate and honest account of what we have learned so far and who we learned it from. This honest approach empowers students to find someone who can deal with their particular or unique strengths as their teacher.

5. Treating all others will respect – this includes but is not limited to our students. Respecting the time and energy of others, giving credit where credit is due and building up the world’s “kindness reserves,” works wonders in creating an atmosphere of mutual trust.

6. Not condemning or speaking ill of any yogic path, or their teachings – striving instead to attract students based on their recognition of our own inner (and radiant) light. We as teachers need to realize that students will only find their ideal teacher when they are ready, and this may mean that sometimes we may not be the perfect teacher for them. When we have honestly assessed our own strengths, and the response from each student, we have to be ready (if need be) to graciously refer a student to another teacher who may be better suited to help them with their specific situation and/or challenges.

7. No discrimination – shown towards students as a result of their cultural background, religion, sex or gender. Remaining aware of the ultimate “oneness” we all share, this is to be reflected through every contact we have with each and every one of our students.

8. We will not allow ourselves to be an intermediary between any of the higher states of consciousness and those of our students – rather than act as a crutch for students to lean on so they may feel stronger, we’ll help them to find their own inner strength.

9. Remaining mindful of where each student is at – not expecting that everyone is starting from the same point; mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually. Never looking down on others spiritual progression (or lack of it) we realize that this is a non-linear path. When we remove our egos from our teaching we must be prepared for the possibility that some students will take quantum leaps beyond us and then we should learn from them.

10. Resist the urge to “wow” others – it is not the point of a yoga class to attempt to impress others with your amazing physical feats (or deep philosophical wisdom) unless they specifically ask you to do so, and are completely open to it. Rather than push, we must lead through example.

11. Strive to maintain cleanliness – observing Saucha, which also means keeping different energies distinct, affects any environment where we teach, so making the space as comfortable and inviting to the student as possible is essential.

12. Remaining fully “present” when we lead a class or student – Arriving early enough to prepare ourselves for the instruction that lies ahead, this way we do not let our “mental business” interfere with the energy of the class. We first focus on calming our own minds before attempting to calm the minds of our students.

13. Always allow for physical restrictions or limitations – by offering a variety of modifications so that anyone can feel comfortable, thereby benefitting from participating in our class.

14. Realize that the teacher/student bond may be misinterpreted as a sexual attraction – an honorable amount of time (approximately 8 months to a year or more is generally recommended) should be reserved between being someone’s teacher and participating in a romantic relationship with them.

15. Enacting “tough love” – when someone is acting outside of the ethical boundaries that yoga establishes, it is our responsibility as their teacher to communicate the truth even when it may be difficult to do so. Of course, tact and a gentle attitude is the right approach.

16. Our truth may not be everyone’s truth – since we are all students of Yoga we realize the possibly that our truth may be somewhat distorted through our own egoic filters, so we allow (even encourage) our students to discover their own truth, and this may not always be in line with the class we teach. We must resist feeling angry or resentful if we ‘lose’ a student. If their path requires a different teacher we should honestly and lovingly give them our blessing on their choice to find an alternative.

17. As a full time Yoga teacher we are honored to make money from doing a fortuitous job – but since this is our primary means of sustaining ourselves financially we must continue to remind ourselves to put our practice and its teachings above the gain of monetary good at all times. In the words of Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois: “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.”

18. And lastly; remember that asana is only one small part of the entire yogic science. In his “Astadala Yogamala,” B.K.S. Iyengar wrote: “Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

Remember, above all, the responsibility to teach the “all” of yoga to your students only as they are ready and willing to receive these teachings.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)Samadhi is a Sanskrit word which is the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation, derived from the verbal roots “samā” (the state of total equilibrium) and “dhi” (of a detached intellect).

Samadhi is the eighth and final of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali’s commentary on Samadhi (Yoga-Sutras 1.41): “Just as the naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colors of objects placed near it, so the Yogi’s mind, with its totally weakened modifications, becomes clear and balanced and attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower, knowable and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is Samadhi.”

Samādhi is the primary focus of part one (Samādhi-pada) of the Yoga Sūtras. Patanjali intended for the last three steps in his eightfold path (Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) to be studied and practiced together because there is no clear dividing line between any of these three stages. Collectively they are called “Samyama” (Control). When practiced progressively, concentration (Dharana) merges into meditation (Dhyana) and then into non-dual union with the Divine (Samadhi).

A general definition of Samadhi is a super conscious state in which an individual experiences his identity with the ultimate Divine Reality (Brahman).  However, there are a number of technical variations (stages or states) of Samadhi depending upon whether it is in Vedanta philosophy or in Yoga philosophy. Some of the most commonly recognized variations are…

  • Savikalpa Samadhi: In Vedanta philosophy this is the first stage of transcendental consciousness and is where the distinction between subject and object persists.  The spiritual aspirant in this state may have mystic visions, either with or without form.
  • Nirvikalpa Samadhi: Literally means, “changeless Samadhi,” and in Vedanta philosophy refers to the transcendental state of consciousness where the spiritual aspirant becomes completely absorbed in union with the Divine, so that all sense of duality is erased.
  • Savichara Samadhi: According to Yoga philosophy this Samadhi refers to the state in which the mind achieves identity with an object of concentration (either internal or external), this object will have a name, a quality, and can be known as such.
  • Nirvichara Samadhi: This is a term in Yoga philosophy referring to the state in which the mind achieves identity with a subtle object of concentration; something beyond name, quality, and knowledge, where knowledge, knower and the known become one.
  • Nirbija Samadhi: Translated literally as, “Seedless Samadhi.” In Yoga philosophy this is the non-dual state of consciousness which is unconditional because all projected conditions have been transcended. Nirbija-Samadhi has no conditioning cause since all causes have all been transcended, and all conditional activity has been surrendered. The mind is now a radiant formlessness empty of both specific and generalized impressions, including the seer and the seen.

In conclusion: The mind is a bundle of mental “patterns” of awareness. When all these patterns of awareness have been rejected and annihilated, what remains is an ultimate form of consciousness – Samadhi.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)

Mental “patterns” of awareness

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana)

Check back soon for an elaboration on each of the five “Yamas”.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana, W/Video)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana)Dhyana is a Sanskrit word which means to meditate, derived from the verbal root dhyai, Dhyana  it is the most common designation for both the meditative state of consciousness and the yogic techniques by which it is attained.

Dhyana is the seventh of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali describes Dhyana as the repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus (Dharana) is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of the eight steps (Yoga-Sutras 3.2).

There are two distinct stages that precede the practice of Dhyana. The first leads to sense withdrawal (Pratyahara), the second to concentration (Dharana), and finally, after these first two stages have been achieved, the yogi or student is prepared for the practice of true meditation (Dhyana).

Without such prior preparation, the efforts to concentrate the mind, often leads only to an inner and frustrating battle. The vrittis of chitta (fluctuations of the “mind stuff” or constant chatter of the mind) leads people to say they cannot meditate, and they intend to learn to meditate later. But the key is not to merely put off meditation practice until some future time, which never seems to come. Rather, the truth of the matter is that preparation is needed. With preparation, concentration and meditation arise naturally. Without the preparation, little or nothing of value happens.

The student is instructed to always to begin with concentration (Dharana), and then proceed to meditation (Dhyana), which finds fruition in Samadhi. This triple process is called samyama. During this process the yogi (or student) may become aware of higher powers (Siddhis) and become captivated by them, but Patanjali warns they are obstacles to the full or higher samādhi. Only by non-attachment to even these things, however great they may seem, may the seeds of bondage be destroyed, and independence or freedom attained.

In summary: Dhyana is the unbroken stream of concentration, where little to no “sense of self” remains. At this stage, it becomes increasingly more difficult to use words and reasoning (thoughts), or the conscious mind to describe these inner experiences of yoga. After all, the state of meditation, by its very nature transcends our material human experience and everything that is related to it. Meditation (Dhyana), is concentration (Dharana) taken to “perfection”; in other words, the meditative state is the natural consequence of “perfect concentration”. So it is by prolonged concentration, that produces this “spontaneous”, “free-flowing” meditative state, where nothing except the object of concentration fills the mind’s space; and where the observer and the observed merge into one.

If you are unfamiliar with meditation the following video (Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes) may be helpful…

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 – Dharana)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)”