The Benefits of Yoga for Spiritual Development For Students and Teachers

The Benefits of Yoga for Spiritual Development

yoga for spiritual developmentBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Is there a spiritual development aspect in Hatha Yoga? To begin with, it is important to understand that students come to our classes for a wide variety of reasons. To some people, spiritual health is a taboo subject. Just the title of this article alone, may turn some people off. The reason being: People do not want to be sold into religious beliefs. With that said, it is important to understand that we will not be covering any religion. Spiritual beauty can be developed, regardless of whether a person practices no religion or any religion.

Yoga’s unique strength is its blending of physical exercise, with the development of spiritual beauty. In many modern studios, the spiritual aspects of Yoga have fallen by the wayside, in favor of fitness-based classes. You probably end your sessions with a few calming minutes in Shavasana, but this is not a deep exploration of the sacred aspects of anything. The benefits of spiritual yoga classes are endless, and studio owners might consider them down the road.

Religious or Spiritual Development

While Yoga originally was practiced exclusively by Hindus, today’s typical asana practice is not tied to any belief system. Your average student may be a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew or something else, and your classes should respect these differences. If you teach students with diverse faiths, let them know that your goal is to be inviting to people of all faiths. Use neutral language like “Greater Power” or “the Universe” instead of referencing specific deities. Try to avoid bringing scripture readings from your own faith tradition; look for quotes that could apply to any set of beliefs. Most importantly, invite students to bring their own beliefs to their practice.

Mental Peace

The relaxed feeling at the end of a Yoga class, after an hour or so of stretching muscles and holding poses, is what keeps students coming back to our sessions. By adding information about how to apply classroom lessons to real life, you can replicate this feeling in your students’ minds. In the course of an average day, our students rarely have the have time to sit and explore their inner thoughts or focus on positive emotions. Your classes can give students that opportunity.

Inner Strength and Spiritual Development

Just as Yoga poses (asanas) increase the body’s strength, spiritual exercises increase mental fortitude. Your students live hectic lives filled with emotional stressors. Spiritual Yoga exercises can build up mental reserves, making it easy for your students to navigate the challenges of life. When your students spend several hours a week, communicating with themselves and their Greater Power, they are building up their emotional strength. Your Yoga classes will empower your students to live a more peaceful, enjoyable life.

For your students, Yoga sessions are time to care for the body; they are also an opportunity to nurture the inner being. The benefits of spiritual development through Yoga exercises cannot be overstated, but there is one question that many people ask.

Which Exercises Will Bring About Spiritual Development?

If you look at the Eight Limbs in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, you have the map. Patanjali mapped out a universal path that can benefit anyone, regardless of their religious differences. All you have to do is be kind, tolerant, patient, forgiving, and willing to work. The Yogic path is easy to understand, but it is a journey that will require effort.

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