How to Teach Yoga by Example: Gracious Acceptance

How to Teach Yoga by Example: Gracious Acceptance

how to teach yoga sessionsBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Do you want more tips about how to teach Yoga by example? Like most dedicated teachers, you continually strive to make progress in your practice. Most likely, this drive to succeed comes into play in your life, both on and off the mat. As a professional Yoga instructor, you may find that many of your students will emulate your way of approaching the practice in the way that they, themselves, approach their own practice. In addition, many of your students will also model your psychological approach to difficult poses and other personal challenges that arise during class, in their daily interactions off the mat.

As a certified Yoga teacher, the exemplary bar is quite high in terms of how you nonverbally communicate the deeper aspects of this ancient physical practice and spiritual approach to life to your students. There are many different scriptural Yogic texts that enumerate in great detail the optimal way of practicing asanas and pranayama exercises, in addition to how to integrate the wisdom of the practice into your day-to-day life. Some of this detail includes advice on how to cleanse the body, how to control the unruly nature of the mind and how to best approach difficult situations in our lives.

When you begin to understand the ultimate goal of a well-rounded Yoga practice, you will develop a deep respect for the ability of a regular practice of asanas, breathing exercises and meditation techniques to balance and cleanse the body and calm the mind. A few of the most well-loved Vedic scriptures that outline the optimal way of practicing Yoga and harnessing the deep knowledge and well-being that the practice generates, in order to be more efficient in our day-to-day lives, is the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Both of these texts outline in detail how to integrate the practice of Yoga into every level of your body and mind. When your experience of Yoga deepens to the point where you begin to naturally and spontaneously “walk your talk” off the mat, you will find that your life begins to resonate with more balance and well being. When this happens, you will quite naturally teach Yoga by the way that you comport yourself during a class. In addition to instructing your students on how to do the various postures and pranayama exercises, the way that you approach perceived challenges and obstacles during the course of a Yoga class will have a profound impact on your students.

One of the inner attitudes of Yoga that is extolled in the Vedic scriptures is the expansive and calming nature of gracious acceptance. This term essentially means to calmly and openly accept a situation as it is, before taking appropriate action. It does not mean to simply passively accept an unacceptable or unsafe situation and to do nothing about it! However, in our fast-paced, multi-tasking culture, pausing long enough to even register how a situation is before trying to change the situation to fit our ideal scenario is often overlooked.

This sense of always rushing to change or fix a situation, in the course of only a few minutes, takes away the opportunity to see and understand a situation, or a way of approaching a problem, as a coping mechanism that has served a helpful purpose in the past, but which may be derailing our goals in the present situation. For instance, you may have a student in your Yoga class who is used to ignoring the signals of his or her body and just pushing past the pain, in order to achieve a specific physical goal. In turn, this student may be quite prone to injury if he or she aggressively tries to do some postures that are out of reach of his or her current level of flexibility.

In this example, you have the opportunity to model a state of gracious acceptance for your student, by asking the student to pause for a moment and notice how his or her body feels right now. As your Yoga student becomes aware of what his or her body truly needs in the moment, without negating, minimizing or justifying another course of action, you will have the opportunity to model a state of gracious acceptance of “what is” for your student. In this way, your student will feel more accepting of his or her own physical aptitude and level of fitness. This state of open, gracious acceptance will then allow both you and your student the ability to choose appropriate Yoga postures and breathing exercises that will truly nurture the student’s strength, flexibility and a deep, inner sense of respectful equanimity.

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

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