What is the link between discipline and teaching Yoga? As a professional Yoga teacher, you have a great deal of opportunity to influence your students to 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 you can have on your students, both verbally and nonverbally, through how 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, suppose one of your Yoga students has difficulty holding a Plow Pose for three minutes. In that case, it may be optimal for your student to back off the posture and practice an alternative inversion, such as Legs Up the Wall Pose.
In this situation, she is communicating that she is respecting the current limitations of her body. Elevating the guiding principle of self-respect and self-love over the accomplishment is wise. Therefore, forcing her body into a specific asana will result in pain or negative situations off the mat.
By elevating the importance of self-care and compassion over an external goal, such as holding a Plow Pose for three whole minutes, your student will learn a beautiful lesson about truly applying the principle of loving kindness to him or herself.
The Process of Yoga
In this way, you will offer your Yoga students far more than a good workout; you will guide 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.
These lessons go far beyond the external practice of the postures and pranayama exercises. For instance, you can teach your students to respect their physical and emotional needs during a given class, and you can also teach them diligence and discipline within the practice context.
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 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.
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 implemented by schools and, at times, employers, it also can be entirely elevating.
According to several online dictionaries, “discipline” means a regime, exercise program, or activity that develops and improves a specific skill set. On a psychological level, applying discipline can also generate optimal behavior patterns, especially in improving one’s moral character and mental outlook.
A balanced practice of Yoga postures, breathing exercises, and contemplative techniques improves one’s life. Additionally, steady training improves one’s physical capabilities and mental outlook. You will further support your students by weaving some of the timeless wisdom of Yoga into your classes. Positive results will flourish by applying the knowledge to their practice and their lives off the mat.
Furthermore, suppose you teach your Yoga classes disciplined, with a higher goal in mind. In that case, your students will pick up on how you approach your professional role as their teacher. As a result, they will entirely apply the same dedication to their 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.
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