January 2007 Yoga Teacher Training Newsletter
Understanding Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras (11-15)
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
1:11 “Memory is returning the mind to the past.”
This could also be phrased, “Memory does not allow the mind to escape from the past.”
Without memory, we will not learn from our past. The past teaches us, but we cannot reside there. We cannot change the past, but sometimes we allow past mistakes to haunt us.
We all have regrets about the past, but we must live for now. Otherwise, we will miss the present, which quickly shapes the future. When past mistakes are a heavy burden, we must do our best to compensate anyone who has been wronged.
1:12 “Control of the mind is achieved through practice and non-attachment.”
Controlling our thought streams can be achieved through the practice of meditation and Yoga, but non-attachment is very difficult to accomplish.
Even if we are able to shed consumerism, can any of us approach life without a private agenda? Yet, Patanjali seems to indicate that Yoga is a gateway to freedom from attachment. As Yoga has flourished worldwide, we are becoming aware that his insight is true.
1:13 “Practice is the constant endeavor to steady the mind.”
When Patanjali mentions “practice,” he is referring to the practice of Yoga. It could also be said that a steady mind creates a state of freedom from within. There is much more to Yoga than physical prowess, but it takes time and constant practice to see it.
1:14 “This practice of Yoga is built, with devotion and commitment, over a lengthy time period.”
Many Yoga teachers see students with potential come and go. The same thing happens in any pursuit which requires commitment.
In comparison, martial arts students are not considered serious practitioners until they have practiced diligently for about ten years. With so much to learn, and life being so short, the same can be easily said for Yoga.
1:15 “Freedom from the desire of seen, or unseen, objects and power, will result in a higher a state of consciousness.”
We spend our time working and praying for earthly objects. Some of us plot for power and material – while some of us spend the day visualizing our lustful desires. This is normal human consciousness, but it is also a “prison,” which holds us back from the good we can do and our higher purposes in this life.
Desire and attachment have held mankind back since the beginning. You can read it in any scripture, from any religion, and you can see it on your television tonight. Desire and attachment are the cause, or excuse, for countless wars throughout our history.
Yoga practitioners often talk and work toward world peace. This is a noble effort, but we should not be silent about injustice, which stems from desire.
© Copyright 2007 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
Yoga for Back Pain and Fibromyalgia Syndrome
By Dr. Neel Freedom
Many Fibromyalgia and Back pain sufferers practice yoga for symptom relief. Yoga also helps fibromyalgia patients with mental, physical and spiritual balance; energizing the body and relaxing the mind. Prescription drugs and other forms of therapy are sometimes not enough, therefore, it is important for fibromyalgia sufferers to take part in their own recovery and try alternative therapies and self care practices.
Practicing Yoga Postures can be a natural cure for fibromyalgia symptom relief, along with breathing exercises and meditation to balance the overall health of an individual.
- What is Yoga?
- What are the Origins of Yoga?
- Yoga for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
What is Yoga? Yoga is a physical and mental practice that involves the body, mind, and spirit. The practice, originating in India, is designed to enhance awareness, create a mind-body-spirit balance, and (as often practiced today in the US) to improve fitness. The most common form practiced in the United States is Hatha Yoga, which includes specific movements or postures (asanas), deep breathing (pranayama), and sometimes, meditation (dhyana).
Gentle, mindful, and controlled movements can provide a non-impact or low-impact yoga exercise or fibromyalgia sufferers in almost any physical condition. Specific exercises, or asanas, ease and stretch tense muscles; improve flexibility; and enhance strength, balance, and endurance.
What are the Origins of Yoga? There is no set date when this great ancient art-science began, but it goes back thousands of years. Stone carvings in the Indus Valley, depicting yoga postures, date back over 5,000 years. Traditionally, yoga was a spiritual practice, its goal being union with the Absolute or Divine. The various exercises associated with Hatha Yoga were performed to prepare the body for long periods of meditation. The word “yoga” means to join or unite together, and the practice joins together the body, mind, and spirit. The practice is often associated with Hinduism, but pre-dates the religion. As have other religions, Hinduism has incorporated elements of this art into its practices.
Yoga is now practiced around the world and is helpful as a natural cure for fibromyalgia because of its psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. According to results of a study sponsored by the Yoga Journal, released in June 2003, 15 million Americans, or over seven percent of US adults, practiced some form of this exercise.
Yoga for Fibromyalgia Sufferers The gentle exercise form can be practiced by almost anyone. The beauty of this exercise form is that it is not necessary to be able to do all the postures; the fibromyalgia sufferer can work within their own limitations, and tailor the practice to their specific needs. It is best for the fibromyalgia patient to take private yoga of group classes. There are several books and videos on yoga, but fibromyalgia patients should supplement their practice with what is learned in a class. Yoga classes can provide a better understanding of the practice, especially the use of particular yoga postures beneficial for fibromyalgia symptoms.
Before the first yoga class, the fibromyalgia patient may want to observe a yoga session. Do the teacher and the pace of the class feel right? There are many classes and teachers from which to choose; it is important to find a teacher that feels right for you. Make sure the instructor has had experience dealing with fibromyalgia patients.
Dr. Freedom and Leela can be reached at http://www.soundbodyYOGA.com They lead exclusive wellness Yoga Retreats for Back pain iat Yoga Costa Rica. For more on Fibromyalgia and Yoga, also visit http://www.back-fibromyalgia-pain.com
Teaching Hatha Yoga: Help! My Students Do Not Want to Practice Pranayama
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Recently, a Yoga teacher contacted me with the problem of students who have closed their minds to the benefits of Pranayama. She teaches classes in her own Yoga studio and has a very warm relationship with all of her students.
To give you a little background on this teacher and her class: She teaches a Vinyasa style Hatha Yoga class with Ujjayi Pranayama synchronized into her flows.
She starts with a brief five to ten minute meditation before postures, but she has a five to ten minute Pranayama segment before the conclusion of her Vinyasa Yoga class.
One of her more radical students has decided to publicly challenge the value of Pranayama in her Yoga classes – stating that, “You do not have to be a rocket scientist to learn how to breathe.” Some of her students have decided to “follow the leader” and are leaving before Pranayama starts.
What is the Real Value of Pranayama?
Mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional, quality of life is the biggest benefit of Pranayama practice and here are two, of the many, reasons why.
1. Physical Health: If you do not take the time to breathe correctly, your blood circulation will slow down – while your blood vessels constrict, leaving you with less oxygen in your bloodstream. The end result is irritability, anxiety, irregular or rapid pulse, muscle tension, and an inability to handle life’s daily stressful situations.
2. Consciousness: Sometimes we refer to forms of consciousness as concentration, mindfulness, and meditation. Whichever way you look at it, Pranayama is the gateway to the mind and body connection. Pranayama brings you into the moment; and without it, we are not practicing any form of Yoga.
The Traditional Yoga Teacher
When I first entered an ashram to learn Yoga, it was much similar to my first entrance into a “dojo” (training hall), to learn martial arts. The ashram is also a traditional place, and the Guru or Yoga teacher has control of the lesson plan.
As a student of Yoga, from a martial arts background, I never questioned this foundation. If a Yoga student does not agree with the structure of a class, he or she can always find another Yoga class.
Yet, it does make a Yoga teacher wonder what a student is looking for. From a pure exercise perspective, Pranayama is the most important of all physical exercises, because you will not live long without it.
Anyone could practice unconscious shallow breathing, without any effort, but shallow breath is poor Pranayama, in its purest form. Smooth, structured, and coordinated breath, with a purpose, is not easy for most of us to master. Very few people breathe completely, and as naturally as a baby, without formal Pranayama training or specialized athletic coaching.
Please bear in mind that proper breathing is important in every physical sport. The players of any sport or game, which requires physical endurance, will easily benefit from Pranayama practice. Therefore, Pranayama should be of extreme value to all athletes and anyone who wants to be in peak physical condition.
Yoga teachers should explain the many values Pranayama and of Hatha Yoga’s other aspects. Yoga teachers should not surrender the control of the class structure to students, who need direction.
Your value, as a Yoga teacher, is that you know the proper direction the class is going in, and why your Yoga class is going in a particular direction. You, and your Yoga students, should not lose sight of this fact. This would be similar to the pilot of a jetliner turning control over to the passengers because of a change in altitude.
Although Yoga and martial arts differ, I will draw you a parallel, philosophical, and mental picture. Japanese is a very deep language, much like Sanskrit. Sometimes these two languages make me think of jewelry boxes within a larger jewelry box.
Within the Japanese language, there is a word for teacher. We call him, or her, “sensei.” This literally means, “One who has been there before” or “One who knows the way.”
The teacher is in a position of respect, because he or she knows the way. So, be careful not to abuse your Yoga students, as this will cause disrespect on both sides; however, do not allow yourself to be abused because you are kind.
As many people acquire Yoga certification diplomas to become teachers, leadership skills are put to the test. If you know the way, your judgment should not be in question, and you deserve respect for the title of “Yoga teacher.”
How to mix Pranayama into a Yoga class
Instead of teaching Pranayama to Yoga students as a separate entity, it might be interesting to combine Pranayama, with mudras, for healing. Another option would be to change the pace of your Yoga class by focusing on one Pranayama technique for a few minutes, between Vinyasa sequences, or while holding asanas.
Lastly, do not forget that the Yoga student / Yoga teacher relationship should be friendly, and mutually respectful, but do not allow your kindness to be perceived as weakness. Unfortunately, some people do take advantage of kindness. Therefore, measure and dispense loving kindness carefully.
© Copyright 2007 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications