Teaching Hatha Yoga: Help! My Students Do Not Want to Practice Pranayama

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Teaching Hatha Yoga: Help! My Students Do Not Want to Practice Pranayama

yoga teacherBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

It is true that no single Yoga teacher training course can prepare you for every situation. Recently, a Yoga instructor contacted me with the problem of students who have closed their minds to the benefits of Pranayama. She teaches classes in her own 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 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 the Vinyasa class.

One of her more radical students has decided to publicly challenged the value of pranayama in her 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 in a Yoga Class?

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 inability to handle life’s daily stressful situations.

2. Consciousness: Sometimes we refer to forms of consciousness as concentration, mindfulness, and meditation. Which ever 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 training.

The Traditional Teacher

When I first entered an ashram to study Yogic methodology, 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 student does not agree with the structure of a class, he or she can always find another class. Yet, it does make a Yoga instructor wonder what a student is looking for. From a pure exercise perspective, pranayama is the most important of all physical exercises, because you are harnessing the flow of vital energy into your body. Although air is often taken for granted, we will not live long without it.

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