By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
All too frequently, I am asked by middle-aged or senior students, who aspire to become a Yoga instructor, “When is the best time to become a teacher?” Has the window of time passed for this opportunity, and is a younger instructor better suited to teach to the public? Some of these veteran students have decades of experience, but feel intimidated by the “young hard bodies.” This is a deep subject, so let’s take a close look at what holds some of us back from becoming a Yoga teacher.
The following three issues are worth mentioning at this point:
1. Is Yogic methodology strictly a physical practice?
2. If Hatha Yoga were an exercise class, the value of a “coach” is worthy of note.
3. There are so many students over 40 years of age, who desire a knowledgeable, mature, and careful Yoga teacher.
Is Yogic methodology strictly a physical practice? No – Yogic methodology covers mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects, as well as the physical aspects of life. The public has been duped by pretzel asanas (postures) on the covers of magazines. If you never studied Yogic practices, you might not know better, but I am surprised when a student, with ten or more years of practice, still sees asana as the “Holy Grail” of Yoga. Asana is very valuable, but does not govern Yogic practices.
Pranayama (cultivation of life force through breath) is the ruler of body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Pranayama keeps you healthy in all aspects of existence, and Pranayama governs many asana techniques. If you cannot breathe correctly, asana performance can be very frustrating – when folding, balancing, or twisting. Pranayama makes mudra (gestures), and bandha (locks), purification of the nadis (energy channels), and meditation, much more powerful.
However, Pranayama is not the only aspect of Hatha Yoga. It is just one of the many aspects mentioned within the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Maharishi Patanjali mentions eight limbs within the Yoga Sutras. Asana is just one of the eight limbs of Yoga, but asana can be seen, and can be performed, to impress the public. Would the public be impressed by Samadhi (the settled mind)? You already know the answer – The general public is impressed by the superficial physical aspects of Yoga, but Yoga has much more than one aspect.
If Yogic practice were simply an exercise class, the value of a “coach” is still worthy of note. The definition of a “teacher” in most languages is, “One who has been there before.” When you can teach Yoga students how to perform an asana technique correctly, but you cannot perform the same asana perfectly, that is a part of being a teacher. The best Yoga instructor is the one who can reach into a student’s mind and teach that student to do his or her personal best. The fact is – you understand the mechanics as good as anyone.
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