challenges of teaching yogaBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

When teaching Yoga classes, how important is sharing your story? One of the most powerful experiences in life for many of us is when we share our life experiences with each other. Although we may feel at times that our challenges, aspirations and dreams are uniquely our own, often others around us are struggling to overcome similar challenges, in order to manifest and sustain their own dreams. These dreams could be as varied as having children, learning Mandarin, teaching Yoga, or climbing Mt. Everest.

Regardless of the goal, desire or dream, the belief in a better future is a common theme that runs through all of these aspirations. If you are teaching Yoga classes, the aspiration of your students to be able to flow seamlessly through a series of challenging postures, or to hold Upward Facing Bow comfortably for five full breaths, is grounded in the basic desire to increase his or her overall level of strength and flexibility.

In other words, the underlying motivating desires of your Yoga students in the microcosm of your class, mirror the same desires to create a fulfilling, happy and dynamic life off the mat. By acknowledging and supporting your students in their ambitions on the mat, you will be supporting them in achieving their dreams and goals off the Yoga mat. Simply showing up for class several times a week takes a degree of commitment and acumen that many people do not exemplify.

If you build on the intrinsic level of motivation, determination and commitment that your students demonstrate in class, you will help them to follow through on their plans and dreams off the Yoga mat. Of course, the aspirations of your students must be tempered with common sense. For instance, if a beginning student insists that he or she is ready to perform Handstand off the wall, and you do not feel similarly, as a professional Yoga teacher you are obliged to gently but firmly find a modified way for that student to practice Handstand without risking injury.

As a Yoga teacher, one of the most powerful ways to capture student imaginations is to honestly share relevant aspects of your own story with them, including your inner and outer process with developing a Yoga practice. Students often see their teacher’s ability to practice asanas as unobtainable for themselves, particularly if they are beginning students. By sharing your personal trials and tribulations with this ancient method of sustaining overall health and well-being with your students, they will be able to more easily identify with you. As they recognize the similarity of many of the same obstacles, challenges and eventual accomplishments that you have achieved in your own practice, they will feel more able to personally achieve the same goals.

For example, B.K.S. Iyengar was one of the most well-known and beloved Yoga teachers of our time. When he was a young man, his physical difficulties were so profound that he would be considered disabled by American standards today. He literally taught himself a series of therapeutic, modified Yoga postures that eventually healed his physical disabilities. Iyengar has been credited as one of the most prominent teachers for bringing Yoga to the West in the 20th century. He also was actively teaching Yoga classes well into his golden years and was said to be able to hold Headstand for a full 30 minutes when he was 94!

In the same way, by having the courage to share some of your life story and the delicate interplay between life on and off the mat with your students, they will be more likely to draw inspiration, courage and strength from your accomplishments. Of course, tempering your sense of privacy with the amount and depth of personal information that you share with your students is important. However, the more of your own journey with Yoga that you feel comfortable sharing with your students, the more they will be able to relate their own experiences in class with the universal human experience of setting goals, surmounting obstacles and eventually achieving one’s dreams.

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 specializes in writing customized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

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

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