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April 27, 2015
Teaching Yoga: Explaining Meditation in Motion
Sometimes, when students come to the practice of yoga, they do so believing that it is simply a good exercise or something that can teach them stress-reduction or relaxation. While that is true, the core of yoga is actually something much deeper and more important. As most experienced practitioners know, yoga is really a form of meditation in motion. It is a deeply spiritual practice that is meant to connect the mind and body, helping individuals achieve both inner peace and enlightenment.
We can trace the importance of the meditation tradition to the word yoga, which literally means 'yoke' or 'union.' This is meant to imply that practice will harmonize the mind with the body. When this occurs, students are connected to their own essential, pure nature.
Yoga meditation is a practice of centering the body through movement and breath. Each stretch has a specific way of breathing, though in general, the inhalation accompanies the stretch upward or backward and the exhalation accompanies a bend downward or forwards.
When breathing is synchronized with movement, it deepens the bodies practice by opening the muscles and allowing the blood to flow unrestricted to the areas that we are stretching. This not only enhances flexibility, it draws the mind towards a gentle, focused union with the body. It teaches us to be present in the body, to be peaceful in both our movements and in the moment. The body becomes our home, comfortable and accepting of whatever we are offered.
In yoga, the practice of 'non-judgmental awareness' is an essential component of each pose. We listen to the body; watch its ability to align itself with both interest and amazement. It is important not to seek perfection or strength. Instead, the practice requires balance and attention. The body absorbs the minds conscious effort at experience. Each pose is an attunement to both the small self (the “I”) and to the greater self (the “universe”). Step by step, practice expands our expression of the moment and connects us to the energy all around us. When our pose improves or we become stronger, we are interested, accepting and grateful.
Yoga is, of course, compatible with most spiritual traditions because it allows our wisdom to grow towards our own conceptualization of the divine. As a result, the body and the mind are aligned, united and at ease, which makes us able to accept the knowledge of our own insightful self-nature. We can approach the self with awareness and compassion. Over time, we come to realize that yoga is not a practice restricted to the mat. Instead, yoga is a precious gift of awareness and enlightenment, the practice that we bring to our daily life.
April 27, 2015
Any teacher comes to a place in our practice where we sometimes forget what it was to be a beginner. The fear, excitement, and anticipation - It was all new, and maybe we weren't sure it was even going to stick. Maybe we experimented for a while, and came back later. The truth is, it doesn't really matter how it happened. We didn't know that we were about to embark on a journey that would forever change us to our cores. We know now that yoga is not simply a physical practice. It's physical, emotional, and spiritual; Yoga is holistic and it can touch so many areas of one's life. Yoga is a lifestyle choice.
Unless we take the time to actively reflect on how that felt, how it felt to be clueless, it can become frustrating to instruct new yoga students who are still figuring it out. I'm sure everyone has had that one student, but really, whom has everything figured out? Don't forget where you started, be gentle, and use your passionate peacefulness to inspire others. Don't forget about why you began this practice, and no, I'm not talking about when your best friend dragged you in to her yoga class. Why did you stay? Why did you come back? What motivated you to make a change?
Change is hard. Change is scary. Changing your whole lifestyle is harder and scarier. Be gentle with new students who are just beginning. They may need a "first" yoga class six times over. You never know how hard it was for someone to begin his or her first session. It may have taken much more courage than you can see. Gentle inspiration will always go farther than irritated intimidation.
Get in the practice of beginning every session in that mindset. Others can always feel your mood and energy in the room. Do you emanate peace, serenity, and inspiration? Or can the others around you sense that you've forgotten why you're here?
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." ~ By Wendy Mass
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