Teaching Hatha Yoga – Keys to Student Development

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Do you want to develop successful students? Of course you do. Every Yoga teacher is proud of their students. The student who overcomes a disability, and the student who changes his or her life for the best, are stories which make all of us feel satisfied that we became Yoga teachers.

How do we point students toward self-development? When a student takes responsibility for his or her own practice, this is the beginning of empowerment. It is wise to inspire your students to, at least, perform a short practice at home.

We have all had a phone call from a potential student who can only come to class once a week. This is fine, if the student takes the practice home. What about the student who tells you he or she cannot meditate alone? What about the student who has no time?

Your answer might make them laugh. Here it is: Do you have three minutes per day to spare for Yoga? If that is not possible, their problem is time management or procrastination. In reality, who cannot spare three minutes in the morning or evening?

Next, ask your students to try one minute of meditation, at home, per day, in the morning or evening. Ask them to observe only and not to judge. Breath awareness is fine for new students, because it is easy for home Yoga practice. Keeping their eyes open, or closed, does not matter, but they should try both methods.

The next student task for home is pranayama (Yogic breathing). Anyone can find one minute to spare for pranayama practice. Let’s be honest, our students breathe all day, but some self-discipline is required to breath with rhythm for only one minute.

Any method will do, but Bastrika, Brahmari, Ujjayi, Udgeeth, Nadi Shodana, Dirgha, or Kapalabhati pranayama, are good choices. Obviously, it would be best for students to choose one or two methods for a one minute session.

Now, you can guide your students toward a one minute asana home practice session. This would be two postures, which are counter-poses of each other.

However, I often suggest they try seated pelvic circles, which are practiced in many Hatha classes, but you see them, most commonly, in Kundalini Yoga practice. This practice massages the vital organs, eliminates toxins, is good for skeletal health, and stimulates internal energy.

Students can sit in Sukasana (Easy Pose) or on a chair. Then, they would slowly rotate the torso 360 degrees, in slow and gradual circles. The spine should be straight, as possible, the entire time. After 30 seconds, they should rotate in the opposite direction.

So, now you have it: A three minute Yoga session. You will discover that some students have a procrastination issue, but most of your students will tell you they continued to practice Yoga for many more minutes. Between us, three minutes for Yoga is better than none at all, but the true purpose is to create a “spark.”

It is up to our students to “keep the fire going.” Yoga at home will improve their lives, but they have to get a taste of it, in order to realize the deeper joy of the practice.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Teaching Hatha Yoga – Keys to Your Personal Development

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Anyone who decides to become a Yoga teacher gives quite a bit back to the local or world community, through selfless service. In fact, giving is very rewarding when you have the ability, or the time, to contribute to a student’s well-being or give to a worthy cause. You can be so caught up in other peoples’ lives that you tend to forget about your own well-being.

From the outside, looking in, Yoga teachers might appear self-absorbed. The student, who becomes a teacher of Yoga, has taken the practice to a different level; and sometimes, places physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development, on the “back burner.”

It is important to stop, “smell the flowers,” and take time for self-reflection, once in awhile. It is difficult to “pull your head out of the books.” Many Yoga teachers are researching, finding solutions for their students, or reading scriptures. These are valuable contributions, but we must also find balance in our lives.

After all, we talk to our students about the importance of balancing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. We are supposed to “walk the talk,” but we are still human. Yet, the time you take for self-analysis and proper direction is valuable.

This reminds me of a story my grandfather used to tell me about a carpenter who never had time to repair his own house. He was always busy making money repairing somebody else’s house. His wife had a list of home repairs, but he was still too busy giving estimates at night. Finally, she hires a handyman to repair her house and falls in love with him.

My grandfather was a jovial general contractor, so he enjoyed telling a joke or story as much as we enjoyed listening. Now, what does this have to do with Yoga? Life is a matter of priorities. You might say, “This sounds like a time management problem to me.”

To be honest, improper time management causes a lot of stress and anxiety. To manage time correctly, you need a system, but you also have to plan “free time” for yourself. You will need to balance time for family, friends, work, co-workers, and students.

One simple method is to plan the day ahead on the night before. This gives you a short-term view of the upcoming day. I still like to write it down with a pen on paper, because I can still envision the handwritten list in my mind later on. However, a lap top, personal digital assistant, or PC will also do.

Another method is to go to bed an hour early, and then wake up an hour earlier. If you are a “morning person,” you can get so much done in the morning, while the world is at rest.

Now, if you become very successful at planning and completing your daily tasks, please do not fill your day with work. Allow some time for family, friends, students, personal Yoga practice, and a little free time to smell the flowers.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications