Teaching Hatha Yoga: Prana and Pranayama

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Prana, which is also known as vital energy, is in the air, our bodies, and objects around us. One of my students remarked that Prana could not be in his Yoga mat, since it was an inanimate object.

After all, his Yoga mat was not a living being, so how could it contain Prana? How could ancient Yogis know of the existence of Prana about 5,000 years ago?

We cannot visibly see vital energy? None of us can see the mind create ideas either. Yet the mind creates ideas, and we put them into action, with our voice and hands. So, Prana is not an object.

We cannot see a Yoga mat move, but it is moving all the time – at the atomic level. In fact, your Yoga mat is full of open space at the atomic level. Electrons are flying around in many open spaces within your Yoga mat.

On the other hand, we are born, live, and die, on planet Earth, a moving object, which does not appear to be moving at all. The universe is infinitely vast and infinitely small, at the same time. Prana is the power behind the perpetual movement of the universe. We now know that the universe is moving at every level.

Within Prasna Upinshad, Chapter 2, Verse 5, Prana is described in this way: “It burns as fire. It is the sun, rain, Indra, wind, earth, and it is food. It is the luminous god. It is being and non-being. It is immortality.” To go a bit further on this point, you can see Prana is a power that is everywhere, is not an object, and apparently is difficult for the human mind to define.

We are smug and take our ability to learn for granted. At the touch of our finger tips, the Internet gives us much more access to knowledge than ancient Yogis had in all of their scriptures, and in any other scriptures that existed, on earth, at that time.

However, the ancient Yogis took the time to observe nature and the cosmos. They were in tune with their surroundings and the natural laws of the universe. The ancient Yogis did not have to waste their time with spam and disinformation. Achievements and mistakes are always made, but they documented them, so we could learn from them.

Without tools, computers, or machines, Pranayama is a method to alter Prana at a level, in which the human mind can easily comprehend. Pranayama is Yoga’s answer to regulating Prana, with the breath.

In Yoga, Pranayama can be used to heal in times of need. Pranayama is useful for stress, grief, anxiety, nervousness, and many more ailments, which plague mankind, but Pranayama should be learned with the guidance of a competent Yoga teacher.

For physical health, Pranayama is the most important of Hatha Yoga’s many methods.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Teaching Hatha Yoga: How to Influence Students without Criticism

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

When you are teaching Hatha Yoga classes, do you ever want to reach out to a particular student, who does not seem to understand a Yogic technique? Maybe you feel a bit frustrated that you have covered this same point, in the last six Yoga classes, and this student was there each time, but does not comprehend it.

You must first realize this Yoga student is very loyal and should not be taken for granted. Yoga teachers are human, and feel frustration, but this is a person who willingly gives his or her time to learn Yoga from you. The Yoga teacher / student relationship should never be taken for granted.

A loyal Yoga student is valuable, persistent, dedicated, and you should make him or her aware that you notice the effort. If you praise what he or she does right, your cueing, and assisting, will not be perceived as criticism. Self-worth is part of human nature and creates a Yoga student who is anxious to perform better at your next Yoga class.

When you speak to your Yoga students, no effort, on your part, should be wasted. Each word you speak, within your Yoga class, should have a high value and purpose. Some Yoga teachers relish every opportunity to criticize their students. Criticizing gives some Yoga teachers an opportunity to hear their own voice and feel important.

Be sure that what you have to say to your Yoga students is really helpful. Remember that criticism also makes your Yoga students feel unimportant. If a student perceives that a Yoga teacher is bolstering his or her ego, through criticism, the feeling of inspiration to come to more Yoga classes is gone.

Pure criticism tends to make Yoga students, and people in general, defensive, emotionally dejected, and causes a lack of enthusiasm, within the Yoga class. Knowing this, every Yoga teacher should use his or her knowledge to influence students. The difference is that a Yoga student has a distinct feeling of free will, when a Yoga teacher influences him or her, with compassion and true purpose.

There is a reason why students keep coming back to the same Yoga teacher. The reason will differ between students, and we cannot please everyone, but Yoga teacher ethics tell us to speak, assist, and cue with compassion.

When the ego is involved in teaching, this is the opposite of Yogic philosophy. There is no place for the “drill sergeant mentality” in Yoga. The Hatha Yoga teacher, who lets his or her ego guide the lesson plan, during a Yoga class, should be teaching something else.

The point is that all forms of Yoga require teachers who listen empathically, observe with mindfulness, and find solutions for mental, physical, and spiritual health. When a Yoga teacher truly cares about a student’s quality of life, the positive energy can be felt within the classroom. This is the purest form of influence.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Yoga Meditation for World Peace

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Does world peace seem like a fantasy? What is the number one obstruction to world peace? How can we overcome such a powerful obstruction, with Yoga? Does Yoga meditation give us the answer?

The ego is the largest obstruction to world peace. One person’s ego can affect the collective consciousness of an entire country and the world. Consider history’s most famous conquerors and tyrants; their personal ambitions became an excuse to justify sacrifice, cruelty, and warfare.

What starts out as a personal matter can become a social dilemma, if one person has the influence, and an ego, which is out of control. Each of us has an ego, but we often ask others to put their egos aside before we do. We are right and they are wrong. We imply that they should listen to our side of the debate first.

How is it possible to restrain the ego? How can Yoga help control the Ego?

Yoga is designed to take care of the health of a single person. In many ways, Yoga travels to the core of the human mind, body, and spirit. One method allows an individual’s mind to be isolated through Yoga meditation practice. Yoga meditation allows the mind to withdraw from the “pains and aches of society.”

What do I mean by the pains and aches of society? Unfortunately, no society is perfect. Speak to any social worker about poverty and injustice. Each social worker receives a “bird’s eye” view of social injustice. Over the years, I have taught many social workers in my Yoga classes. It is apparent that they came to Yoga class as a sanctuary.

Why would social workers need a Yoga class for sanctuary? Social workers feel empathy, without ego, and they want to make a positive difference in modern society. They clearly see social illness, and inadequacy, on a daily basis.

How else could Yoga meditation overcome the ego? The mind withdraws from society, distractions, and multi-tasking, which forces the mind to look at itself. Yoga meditation is a systematic healing process for the individual and a remedy for society’s short comings.

In a recent conversation with a Yoga teacher, he mentioned how Yoga meditation is considered, by the public, to be “time spent doing nothing.” He completely understood the deeper value and benefits of meditation, but was concerned about how to reach his Yoga students, with overactive minds. After all, most of them would rather perform asanas than spend time meditating in a Yoga class.

The answer is: We will have to educate them, wait for them to age, or wait for the time, when they can appreciate the meditative aspects of Yoga. If Yoga students were trained to meditate as children, they would appreciate the many benefits of Yoga meditation at this moment. However, we cannot force a person to instantly meditate and “see the light.”

In order for meditation to take place, the mind must be willing to look at itself. When the collective consciousness of a society meditates on a regular basis, it will be reflected by peaceful behavior.

Yoga Meditation is a wonderful resource for mankind because it can bring the mind to a state of peace with itself. A global society, which has an addiction to multi-tasking, needs time to “unplug” itself, and Yoga meditation offers realistic solutions.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications