The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga

The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga

An Effective Teaching Practice is as Easy as A-B-C


What is it that makes a yoga teacher skilled, effective, and relatable? In reality, there are as many answers as there are yoga teachers… but there are some key principles that should always be considered. These principles are the foundation of a teaching practice. Let’s call them The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga.
Surprisingly, the ABC’s are not always taught in teacher trainings, and many teachers find themselves stumbling through their classes when just starting out. But– the good news is that you don’t have to! I’ve outlined everything you need to know here.
As a yoga teacher, your teachings are an extension of your own embodied practice. So, I encourage you to first put the ABC’s into action on your own mat. From there it will be easy and natural to share them with your students.
Here’s a quick note on what we will cover:
A: Alignment and Awareness
B: Breath and Balance
C: Coordination and Connection
OK! Let’s dive into this Yoga Alphabet 🙂 Beginning, of course, with A!

A is for Alignment and Awareness:

Align The 3 Platforms of the Body:

Yoga Alignment is both intuitive and subtle, as well as intelligent and physical. Let’s take a look at the physical alignment principles, as most teachers will be guiding students through physical Asana.

The three platforms must be in proper alignment in order to have a safe and injury free practice over time. Many people get away with doing postures out of proper alignment for a long time- but then they pay for it with bad knees, achy backs and stiff necks! Alignment is as much about prevention of injury as it is about having an effective practice here and now.

As you guide your students through Asana, cue your students to Align–>Stabilize–>Elongate through the three platforms of the body. Tip: Start with the foundation! Always cue your students through postures from the bottom, up. (Meaning in inverted postures, you’ll begin with the neck and shoulders!)

Tadasana is a great posture for your students to examine their alignment at the beginning of class. It also serves as a good check-point throughout practice to see how things may have shifted.

Align the feet and ankles. Properly aligned feet and ankles will protect the knees from torquing, over-extending, or folding in an undesirable way.

Align the hips. This will guard the low back, and subsequently the rest of the lumbar and thoracic spine.

Align the shoulders. Shoulders in good alignment will protect the neck and cervical spine from injury.

It’s Not Yoga Without Awareness:

Awareness is truly what makes yoga Yoga. Without the element of focused awareness, yoga can easily become a glorified calisthenics practice. Here are some methods of inviting your students’ minds to tune-in to their bodies and tune-out what is not serving their practice. Tip: Do these exercises in the very beginning of class. Make it a priority to move awareness from the external to the internal.

  • Simple Guided Mindfulness: Sometimes busy minds are in need of shepherding. Create a channel for your students’ minds to flow with ease. This can be done through mindfulness of body (moving from head to toe), mindfulness of breath, or even a more creative visualization.
  • Deep Breathing: Never underestimate the power of a few deep breaths to calm the mind and reel in focus. The Nadi-Shodhana Breath is very balancing and calming, as is a simple 4-count in and out breath.
  • Just Sit: This can be challenging for some… But, the fruits of the practice are plentiful once the practice becomes established. Take the first five minutes of class just to sit comfortably in stillness with your students. It will benefit your students, and you!

One of my favorite ways to establish focus in my classes is with the recitation of MantraA Mantra is simply a repeated word, phrase, statement, or sound that can be voiced aloud or internally. The process of repetition provides focus, plasticity, adaptability and concentration to the mind; just as asana does for the body. I usually do this with my classes in a call-and-response method, in which I say a line of a chosen mantra (or chant) and the class repeats it back aloud. In my personal practice, I have found the use of a Meditation Mala to be very helpful in my awareness/meditation practice. You can find Meditation Malas in my shop HERE.

B is for Breath and Balance:

 

Breath Is The Best Barometer:

This is the constant thread of the practice. The breath is always, always, always available as an object of awareness. In every posture, from simple sitting meditation to the most complex twist or balance, the breath is there and willing to guide you deeper into awareness. Try it now! Close your eyes and try to follow your breath for three in-and-out cycles. You may be surprised how tempting it is to get off track- just do your best to keep coming back- it will always be there for you.

Teaching your students to be aware of their breath is essential. It is their best gauge in knowing if they are “pushing it” beyond a safe limit, or if they are slacking off when they should be “up-ing the ammo”. Tip: Offer reminders throughout practice for your students to check-in with their breath. Sometimes a suggestion to be aware is all a student needs. If students need more encouragement, up your own use of breath- exaggerate the sound of the Ujjayi Breath as you flow through Asana with the class.

Always do your best to cue every gross movement with breath. (Example: “Inhale, lift your arms overhead. Exhale, draw your low ribs in and extend your tailbone towards your heels.”)

Balance Is Key:

Yoga Sutra 2:46 states, Sthira Sukha Asanam. This can be translated into Each posture should be done with a balance of both effort and ease. This idea can be applied to each posture, as well as the trajectory for a full class.

Teach in a way that creates balance for your students by cuing postures sequentially. Reinforce the foundation of each pose before encouraging more challenge in complex postures. Even in a “challenge class” or “power yoga” class, you can offer a full warm up and cool down, so students feel both energized and relaxed at the end.

While many students are eager to fit themselves into the “perfect yoga body”, remind them that they are right where they are supposed to be. Encourage stability before flexibility, and tailor postures to fit the needs and balance the imbalances of the practitioners in your class.

Another Note on Balance: It is absolutely essential that, as a teacher, you are balanced in your own practice. Many teachers jump head-first into a heavy teaching schedule, leaving no time for their own practice. This leads quickly to burn out… and your students feel that! Make sure you are taking care of yourself, and doing your own practice diligently.

C is for Coordination and Connection:

The Art of Coordination:

Sometimes yoga can feel like a full-on body teaser, akin to rubbing your belly while patting your head! You know… you’re trying to balance on one foot, draw in Mula Bandha, focus your eyes, and breathe– all at the same time! Many students can feel overwhelmed by the complexity of it all. Remember that their coordination is being guided by yours.

As a teacher, learn to listen to your students’ subtle body language. Notice if they are hearing each cue you offer, and implementing them, before you move on to the next. Tip: Give Universal/General instructions prior to specifics. Gross motor movements should come before the fine-tuned energetics of each pose.

Always give your students enough time to integrate what you’ve said before moving on. It may take time before you, as a teacher, feel confident in your art of coordination- especially if you are teaching all-level classes. Overtime you will learn to read the room and coordinate your classes to fit the needs of those in front of you.

Connection, Inner and Outer:

As a yoga guide, you are helping your students find their own inner-connection. But it is not just your words and suggestions that they will listen to. Your own inner-connection becomes evident as you share with a group, as you speak aloud, and as you demonstrate postures.

Strive to deepen your own connection to your light within. Your personal practice becomes your teaching practice. In diving in deep to your own inner-space, you are subconsciously giving permission to your students to do the same. Tip: Share Your Energy and Authenticity.  Students want to learn from you.  Connect to your true voice.

Making an “outer” connection with your students can also help to transform their practice. Let your students feel fully seen and supported by making eye contact and personalizing cues when appropriate. Always make sure you are visible to your class, as many students are visual learners. Mirror your students if possible, so you remain face-to-face with the group.

 

 

 

Beyond The ABC’s….

A little bonus for those of you who are ready to take your teaching practice all the way to Z… Because the true art of teaching is more than mastering a few skills. It takes an honest commitment to the practice, willingness to evolve, and the ability to listen to the needs of your students. To effectively transmit the embodied teachings of yoga, practice being a teacher, not just an instructor.

Instructor VS. Teacher

Instructor: Passes on knowledge usually in a scripted manner, similar to reading from a curriculum, and may not have true understanding of what or why. They likely think, “this is how I was taught to do it,” without questioning.

Teacher: Understands the how and why behind the material, and presents material to meet students where they’re at. They modify their teaching to address different learning styles, and to engage every student. Material is never passed on without knowing why – for safety, for tradition, for challenge and self-growth, etc. 

Bonus Material!

In Application:

Included here is an example Asana Sequence to show how the ABC’s can be directly implemented into the flow of a class:

Begin in Tadasana: grounds students in alignment and awareness from the foundation

Open with Breath + Chanting: bring the body and mind away from the external and into the internal

Ardha Surya Namaskar: build up in repetition, with emphasis onalignment and breathv 

Flow through Dynamic Asanas: warm up thes and educate areas of the body that will be opening more deeply as class progresses

Surya Namaskar with Variations: add a twist/get creative, building up from simple to complex

Virabhadrasana-2 (Warrior 2): flow with externally rotated standing poses to open the hips and build strength in balance

Prasarita Padotanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold): bridge between right and left, elongate the muscles that have been strengthening and engaging

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon): Cue with other options (use of props or different posture for less advanced students) with an emphasis on coordination

Garudasana (Eagle’s Pose): Move from simple to complex, with optional use of props

Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise): Continue to challenge coordination and balance

Bakasana (Crow Pose): Give options to keep the class connected and not lose the flow of the practice. Note: Know if you are turning it into a “workshop” or regular class on the schedule. There’s a difference…

Backbends: simple to complex. Be inclusive!

Seated and supine poses: restore the body and calm the nervous system before savasana

Full Savasana: Encourage your students to completely let go, and give into the deep rest they have been working towards all practice

Closing: One of the best times to deepen connection to the practice and to something bigger than the self.

 

 

Definitions from Oxford English Dictionary:

Alignment: Arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.

Awareness: Knowledge or perception.

Breath: An inhalation or exhalation of air from the lungs.

Balance: An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Stability of one’s mind or feelings.

Coordination: The ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.

Connection: A relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.

 

 

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Balancing the Chakras : A Simple Guide

Meditations, Mantras and Movement to Keep Your Chakras In Balance

What sets Yoga apart from other calisthenic routines?

The ancient yogis knew of something beyond the outer shell of movement- something deeper than muscles and bones- yet something just as important to shaping our physical health.

What they looked at and sought to keep healthy through their physical routine was the Chakra System.

So, what’s a… Chakra??

A Chakra (literally Wheel in Sanskrit) is an energy center or wheel of energetic movement in the body. It is part of the body’s subtle anatomy; and though subtle, has major effects on the gross, physical body and mind.

There are 7 major Chakras, which run along and align the spinal column, ranging from the base of the pelvic floor to the crown of the head.

Each of these 7 Chakras has a specific energetic and emotional quality, associated color, sound, and deeper meaning.

Often when we feel out of balance- angry, saddened, over-whelmed, exhausted- it is a sign that our deeper, more subtle self is in need of some serious restoration. Therefore, a great way to target the root of our imbalances is to look at the Chakras, and bring them back into balance first.

Below, you’ll find a simple guide to the Chakras, and how to bring them back into balance:

MULADHARA (ROOT CHAKRA):

Location: At the base of the spinal column, centered in the Pelvic Floor / Energetic Qualities: Stability, Security, Safety, Fear & Fearlessness / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unsafe and fear-laden

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Lying on your back, with your hands on your low belly, imagine red light charging through your spine down to the base, igniting new life and energy with each breath.

Mantra: “I fearlessly take on the challenges of life. Trusting my inner-guide, I face the unknown with love.”

Movement: Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose). This posture requires strength, poise, and confidence. Open your heart wide and feel the power of your lower body. Breathe deeply all the way into the Pelvic Floor.

 

SVADISTHANA (SACRAL CHAKRA):

Location: Just above the pubic bone, below the naval / Energetic Qualities: Creativity, Sexual Energy, Personal Expression / When you’re out of balance: You may feel “stuck” or uninspired

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice simple seated meditation, follow your breath and soothe your mind into stillness. Creativity is the product of a clear mind. Sometimes just finding some peace and quiet is all you need.

Mantra: “I am available for creativity to flow through me with abundance and ease. I reflect the creation of all life, and recognize the gift of creation within me.”

Movement: Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose). This posture requires strength and ease, and challenges the muscles of the pelvic floor and abdomen to maintain a long, supple spine. It sparks awareness and stillness. Root firmly, and maintain a soft gaze.

 

MANIPURA (SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA):

Location: At the Solar Plexus, between the naval and the breast bone / Energetic Qualities: Personal Power, Will, Decision Making / When you’re out of balance: You may feel uncertain, weary, uneasy about a decision

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice Kapalabhati Breath (Skull Shining Breath). Breathe in deeply through the nose into the belly, let out quick exhalations through the nose, as the navel “snaps” back toward the spine. Before trying this on your own, ask a teacher for proper instruction and safety guides!

Mantra: Simply state, “I am” with each inhalation. With each exhalation, bring your awareness to your physical presence, stating “here”.

Movement: Plank Pose. Yes, a simple posture to refine your core muscles and define the strength of your abdomen. Gently draw your navel toward the spine, reaching through your crown, broadening across your chest, and pressing out through your heels.

 

ANAHATA (HEART CHAKRA):

Location: At the heart center / Energetic Qualities: Loving-Kindess, Acceptance of Self and Others, Compassion / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unloved or unloving, disconnected, impatient

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Simple sitting, with hands on your heart. Breathe into your heart space, filling it up with air and letting it flow out. Practice until you feel your chest and shoulders softened and available to move freely.

Mantra: Loving-Kindness “May my heart be filled with loving kindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy”

Movement: Ustrasana (Camel Pose). This backbend opens the heart, strengthens the back muscles and invites you to breathe into the chest and ribs. Keep the neck and throat soft, and use the stability and strength of your legs to ground.

 

VISHUDDHA (THROAT CHAKRA):

Location: In the throat / Energetic Qualities: Verbal Expression, Speaking our Highest Truth, Communication / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unable to say what you need to, afraid to share your truth

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Recite “AUM” with clarity, taking equal time to pronounce each sound “A-U-M”. Don’t be afraid to make noise! The point is to hear yourself, and to get past the discomfort of opening up.

Mantra: “I speak my truth with confidence and clarity. I listen deeply to myself and to others, and communicate with ease.”

Movement: Matsyasana (Fish Pose). Try this assisted with two blocks, one underneath the scapula, and one supporting the head. Lengthen through your toes, and allow your throat space to open as you relax the face and breathe.

 

AJNA (THIRD EYE CHAKRA): 

Location: Just at the Pineal Gland (Third Eye), set between the brow bones / Energetic Qualities: Insight and Intuition / When you’re out of balance: You may feel lost or untrusting of yourself

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: With eyes closed, bring your inner awareness to the place between your brow. Keep your inner gaze alive and bright, as practice maintaining focus on this area.

Mantra: “I am connected, at peace, and present.”

Movement: Balasana (Child’s Pose). Allow your head to rest fully, either on the floor, or on a bolster or block. Soften the muscles of the face, and allow the gently pressure of the position bring your awareness to your third eye.

 

SAHASWARA (CROWN CHAKRA):

Location: At the crown of the head, rising up like a “Thousand Petal Lotus Flower” / Energetic Qualities: Trust in your Highest Self, Connection to Self, to all things, and ultimately to the Essence of your True Nature / When you’re out of balance: You may feel lonely, unsupported or irrelevant

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice inhaling and exhaling bright white light in through your crown. Inhale, white light filters in the body all the way down the spine. Exhale, white light leaves through the crown, shooting back out and creating a field around you.

Mantra: “AUM. I am one with all that is.”

Movement: Sirsasana (Headstand). Please consult a yoga instructor before attempting this posture. Grow through the spine, reach the tail and the toes upward. Use your foundation wisely, planting the forearms/hands firmly into the earth. Breathe deeply into the body, and keep a soft gaze.

 

 

Happy Balancing, Yogis!

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy

 

 

Learn How to LOVE Every Bit of Your Yoga Business

Whether you are one of the many new members of our growing community, or have been with us right from Day 1, we wanted to share something with you that might come as a surprise.

We don’t fundamentally see this as a business school.

How could the Yoga School of Business NOT fundamentally be a business school, you ask?

It’s a question we get all the time.

We are an organization that supports yoga teachers to do more of the yoga you love, more easily. We chose business education as a means of doing this because there’s a lack of accessible, affordable, specialized yoga business training.

The effect of this unavailability is really showing.

It’s rare to hear someone come out of a yoga class not feeling rejuvenated. Yet it is equally as rare to meet a yoga teacher who is totally fulfilled with their business, from their finances to their life balance. As the teacher, you deserve to thrive from your practice in all areas of your life, just as much as your students do. But part of what you need to realize this, is missing.

Many of you have received only part of the education you need to have the full, balanced, thriving practice you want. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

The challenge is mostly not related to your asana. Sure, you always want to improve your practice. But the underlying reason why many teachers struggle to make a great living, balanced with an equally great personal life, is that you have never learned essential business skills, like how to:

Market yourself, authentically (i.e. no cheesy sales person)
Discover your niche
Charge what you’re worth (or do your taxes!)
Get organized
(let alone how to keep up your own practice)
What started as our quest to make a difference in yoga teachers’ lives has grown into a pioneering school that provides the best, most convenient, affordable business education for yoga teachers.

Here is what one of our students had to say:

As a new yoga teacher with absolutely no business experience, I was looking to gain more insight and knowledge on how to find success in my new career path, while still finding time for my personal life.  After just the first two months of training, I have already noticed a positive shift in my life, both in my career as a yoga teacher and in my own personal life experiences.  This training has provided me with not only useful information on how to market my business and stay organized, but also on how to shift my perspective on my life as a whole in order to find success in everything I do.  This is a life-changing course, which can only benefit those who wish to be a part of it.  The weekly coaching calls provide me with great support and insight from those who have been in my position before and truly want to help me achieve my goals and dreams.  I am so excited to continue growing, learning, and finding success throughout the remainder of the training, and to carry on all that I have gained into my life after the training ends.
– Chantelle King

If you are a Yoga Teacher and want to learn how to create a truly abundant practice, come to one of our upcoming FREE INFORMATION CALLS to learn more about
The Yoga Business Builder: A Coaching Program for Yoga Teachers.

Program Outline & Tuition: The Yoga Business Builder: Online
Faculty: Stephanie Tait & Stacy McCarthy
Free Informational Call on September 16 @ 11:45am PST
Dates: Training is from September 2010 – June 2011
Capacity: 12 students
Learn more:  RSVP for the FREE Information Call at info@yogaschoolofbusiness.com
(Early Bird Special ends September 20)

Program Outline & Tuition: The Yoga Business Builder: OnlineFaculty: Stephanie Tait & Stacy McCarthyDates: Training is from September 2010 – June 2011Capacity: 12 studentsLearn more:  RSVP for the FREE Information Call at info@yogaschoolofbusiness.com(Early Bird Special ends September 20)

Fill Your Yoga Practice Now! Exclusive Live Event

Fill Your Yoga Practice Now! Exclusive Live Yoga Business Coaching Event Stacy McCarthy & Stephanie Tait Founders, Yoga School of Business
Nowadays, realizing success as a yoga teacher doesn’t just start and end with a good class. You have to know how to run and grow your business if you really want to be able to teach full-time, make a decent living at it, and balance out your personal life.

During this one day live yoga business coaching event, you will learn how to grow your practice though some of the most effective business growth tools and strategies available specifically for the unique needs and desires of yoga teachers.

You’ll start the day with Stacy’s signature “Fire Up Flow” Asana Class & end the day with a “Business Breakthrough” Restorative Yoga Class.

In this Live Coaching Event, you’ll learn how to:

1. Develop a Marketing Strategy as unique and in integrity as you are (without having to spend money buying more “stuff” to help you market yourself.

2. Master How to Talk About Who You Are & What You Do in a way that attracts more ideal students to practice with you and grows your practice.

3. Discover Your Niche – your unique place in the whole yoga field where you have the greatest potential to really stand out in the fast growing yoga field. Create a truly abundant practice & enjoy the personal rewards of building a career in this field.

Program Details:

Program Material Sent to You On-Demand.
Within 24 hours of your registration & payment, you will receive about 4 hours of rich pre-recorded program content to empower you to create an abundant yoga practice. This material is delivered to you in a format like a private, online presentation by your master teachers, Stacy and Stephanie. All you will you have to do is click on the link provided, and the online presentation will run right from your computer, whenever you are ready for it.

During the Live Event, you’ll deepen your understanding of the materials, practice what you’ve learned, & receive direct feedback about how you are going to apply it to grow your practice.
Program Material Sent to You In-Print.
The contents of online presentation will also be sent to you in downloadable PDF, so you can print it out separately to study when you are not at your computer.

Date, Time, Location
Date: Saturday, March 27th
Time: 12:00 – 6:00pm
Location: The Yoga Mandiram @ 2121 Newcastle #E, Cardiff By the Sea, CA.

Investment:
If you sign up by Wednesday, March 17th @ midnight, this live yoga business coaching event will only cost you only $129.95 + tax. Registrations after March 17th are $159.95 + tax.
Don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to fill your yoga practice NOW! Accelerate the results you are seeing from all your efforts to grow your practice
Register Here!

Is Yoga A Religion?

Is Yoga A Religion?


Every so often, I will be at a social event and someone will introduce me to his or her friends as their yoga teacher and the friend will ask, “So do you study Hinduism or Buddhism?” There is an assumption that because of the use of Sanskrit words, chanting, or the study of ancient yogic texts such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra that yoga has a religious affiliation.

According to T.K.V. Desikachar, a prominent yogi credited with being a driving force behind the resurgence of Hatha yoga in recent decades, “Yoga is not a religion and should not affiliate with any religion”. Yoga has no religious obligations, no singular creed and it has no rituals that profess a faith such as baptism or confirmation.

So, if yoga is not a “religion” is it a hobby, a sport, an exercise routine, or a discipline such as the study of medicine or martial arts? In some ways, yoga represents all these things and more.

Many students come initially to yoga for the many health benefits. Eventually with regular practice, many find the meditative effects on the mind and emotions can become a spiritual experience.

So then, what is spirituality?

Some equate spirituality with praying, meditating or even reading enlightening literature. In its basic form, it’s your level of consciousness. It’s the way you get in synch with yourself, connecting with who you are on a deeper level. It’s the connection to our inner self. If religion could be referred to as the external frame or organizational structure for it’s congregations, then spirituality would be the internal connection and understanding of one’s self and their place in the universe.

Yoga puts us in touch with this inner self, no matter our outer beliefs.