Hatha Yoga is essentially a self-practice, so as teachers, we are being most direct and to the point when we create opportunities in our classes for students to explore for themselves and experience self-connection and direction. This means getting them to make their own decisions about such things as how long to stay in a pose, how to respond to non-specific movement queues, such as "move your spine like a snake" or invitations to "make the movement your own, it doesn't matter if it looks the same or different as anyone else". We could even let them to know that the standard alignment for poses which is usually recited by teachers is just a template and that the ease, stability, concentration, & relaxation in a pose trumps specific alignments. Trumps, get it? I don't either but man, the US election is everywhere I look on the internet these days!
One of my favorite ways to set up this kind of learning experience is to lead a vinyasa sequence of about 3-5 poses. Here's a pretty standard one many teachers use.
Here's what to do...
1. If necessary demonstrate or explain the sequence step by step first, or lead the sequence slowly with key points of each pose in as few words as possible.
2. Lead the class through the sequence as vinyasa 3-5 times, conveying rhythm in the flow by the pace and rhythm of your cues and breathing in and out of each pose.
...Exhale, step forward
Inhale, Warrior I
Exhale, Warrior II
Inhale, Reverse Warrior (not shown, from Warrior II back hand down to the leg, other arm up)
Exhale, Side Angle
Inhale, Hands Down
Exhale, Step back to Plank & Down to Chaturanga
3. Repeat the sequence, now holding each position 3-5 breaths. Give additional cues and adjustments now and any insightful commentary relevant to what is being practiced(external or internal!) but as usual, use as few words as possible.
4. Now instruct the students to repeat the sequence on their own, with no queues. Tell them to relax more in each pose and breath deeply for as long as they feel able. Tell them when they are done to rest in Child's Pose, or Mountain Pose, or other asana depending on the direction you want to take. Tell them to focus on the sensations within.
In this format, any sequence of Asana can become a powerful entry into a flow state of concentration for the student, even if they walked into your class and had never performed a single yoga pose or that sequence. And, by the last round of practicing this sequence, they would be doing it completely on their own. Also, you will neatly have an opportunity to invest more into observing your students' practice since you don't need to talk or think about what to say, and as everyone knows...theres something magic about action in silence.
What does "to align" mean?
1. To arrange in a line or so as to be parallel: align the tops of a row of pictures; aligned the car with the curb.
2. To adjust (parts of a mechanism, for example) to produce a proper relationship or orientation: aligning the wheels of a truck.
3. To ally (oneself, for example) with one side of an argument or cause: aligned themselves with the free traders.
1. To adhere to a prescribed course of action.
2. To move or be adjusted into proper relationship or orientation.
All of these definitions suggest "to align" means to make separate things relevant or to reveal relationships amongst things or parts.
This requires a very important ability. Discernment. To discern anything requires seeing division or difference, which leads to counting, comparing, contrasting, noting, and assuming perspective.
Speaking of counting...where did we get the system of numbers we use for counting and describing the various aspects of nature such as time, distance, and frequency...? Our base 10 counting obviously comes from our 10 fingers and toes. Perhaps ancient humans looked on their own body and wondered what is the highest number of "parts" they have which are easily countable. Obviously it fingers and toes. And where does all the 12 and 60's come from in our measurement of time?
For example, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 12 hours of day, 12 hours of night, 12 months of the year, 12 signs of the zodiac...etc. Using these numbers for measurement came from the ancient Sumerian system of counting(which they wrote was given to them by other wordly beings). Higher numbers (past 10) were calculated by multiplying the 12 knuckles on the fingers of one hand with the five fingers including the thumb on the other. 12 x 5 = 60. This means that many of the numbers we chose for discerning or dividing space and time were derived from relationships of the human body. Sounds like a way to make things relevant?
To learn more about all these connections definitely give this video a watch!
George is the founder of Sajeeva Yoga School, and a practitioner and teacher on the journey of exploring life, truth, purpose, and
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