Having danced all my life, I was growing ever wary of the injuries and frustrations that came with them. I sought a solution and began my journey towards teaching yoga in 2013. With the intention of showing people a kinder, more inclusive approach to exercise and injury prevention, I knew this was something special right away.
In this short time my intentions have shifted to the more spiritual elements of yoga and I continue to be fascinated with what it can bring to our daily lives.
However it wasn’t until I spoke to my students this week on the subject that I learnt just how far the effects of my teaching could go.
Every week I am told of an old injury that no longer tweaks or how someone is practising an asana they never thought they could have done without a cue that just really brought everything together for them. I asked my students to think about their world outside the classroom, what has shifted for them on the inside, especially moments when yoga may be the last thing on their minds – I really wasn’t prepared for the responses.
Humorous, interesting and very touching; my affirmation for teaching is renewed and more rock solid than ever; and my intention has changed once again. More on that later.
One of the first responses I received was, “I now look better in a bikini”. Great! Who doesn’t want that? But this particularly dedicated student went on to say that her posture has improved and furthermore she has gained better confidence when walking into a room of new faces. You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand the immediate affects of how you hold yourself, on your own emotional state as well as how others perceive you. However this is at times hard to remember when we aren’t feeling particularly social or confident and so having a better posture can give the appearance of being positive and self-assured which can be really engaging when meeting new people.
Yoga can significantly improve our posture the more we practise and work on our balance and strength. By lengthening the spine and improving core strength, we gain the sensation of becoming more open and growing a bit taller. We feel lighter yet more grounded and who wouldn’t feel more confident with that combination of sensations whizzing through our body?
A school teacher who makes an evening class of mine when she isn’t busy with marking homework, has an extensive dance background. However reigning in her hyper-flexibility and encouraging the use of breathe has been a familiar challenge for me. I was glad to hear she wasn’t feeling restricted in anyway and instead she said that the next day at school she is always a lot calmer during her morning classes. This is a rewarding thing to hear from anybody but knowing that her calmer disposition affects younger members of our community really resonated with me. She can communicate better with the students and think more clearly throughout her lessons because her body and mind are more at ease with one another.
Another one of my students who also mentioned the affect of calmness prior to the class is currently studying a Masters degree. She has realised how the breathing techniques in class are just as effective at her desk at home. Whether it’s to de-stress or to energize, the short breathing exercises are now a part of her study process.
Bodily awareness was another reccurring response that I received. Realising the physical benefits as a whole body work-out is why I think a lot of people stick with yoga, especially with styles that really make you stretch or sweat.
Further to this I was told “It has given me a greater awareness of my body as a whole and highlights areas of weakness.” The message of not going ‘too far’ and only finding the point of uncomfortable not painful is something my students are probably sick of hearing but it is something I will never cease to repeat because there is no sense to risk an injury in yoga, or in anything. Finding out the class has highlighted weaknesses may not sound positive but this only shows a higher bodily awareness and so means less risk of injury. Knowing our weaknesses is a great focus for goal making and also accepting our bodies for what they are individually and that in it’s self is a big achievement.
I have never doubted the endless benefits of yoga however I have realised that the short hour and a half I spend with each class can help to shape not only their week ahead but their behaviour patterns and how they feel about themselves.
As we all know our behaviours ripple on to everyone that we meet and if you agree with the theory of Three Degrees of Influence, everyone that they meet and that they meet.
After researching for this one article thinking about the power of yoga has really blown my mind and re-energized my teaching. And my new intention? To serve each class with all that I have and to continue to learn about the amazing, beautiful species we call human beings.
Author: Sinnead Ali – Yoga Teacher