Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hanukkah Lessons and Yoga: Endurance and Determination

Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

There are a number of lessons that we can learn from the Hanukkah story. One of the lessons of Hanukkah is to maintain one's strength, endurance and the determination to accomplish one's goals, regardless of the obstacles in the path or the challenges that are presented. The ability of the Jewish people to survive and to thrive over time, in many different circumstances, is an inspiration to us all. If you apply the same resilient philosophy to your Yoga practice, you'll be far more able to succeed in progressing in your practice, especially when times are difficult. There are many different Yoga postures that help to nurture both physical and mental strength and endurance. 

For instance, completing the entire Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga in a heated room is quite a challenge for many students. By completing the Primary Series in one Yoga class, a student’s sense of accomplishment and the ability to prevail, even when the practice is challenging, will help to bolster the student’s sense of what is possible and improve his or her self-esteem. In the same way, practicing a series of vigorous standing poses, arm balances and core strengthening postures, such as Navasana, will help to increase your ability to follow through on your goals, as you strengthen your ability to endure and complete the practice in an unwavering, determined fashion. 

* Forearm Plank Pose or Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana

Forearm Plank Pose is a Yoga posture that quickly builds upper body and core strength. It is also a posture that is generally accessible to most Yoga students. Practicing Forearm Plan Pose, or Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana, on a regular basis will strengthen your wrists, upper arms, back, and core muscles. This pose also stretches out the hamstrings, arches of the feet and calf muscles. In addition, Forearm Plank Pose helps to release tension throughout the shoulders and relieves stress and symptoms of mild depression. 
Forearm Plank Pose is usually practiced after warming up with a series of Sun Salutations and standing asanas. When you are ready to practice Forearm Plank Pose, come to a kneeling position on your Yoga mat. You may wish to use a Yoga block in between your forearms, in order to keep your arms in correct alignment during your practice of the posture. If you're using a Yoga block, place the block horizontally across the top of your Yoga mat. 

Place each hand on the side of the block with the corner of the block resting between your thumb and your index fingers. Keep your palms flat on the mat. If you are not using a Yoga block, place your palms flat on the mat and your forearms shoulders’ distance apart. If you would like to use a Yoga block, in order to help you maintain the correct alignment in the posture, but you do not have one, a book that is approximately the same size as a Yoga block will also do quite nicely. With your next inhale; raise your body off the Yoga mat by pushing against your forearms. 

Keep your body in a straight line from your feet all the way to the top of your head, just as you would in Dandasana. Hold Forearm Plank Pose for three to five complete breaths, and then release the posture and rest for a moment in Child's Pose. Repeat Forearm Plank Pose two more times before moving on to the next asana in your Yoga practice. When the pose becomes challenging, remember to harness the fierce determination and endurance to meet your goal of holding Forearm Plank Pose for three to five breaths, just as the Jewish people did when they defeated the Syrian-Greek army in 168 B.C.E.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing assignments and may be contacted

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Key Points For Teaching Vinyasa Yoga

By Faye Martins
Vinyasa comes from the Sanskrit word meaning, "flow," and the flowing movements from one position to another are the essence of the many forms that constitute Vinyasa yoga practice. Vinyasa is often compared to a dance, and this aspect of the practice can pose special problem when teaching vinyasa yoga classes.

Occupy Your Space Fully As Teacher

In yoga, the role of the teacher is designed to be different from the role in regular sports or other exercise programs. The teacher must fill both a physical and philosophical role. The teacher must be well trained in the many aspects of yoga practice with an understanding of the various levels of ability. In addition, the teacher must also have mental calm, clarity of purpose and patience to ensure that students understand the movements at whatever level of ability they can perform. The yoga teacher should also encourage balance in students' performance, thought and emotion during the class, as befits the philosophy of yoga. If experienced students challenge the teacher, he or she should respond in a calm and professional manner, encouraging the student to achieve the best performance they can under all circumstances.

Get Off the Mat Quickly

Teachers should demonstrate flowing movements clearly to the students, but then quickly get off the mat and interact with them directly. Teachers may have a variety of different skill levels in the class. Be available to help with asanas and breathing techniques so that students can become more confident. Encouragement and correction should be both gentle and specific.

Balance Challenge with Ease

Teachers often find that relying on a continuous series of challenging asanas can overwhelm students and may become discouraging to them. Mixing challenging positions with easier ones gives students an opportunity to pace their energy during a session and creates an atmosphere of practical achievement.

Respond To Students' Concerns

Vinyasa teachers often design their programs according to their own knowledge and abilities, forgetting that students may not be aware of the hazards of some positions and difficulties in maintaining a constant "flow." Stay alert to students' concerns and be prepared to adapt your program, when necessary, to maintain interest and feelings of confidence.

Study Many Forms of Yoga

Your knowledge of the different forms of yoga practice will help you to establish a working understanding of how the various positions flow together in an integrated and manageable way. It will also help you to establish your competence with students who may have studied a number of forms of yoga in the past and will allow you to communicate with them in a knowledgeable manner. 

Be Aware of the Risks

As a teacher, you must always keep in mind the hazards of the practice. Be aware of the occasions when the student may be at risk for injury and provide helpful suggestions about maintaining control in the position. If you continue your studies of yoga, you can more easily keep in mind the many areas of potential problems where your student may need additional help and guidance. An understanding of problems with balance, flexibility and smooth transitioning can help you to provide the information and encouragement that your students will need.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA.