Practice leads to a deepening of self-awareness, of perception, of “sensitivity.” While many students naturally discover this powerful effect of a mindful yoga practice, teachers may wish to encourage students’ growing consciousness and skill. There are many ways to help students focus on and take note of this vital aspect and effect of their practice. Some include:
- By avoiding socialization during practice, students have more ability to turn inward.
- If music is played, choosing types without words in students’ native language and those that are soothing and non-intrusive can support the process rather than distract from it.
- After giving instructions for entering a pose, we can be quiet to allow students time to shift from listening and striving to respond to instructions toward experiencing the pose and their sensations.
Because of my eating disorder, my own core was a very dark area. But through consistent and detailed work, I was able to harvest the darkness right out of me… A lot of the processes that I teach employ awareness strategies for people in motion. For me, it’s more important that students have an embodied understanding of their natural human movement; instead of perfecting asana, I want people to become specialists of their own bodies. – Jill Miller
Somatics shows us that moving slowly can have miraculous effects on chronic pain and other conditions. In vinyasa, the focus can be on keeping the mind on the breath and the movement and making every movement with this conscious presence. This focus on presence, breath, and the inner self may be the fundamental reason for the miraculous effects of yoga.
Compare Experience Through Repetition
- You may wish to have students practice a pose twice or more during class, specifically to notice any differences.
- If the first practice time is early in class, the pose should, of course, be gentle enough to need little preparation.
- Forward bends and hip openers such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) with hands to blocks, Sucirandhrasana (Eye of the Needle) perhaps with foot to wall and Supta Padangustasana (Reclined Hand to Toe) with a strap could be considerations.
- Or you might practice a pose multiple times within a focused section on, say, backbends and notice differences in the experience of the pose after multiple repetitions, whether at the beginning and end of the subroutine or multiple reps in a row at the peak of the section, for instance.
Notice & Listen to Sensation & Tension
- We endeavor to truly feel the sensations in the body and to notice holding and tension that was previously unconscious.
- And we may need to help students learn how to differentiate sensation and pain or how to view pain as a message to be heeded.
- The teaching here is both to listen and to learn how to interpret and respect the messages.
The Focus Of Asana: Not on Performing But On Expanding Awareness
The Inner Life of Asanas is guides practitioners in using poses as a doorway inward. Swami Lalitananda offers inspiration for using the shapes, names, ancient teachings and one’s personal experiences with poses to invoke questions & reflection. Here she summarizes this approach:
The focus is not on performing, but on expanding awareness of ourselves at every step of the way. We are gradually led to the vibrant symbolic nature of the asanas as mudras, waiting to be unsealed like royal letters. The combination of body, mind and symbol is a catalyst that inspires insights. What has been hidden—our fears and our potential—can be revealed. What is offered is the chance to evolve, to move closer to the Light of our inner nature or essence. – Swami Lalitananda