Yoga: A True Mind-Body Practice

by Joy Keller and Kate Watson on Oct 24, 2012

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Many yoga teachers learn that it takes special skill and expertise to teach beginners. Intermediate and advanced students are more familiar with asanas and cues, so they generally respond well to transitions, which makes it easier to create a successful sequence. At the Yoga Journal Conference in San Diego this summer, Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga, New York City, shared the following advice on how to teach novices:
  • “Unpack” complex poses and offer the basic option. For example, instead of teaching the full expression of bakasana (crane pose), instruct students to do essentially the same pose while lying on their backs.
  • Create fun, basic sequences that introduce the elements of flow and proper breathing patterns.
  • Refrain from teaching full inversions, arm balances and chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose).
  • Prepare a detailed class plan and practice it with a beginner’s mind to experience how it feels in your own body.
  • Use simple, clear language.
Also at the conference, Rod Stryker, one of the leading yoga teachers in the United States, reminded attendees that hatha yoga practice is comprehensive. It includes “the full span of everything we do—and a lot of things we don’t do,” he said. “It is a way of aligning oneself with the ultimate reality in a way that allows us to see that there is no difference between ourselves and what we are seeking.”

The word hatha means union of sun (ha) and moon (tha). Moon practice, Stryker said, revolves around calming and stabilizing the mind. Like the mind, the moon is always changing—just as the phases of our life are always changing. Moon work includes forward bends and gentle twists—with long holds and no microadjustments—as well as meditation and savanasa.

Sun practice is about generating vitality and subtle awareness. “We basically eat sunlight,” Stryker reminded students. “Sun gives us life.” Components of sun work include backbends, lateral stretches, pranayama and bandha practice.

There is also fire practice, which focuses on deeper spiritual development.
—By Joy Keller and Kate Watson

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About the Authors

Joy Keller

Joy Keller IDEA Author/Presenter

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master.

Kate Watson

Kate Watson IDEA Author/Presenter