15 : Sequencing

Before TTC, i always wonder how do instructors plan out their class and how they manage to keep it fresh and not boring every time.

The yoga classes i have attended so far are always different in it’s flow, poses as well as speed. No two classes are the same. Hence, the topic of sequencing intrigues me alot as it shows the creativity of the instructor to bring a fun, challenging and non routine base class to his or her students. Are there any secret to sequencing? Are there do’s and don’ts?

Over the years of attending classes, i have somehow actually narrowed down certain things that i like and don’t like from the classes i have attended. Some of the most major ones include sequence that can flow. It is important to move from one pose to the other gracefully and not have abrupt changes from pose to pose. I am also not fond of sequence that do not emphasise on warming up the body at the beginning of the class as to me, a proper warmed up body will help subsequent poses to be easier and deepen the asanas. I also like sequence that are not predictable as predictability can reduce student’s alertness to the instructor.

How to build a sequence?

1. Prepare a theme, set a mood. eg : Strong Arms, Flexible Back, etc
2. Pick a peak pose. The pose done when the body is most warmed up.
3. A 60 min class should have at least minimum 8 poses.
4. Start the class with relaxation. Moving on to warming up poses, poses, and then ending with breathing and relaxation/shavasana.
5. It is best to have all group of asanas within the sequence. ie:- backbend, fwdbend, spinal twist, inversion, standing and arm balancing.
6. Ensure proper counter poses are introduced within the sequence.
7. Make sure each poses flow from one to the other.
8. Remember to make room for breathing :)

-J

14 : Chakra

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I guess chakras will be my favourite part of yogic studies. I have always been intrigued by the nature of chakras and the energy it possesses, maybe due to longevitology studies i have attended when i was young. Since then, i am always curious of the chakras within the human body and the energy it manifests.

Chakras are part of the subtle body, not the physical body, and as such are the meeting points of the subtle non-physical energy channels called nadi. There are many chakras in the subtle human body according to the tantric texts, but there are 7 chakras that are considered to be the most important ones.

1. Mooladhara/Root Chakra - Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.

  • Location: Base of spine in tailbone area.
  • Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money, and food.

2. Swadhisthana/Sacral Chakra - Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.

  • Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below the navel and 2 inches in.
  • Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure, sexuality.

3. Manipura/Solar Plexus Chakra - Our ability to be confident and in-control of our lives.

  • Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area.
  • Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence, self-esteem.

4. Anahata/Heart Chakra - Our ability to love.

  • Location: Center of chest just above heart.
  • Emotional issues: Love, joy, inner peace.

5.  Vishuddhi/Throat Chakra - Our ability to communicate.

  • Location: Throat.
  • Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings, the truth.

6.  Ajna/Third Eye Chakra - Our ability to focus on and see the big picture.

  • Location: Forehead between the eyes. (Also called the Brow Chakra)
  • Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom, ability to think and make decisions.

7.  Sahasrara/Crown Chakra - The highest Chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.

  • Location: The very top of the head.
  • Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality, pure bliss.

-J

13 : Jala Neti

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Neti is an important part of Shatkarma, the yogic system of cleansing techniques. It is intended to clean the air passageways in the head. The two main variants are jala neti (using water) and the more advanced sutra neti (using string).

Jala Neti ‘removes mucus and pollution from the nasal passages and sinuses, allowing air to flow without obstruction.  It helps prevent and manage respiratory tract diseases such as asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis‘

- from Swami Satyananda Saraswati – Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Rinsing the nasal passages with sterile saline solution helps to flush out irritants like dust and it is very healing to the delicate nasal membranes. For this technique, lukewarm salt water/saline solution is poured into one nostril using a neti pot (neti lota), so that it leaves through the other. The procedure is then repeated on the other side, and the nose is dried by bending forward and by rapid breathing without force. Throughout the process, we breathe through our mouth. After the process, rest in child’s pose for a few minutes with a towel. You may find some water is still flowing out from the nasal passage.

After nasal cleansing with the neti pot, you may find the air passageway is slightly very cooling and fresh. Needless to say, the nostrils are clean and breathing becomes slightly easier. :)

This is my first time doing Jala Neti and it is indeed a very refreshing experience. Performing pranayama after jala neti brings practices to a whole new level :)

-J

12 : Namaste

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Namaste. The divine in me honours the divine in you.

Teaching has brought a new light of yoga within me. I did a few reading online and found some tips to help everyone out there under the TTC training.

  • One of the first things most new teachers and apprentices encounter is the difficulty of maintaining their own practice once they begin to teach or assist. Continue a solid home practice during this time, and study with the teacher as often as you can. You will need to understand your style from both sides of the classroom.
  • While your schedule may be in constant flux during this period, it’s very important to make a commitment to your teacher and to your new students. You should be willing to work with your teacher in order to fully absorb all that he/she has to offer. And your commitment needs to be about more than just time: be consistent, show up every week, stay until the very end, and get to know the students you’ll be working with.
  • Always show up before the class 5-10 minutes early. Start by making sure the room is clean and tidy. Try dust-mopping the floor or folding blankets neatly to center yourself. Introduce yourself to the students in the classroom, noting the beginning students and any students with injuries, serious limitations, or physical conditions such as pregnancy.
  • In order to deepen your own understanding of how sequencing works, watch closely as the teacher leads the class from one pose to the next. Try to get a sense of where the sequence might be headed and anticipate the next pose. You should also look for the thread of the teacher’s theme for that class—what is he/she emphasising? Why has he/she explained one thing before the next? What pace and rhythm has he/she set?
  • If you must adjust, watch your student’s eyes and breath, and remind them to breathe and soften their eyes. Really see the student—what experience are they having? How can you support that experience? Your goal is to aid their learning by helping them to succeed in the pose and by keeping them from giving in to his fears or frustrations too soon. Encourage them to do their best. Don’t rob your student of their own experience—let them struggle with the pose a little. One of the most important things you can do is help your student find a middle way, since overdoing and under-doing are both harmful. Above all, don’t insist—ultimately the student should make his own decisions about their practice.
  • When touching a student, be sensitive to their emotional boundaries. Do not caress the student. If you feel that a student doesn’t want to be touched, don’t touch them. Generally, when in doubt, don’t touch. 
  • Keep it simple, Breathe with your students and speak slowly but clearly. Make your instruction more about them than it is about you.
  • Practice the sequence with your body before teaching them. You should know how the sequence feels before you share it.
  • Always be modest. Never undermine anyone.
  • The first few years are hard. You are going to make mistakes and people are going to give you attitude. Try not to be hard on yourself or your students. Learn from your mistakes, trust in the process and know that it gets easier. Be patient—you have years to develop this skill.
  • You will learn libraries of information from your students because they are all different. Don’t be scared or overwhelmed by the knowledge you have to gain because, ultimately, more experiences and more knowledge will make you a better teacher.
  • Thank them for offering you the gift of their presence and their attention. Call them by their names. Make your class a community where you’re all openly learning from each other. Soak it all in and remember that there’s always more to learn.
  • Don’t stop being a student. Take other people’s classes. Attend teacher trainings. Continue to learn. We are students first and foremost. Look at teaching as a way of sharing things that excites you. Continue to feed yourself so you can continue to share.

Ultimately, never forget why you wanted to be a teacher.
Always remind yourself why you chose the path of being a teacher before you enter each class. Remind yourself, i teach yoga because … and continue to radiate that purpose in all classes :)

My utmost gratitude to ALL my teachers all these years, i have never forgotten any of their teachings and i look forward to share and spread the knowledge to everyone. :)

Namaste.

-J

11 : Trataka

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Trāṭaka ( त्राटक ) is the practice of staring at an external object. This fixed gazing is a method of meditation which involves concentrating on a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame. It is used as a way of developing concentration, strengthening the eyes, and stimulating the ajna chakra.

The practice is by staring at a candle flame. The practice is the same up until the eyes begin to water, after which the eyes are closed, and the yogi tries to concentrate on the after image, and hold it for as long as possible. At first, it will be a real after-image, but later, it will exist only in the mind’s eye, and the exercise in concentration comes from trying to maintain it there for a long period of time.

While practicing trataka, i noticed that i am able to maintain the image of the flame for a substantial amount of time. Staring at the flames causes my eyes much discomfort due to astigmatism. However after the practice,  it surprises me that my vision is slightly clearer and my mind is very fresh and calm for as long as i can remember.

Benefits of Trataka

Shloka 2.32 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states “Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway to these problems”. Some of the benefits associated with Trataka are:

  • Improves eyesight and vision.
  • Improves concentration, intelligence and memory.
  • Excellent method as preparation for mantra meditation.
  • Enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower.
  • Develops greater work efficiency and productivity.
  • Calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence.
  • Brings greater clarity in mind and improves decision-making ability.
  • Helps to overcome mental, behavioral and emotional ailments.
  • Provides stress relief and deep relaxation.
  • Deepens the sleep and cures sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares, etc.
  • According to Gherand Samhita (shloka 5.54), Trataka promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations.

Tips for Trataka Concentration

  • Trataka is best practiced on an empty stomach during early-morning hours or late evening hours just before going to bed. If you practice it during the daytime, make sure that the room is dark so that focusing on the flame is easier.
  • Try getting a decent sized flame by adjusting the size of the wick. It will help in achieving a better after-image of the flame and it will be easier to visualize it with improved concentration.
  • Do not strain your eyes while gazing on the flame. The eyes adjust naturally in due course of time and it becomes easier to concentrate and gaze on the flame for longer periods of time.
  • As I mentioned earlier, because Trataka develops deep focus and concentration, it is used as a very effective pre-meditation stage. At the end of the Trataka routine, you may continue with your own mantra meditation.

-J