How Yoga Anatomy Changed My Teaching

I taught dance, fitness and Pilates for 8 years before I became a yoga teacher. Some classes gave me energy and others exhausted me, so I was wary of teaching a yoga retreat because of the energy it would take to manage a group. However, it was after my yoga teacher training I gained a new perspective with managing my energy.

Anatomy in Yoga Teacher Training

When I originally learnt ‘anatomy and physiology’ I always thought muscles and bones. Thankfully, a dance background meant that I also was aware of a much deeper psychological connection to movement from good alignment, which I taught in Pilates.

Yoga Alliance, the self-regulating body for yoga teacher qualifications, has set requirements to certify a 200-hour yoga teacher training. The 20 hours of Anatomy and Physiology must include “energy anatomy and physiology (chakras, nadis, etc.)”.  This leaves it quite open to interpretation for a yoga teacher training, but as Lesley Kaminoff of Yoga Anatomy says “It is a lens through which we see the body”.

This creates a two-fold application of anatomy in yoga training: (a) biomechanics of the body, and (b) energy centres and channels, most commonly known as the chakras. Both perspectives work with the breath: the bridge of body, mind and soul.

We learnt how to structure a class based on biomechanics selecting a ‘peak’ pose and how to choose other poses to warm up the right muscles and joints to help someone fully access the peak asana. There is a nice logical to this structure that can be very safe and effective biomechanically for a balanced practice. Of course, we must always align the spine for a safe practice in all asanas.

We studied curating classes to work on specific energy centres. The chakras have a physical focal point in the body, but like the spine must always be balanced to allow energy to flow through the body properly. Chakras respond to more than a physical posture, mudras or bija sound resonate with each specific chakra.

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Putting Yoga Anatomy Into Practice

When you teach on yoga retreats you very quickly notice how ungrounded people are after travelling. The first step is to ground people back into their bodies. This also applies for a great deal of our modern life, where we live on technology, in a fast-paced world where our minds are spinning and we all think that we have no time – even though technology has given us more time! We are just awash in our minds with information and thoughts.

My tactic to teach yoga adapted quickly. Rapidly I had developed various ‘grounding’ and ‘root’ chakra focused classes. I would allow a long period at the start of class to take the time to set up ‘feeling and getting into your body’: notice the feet, pelvis, hands that support you. Then the week evolved naturally working through the chakras over the course of a week retreat as clients settled and were more comfortable with some of the emotional releases and vulnerabilities of the heart and throat chakras.

Transforming My Teaching Energy

In recognising and respecting the energy journey of my clients, I was better able to manage my own energy. They did not fight me with a desire for a different class. I could adapt my class plan to reflect different energies of the same energetic centre. This conserved my energy and I just met them where they were both at.

Clients told me that their energy was clearer at the end of class. They could feel the journey of my teaching and it brought new awareness to their relationship with their body. Many lovely things are said and humbled by their comments, it changed my experience of teaching my classes.

Secretly, I am just pleased that teaching is not exhausting me anymore. It is easy to suffer exhaustion when you teach – always motivating others is a 150% demonstration of all that you do. I get very excited as I teach so I have to moderate myself! Extroverts may find teaching energises them, but not all teachers are extroverts and this can drain an introvert or ambivert.

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Play with Your Energy Management:

  1. Take the time when you wake to know your own energy that day.
  2. Be aware of other’s energy – does your energy or mood change when you meet students, scan the room as people enter and settled.
  3. You can send back someone else's energy if they affected you, just ask it to be returned!
  4. The mutual respect and exchange we have with others can be a balance. If someone takes too much from you, imagine a bubble around you strong and stable. This is an impenetrable auric field of you.
  5. Explore different parts of your energetic areas in movement. Can you change the experience of the shape through the energy you extend out into the space around you?
  6. When you touch another do you feel an transmission of energy? A shift?