30 September 2016

sadhana suggestions for yoga teachers

Following on from my previous post about yoga practice for yoga teachers. Personal practice is called sadhana, & sadhana is done for many reasons, & many different intentions.

Some yoga teachers just l-o-o-o-ve doing postures, & they will spend hours each day, or week, mastering poses. If this is you, & you don't have much time, you can do a session or more each week, or even, every 14 days, on particular poses that you are working on. In this case, be methodical. As an example. if you are working on hanuman asana, (the splits), do some hip looseners, stretch the backs of your legs, & start by attempting the pose on cushions. Help your body! I would also recommend stretching the fronts of your legs & lower abdomen too, but stretching the hamstrings is the main stretch to do first, for hanuman asana. You can also just attempt it, each day or evening for a few seconds each time, & this is a really good way to attempt hard poses, because your body gets used to doing the poses, & gradually eases into them. Not everything has to be a mission.

For those who love to do a full, long, routine, the same suggestion applies about doing it less often, if you don't have much spare time. Once, or a few times each week for your longer routine, & if you can condense it into a smaller routine to do more often, this will keep you able to do the poses, & will help your teaching enormously. You can still hold the poses that you include, but for less breaths. 3 breaths is fine.

Another suggestion, especially for new teachers, is to fit in a few sessions of groups of poses, for yourself. For example, you could do some standing poses in a session, or some backbends, starting with easy poses, working up to the hardest that you are doing, or some forward bends. If you include a twist with each session, that would save you have to do a twist session. You might even like to do a session occasionally on inversions against the wall: handstands, forearm stands, shoulderstands, headstands.

A practice session like those mentioned can be, say, 10 minutes at a pinch, to 30 minutes. This will ease the angst about being a yoga teacher, & actually fitting in some work on the poses, for yourself. And for the new teachers, it also helps in learning the finer points of the poses.

There is always the option of going to another yoga teachers' class, just for your own benefit. I seldom do this myself, not as an ego thing, but because I don't feel the need to. And that is because I still do some postures, regularly.

And, by finding a way to keep up with the physical side of yoga, here & there, you would then feel okay about just fitting in a few sun salutes/surya namaskara, in the morning, & maybe rest in the 1/2 shoulderstand before bed. I'm not suggesting that every teacher does all this, they are just suggestions for you to mull over, to see if there is something here to suit you.

Just looking at variables, there is nothing wrong with doing your sun salutes in the afternoon, instead. Even just a few times a week.

To be honest, if you are stressed, I'd skip sun salutes & do some floor poses.....gently. Relax with each exhale. When I first started yoga, I knew a yoga teacher who had 4 children & a husband who disliked her practising yoga ("no comment" on this!) She did 10 minutes each night, of the "classical" poses: cobra, locust, bow, twist/ardha matsyendrasana, forward bend, shoulderstand, plough, headstand. She held each for 1 minute. Another great option.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who want to spend a long time each day doing advanced pranayama & long meditations. Which is also wonderful...but so impractical if you are teaching a lot, travelling to teach, & maybe have a family. For those of us who have done this.....honestly, the teacher is lucky to even get regular meals! Let alone fit in any long sadhana. What I have done, for about 6 years, is regular, shorter meditation, & do a longer one as a deep meditation, when I have more time, even if it's only once a week. Your shorter, daily meditation, is the important one! It is the one that keeps your emotional & mental equilibrium on an even keel, plus it enables us to go quickly into a meditative state without too much fluffing about.

I have noticed that if it's hard to maintain long sessions of daily poses, it's just as hard to maintain long, regular periods of intense pranayama & meditation. When we start from a shorter base time of practices, they become easier & easier to maintain. Then, when the time presents itself...we are able to do more, & it's not a great awful thing hanging over our heads. Yoga is meant to be enjoyable.

Never, ever, underestimate the power of regularity. And of course, we do have times when we are lucky to even fit in a few sun salutes & a quick meditation! Sometimes, other things must take priority, such as when you are sick....& here, rest, sleep & abstinence from practices, are the best sadhana. Or, maybe you are getting up so early to travel to teach....in this case it would be a major stress to do some sadhana first. Sometimes we just have to work with how our life is. And fit in a bit of practice around it.

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