As Yoga teachers we face a paradox. On the one hand, we want to empower our students to find their own meaning of Yoga, to find their breath and to feel their own inner teacher. On the other hand, we want them to come back again and again to our classes.
Yoga is in many ways about freedom. It is finding a freedom in our bodies that does not weigh on our spirit. It is finding a freedom of non-attachment to the material world. It is finding a freedom of truth, clarity and union within. Is it possible to teach this?
At some point, we must set our students free. Or at least encourage them to explore Yoga on their own. There is so much more to the practice of Yoga than what happens in the modern day Yoga studio. Our practice is different for each one of us and applicable to our lives in personal ways. If our students only "do yoga" when they come to class, they are missing a meaningful solo journey inward that is self-guided and directly informed by their life experiences.
As teachers, how can we inspire our students to take Yoga out of the studio and into their world and make it their own holistic life-practice? How can we encourage our students to take their practice home, traveling, into the office, to their families where they need it most?
Here are some simple suggestions to empower your students in this way.
1. Encourage students to practice certain poses/pranayama at home.
Speak to the certain benefits of poses and suggest moments in which to use the asana. Transparently talk about breathwork as a tool to relieve stress, calm the mind or energize in daily life. Directly speak about Yoga aiding daily life.
2. Teach a workshop on "developing a home practice".
Make a whole class out of it. Share tips, resources, sequences and materials to de-mystify the art of creating a Yoga class at home.
3. Bring books to your classes and share.
There are so many incredible books on the practice of Yoga and its tradition. Pique your students' interest by offering quotes, readings, and passages they can find and explore on their own.
4. Provide the space for your students to create a personal intention.
In creating the space for your students to set an intention, you are facilitating a chance for them to directly connect their Yoga practice to their life. Allow your students to connect to their own heart in each class.
5. Share information and articles on social media to get students reading about Yoga outside of studio walls.
Create a dialogue about yoga outside of your classes. Allow the tradition and inquiry of Yoga to seep into your students lives.
6. Speak about your home practice.
Remind your students that you are a student as well. You have a home practice. You once explored these poses on your own. Come to equalize yourself with your students.
7. Give them options during class.
Lead your students through an experience in their own body by encouraging them to listen and follow what they feel. Provide them with ample options to make a pose their own. This sets a foundation for your students to take ownership of their practice.
The goal is not to push students away but to empower them. May we see the world as our Yoga mat and recognize the spontaneous moments we can align with our breath and inner wisdom. There is a guru that lives inside of each one of us. May that be the essence of what we teach.