Personalizing Yoga: A lesson in love from my research

I’ve been searching for a class that is perfect for me.  I get around to yoga classes at the Y, gyms, and even studios. It’s been a few months and I finally found something that works just right. What clinched the prize was that I knew the teacher, and felt comfortable with her.

I realized I need to do the same in my own research class. I needed to personalize the class for each student. This makes it a bit difficult. Yoga in a studio or a gym is specialized: it’s called Gentle Yoga or Active Yoga or Family Yoga.

In my research class, each week I could end up with any of the above, or many more! Thus, somehow, I have to create each class to be special for each student who shows up.

A few little things I’ve learned that help is to personalize the class to each student by using some of the following techniques:

1. Make students comfortable by getting to know them.

a. Ask for names. I’ve been in so many classes with top-notch teachers who has no clue who I am, or where I’m coming from. They don’t know my level, or what’s happening/ happened in my life.

b. Ask about health concerns. Remind them they can bring it up at any time, not just the beginning of class.

c. Remind students to love themselves, whether it is through intention-setting, savasana, or meditation.

2. Create a community.

a. Let students get to know each other. Maybe take a walk to the bathroom before class starts. See if they start talking.

b. In research, use focus groups in addition to/ instead of individual interviews.

c. Ask everyone to help one another. Do partner yoga. Let people get to know one another. I am so touched that my students always defer to each other when deciding what type of class to have. They help each other roll mats at the end of class.

3. Show love. Let them know they are doing really great.

a. Give hugs.

When you give hugs, you get back a hug too. You exchange love in this simple way. It allows you to build a community of strength around you.

b. Root the class in love. Remember to love the body, mind, and soul. Here are a few thoughts from my article on love:

Yoga and Massage: Love for the Body

Tender touch can be healing, providing love to the being that receives it. Ayurvedic self massage is one method of massage.

“Traditional ayurvedic texts wax eloquent on the benefits” of self massage. Here’s what one says – ‘Give yourself a full body oil massage on a daily basis. It is nourishing, pacifies the doshas, relieves fatigue, provides stamina, pleasure and perfect sleep, enhances the complexion and the luster of the skin, promotes longevity and nourishes all parts of the body’” (Mapi 2005-2008).

In summary, massaging oneself regularly gives love to the body, through loss of fatigue and increased energy, better sleep, and beauty. The body is viewed as a precious present that should be cared for lovingly. Yoga (through Ayurveda) can provide the skills to be able to love one’s body through massage, allowing the practitioner to root in love for oneself. This builds self-confidence in the individual.

Living Yoga: Love for the Mind

While performing yoga asana, the student is asked to focus his/ her gaze on the third eye chakra, the point between the brows. The third eye chakra (Ajna) is the place where the nerve endings meet. By focusing on this point for 5 minutes, individuals can grow love for oneself, because they are meditating on the highest self, allowing a chance to achieve peace. The purpose of the poses is to give to those that are trying to root themselves in love for their highest self. Practitioners can also use metta meditation and body scanning techniques. The student learns to build self love through meditating on their heart’s giving and forgiving qualities that can and do expand to the rest of the body and mind, releasing any tension or stress in the body as well as the mind.

Yoga Asana: Love for the Soul

Further, yoga is life, living in the present moment and being aware of that. You love yourself when you live in the present, because you are with yourself. By not worrying about the past or the future, you are wholly present with yourself. Award-winning author Rachel Schaeffer writes, “My first brush with my own inner divinity occurred when I discovered yoga. When you do yoga, you make space. Space to breathe, space for your organs to function more efficiently and effectively, space to feel, and, mainly, space to love. Space to love and breathe into whatever is happening in your life and space to remember that you are enough—exactly as you are. This love is the foundation of a good solid relationship with oneself” (Schaeffer 2008). With yoga, the individual finds the space to love oneself, reconnecting with the spiritual side: the soul.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kelsi McMartin
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 08:16:19

    I like how yoga and meditation bring us back to the body and out of the busy mind space. Reminds me of a poem I wrote:

    How does one decide what to do?
    Notice where the breath settles
    do what’s there


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