Mark Stephens Yoga Blog
These writings are informal reflections on practicing and teaching yoga. Click on any title to read the entire piece.
With more and more students opting for open-minded teachers on a consciously evolving path rather than gurus claiming to transmit pure ancient teachings, students are increasingly setting higher standards for teachers’ overall knowledge and technical skill.
Ancient writings on yoga explain this with the koshamodel, in which prana—the life force that we cultivate through the breath—is the mediating force unifying body and mind (vayutattvain the Samkhya branch of ancient Indian philosophy).
Part of the beauty of yoga asana practice is that each and every different asana highlights tension and other sensation in the body. Paying closer attention, we also come to detect how the different asanas stimulate different emotional and mental reactions; a certain posture done in a particular way, time, or other circumstance tends to generate its own somewhat unique effects on the mind. Each asana also tends to affect the breath in different ways, however subtle the differences may be.
The evolution of one’s awareness is an integral aspect of yoga as a transformative practice. In Hatha yoga—the big umbrella over all styles, brands, and lineages utilizing postural and movement techniques—this practice is one of more fully awakening and deeply integrating on the path to a more holistic, congruent, and healthy life.
Poses are static representations of idealized forms, something models do for cameras in an effort to send an external message. Typically airbrushed and enhanced in other ways, they are anything but real. Asanas, by contrast, are alive and personal; they are an expression of organic human beings exploring, living, and intentionally evolving in the temple of the bodymind. When we appreciate a student through the wisdom of our heart, then we more naturally see the intrinsic beauty already manifest in their practice.
Using your hands to accentuate and refine what you are trying to convey with words or visual modeling can make all the difference in a student’s ability to comprehend and internalize whatever you are trying to share. With clearer, more manifold co
Cuing students in the asanas with a balanced attitude of vairagya (letting go) and abhyasa (persevering practice) helps ensure that students feel supported in their practice while feeling free of attainment-related expectation.
In communicating with our students to convey insights about how they might best approach and explore their practice in a way that reflects and embodies the principles of steadiness and ease, perseverance and nonattachment, we can tap into a variety of resources—speaking, demonstrating, touching, and for some even singing to evoke the spirit of being fully in this self-reflective and potentially transformational practice.
At the risk of stating the obvious, in practicing yoga we all start from where we are—this in contrast to where someone else might think we are or where we ourselves might mistakenly think we are. Many teachers have preconceived or ill-informed ideas about the abilities or interests of their students while many students over-or underestimate their immediately present ability. How as teachers might we best navigate these realities?
There is no end to how much we can learn and evolve as teachers.
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Mark Stephens Yoga
1010 Fair Avenue, Suite C
Santa Cruz, CA 95060