Mark Stephens Yoga Blog
These writings are informal reflections on practicing and teaching yoga. Click on any title to read the entire piece.
Teaching yoga is at once profoundly personal, predicated on sharing, and shaped by context. It is also inevitably surprising. We have no choice but to start from where we are and who we are, with whatever knowledge, skills, and experience we have in the moment. We also have little choice but to work with whomever shows up for class, teaching students whose conditions, intentions, learning styles, and needs are widely varied.
When casually standing or sitting, the tendency is to connect passively with the earth. The effect is that the body collapses into itself, each joint compressing as the body slumps and sags. But the moment you consciously root down into whatever is on the floor, the immediate effect is creation of space in the body.
The primary goal in teaching asanas is to enable students to perceive and understand more clearly what they are doing in developing a sustainable personal practice, whether in a class or independently. But there are many different ways of learning that require a varied approach to teaching. How people learn is closely tied to what educator Howard Gardner (1993) refers to as “qualities of multiple intelligence,” which vary considerably in any given class of yoga students.
5 Ways To Sustain Your Yoga Practice
If you’re like most yoga students, you imagine practicing for the rest of your life. There is little else that creates such a sense of bliss or that takes you so deep into simply feeling good, clear, joyful and connected with a sense of spirit.
Like Ganesha, Hanuman commands respect and veneration across Indian culture for his strength, humility, selflessness, devotion, determination, fearlessness, and commitment to spiritual discipline. The son of Vayu, the god of wind, and Anjana, a celestial being with the tail of a monkey (a vanara), Hanuman was the friend, confidant, and servant of King Rama. (Hanuman is also called Anjaneya, meaning “arising from Anjana,” for whom the Anjaneyasana, Low-Lunge Pose, is named.)
The tale of Vasistha and Vishvamitra in the Ramayana tells of the dynamic tension in spiritual life between the ease that arises from contentment and the spiritual depth that can result from struggle and effort. Vasisthawas an enlightened spiritual sage who established a peaceful, self-governing, cooperative society where all were happy. He had a “cow of plenty” named Nandini with the power to grant him whatever he wanted.
Ganesha is the most popular member of the Indian pantheon of mythological deities. Represented as a short, potbellied man with yellow skin, four arms, and an elephant’s head with one tusk, Ganesha is the second son of Shiva and Parvati (a form of Shakti). As with all the Indian gods, there are innumerable myths surrounding his creation and his role in the universe.
Kagola, a poor student of the Vedas, sat at night reciting aloud the sacred verses of the Vedas, his pregnant wife by his side in the dim light of candles. One late night he heard a voice laughing and correcting him for mispronouncing a verse. The tired and short-tempered father was enraged, cursing the unborn child, causing him to be born with eight crooks in his body, naming him Astavakra for the deformity (asta meaning “eight,” vakra “crooked”).
This is where we can infuse our classes with creativity and playfulness. Shakti is the creative power of existence, the cosmic energy that animates the universe, the source of energy, the mother goddess, representing the active, dynamic principles of feminine power.
When Shiva’s consort Shakti was killed by the chief of the gods, Daksha, Shiva tore out his hair in grief and anger, creating the fierce warrior Virabhadra from his locks. With a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and fiery hair, Virabhadra wore a garland of skulls and carried many terrifying weapons. Bowing at Shiva’s feet and asking his will, Virabhadra was directed by Shiva to lead his army against Daksha
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