Teaching Yoga & Student Leaning Styles

By Mark Stephens on Mon, 11/11/2013 - 15:48

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.

In yoga classes, where the learning objectives include conceptual, emotional, physical, and metaphysical elements, the full range of multiple intelligences are in play. At the same time, a human being is more than his or her intellectual powers; motivation, personality, emotions, physical health, and personal will are more significant than a particular learning style in shaping how, where, and when one learns. This suggests that effective yoga instruction takes into account these variables in engaging with students while still appreciating the following learning styles:

•     Visual/spatial: Tend to think in pictures and need vivid mental images to retain information, underlining the importance of demonstrating every asana.

•     Verbal/linguistic: Tend to think in words rather than pictures and have highly developed auditory skills, thus needing clearly enunciated verbal descriptions of asanas.

•     Bodily/kinesthetic: Process and remember information through interacting with the space around them and need to directly experience asanas.

•     Musically/rhythmically inclined: Think in sounds, rhythms, and patterns and may be highly sensitive to environmental sounds. Can benefit from being encouraged to tune in more closely the sound and rhythm of their breath. They may also benefit from soft music that syncopates with the rhythm of a class.

•     Interpersonal: Try to see things from other people’s point of view; use both verbal and nonverbal cues to open up and maintain communication channels with others; need to feel a sense of genuine presence from their teacher in the learning process.

•     Intrapersonal: Tend to be absorbed in trying to comprehend their feelings, dreams, relationships, strengths, and weaknesses; benefit from having more time and space to explore what an asana is about for them as they explore their practice.