“Giving is the secret of abundance” — Swami Sivananda
A few days back, after the weekly advanced class, one of our senior student asked me a question.
“How do you improve my practice? It feels like I am stuck at same growth since last few weeks/months”
Such question is, usually, asked by beginners. And questions is not specific to yoga only. It is across the health and wellness industry.
The reason is that we start any health routine with certain goal/perception in mind. This is what drives us to be regular and consistent.
But such phase doesn’t last long.
Either the student leaves the practice (mostly)!
Or, the realization sets in that all good things take time. The understanding that, you need to learn and practice many things to reach the level. The level which was your motivation, when you started the process.
What you need to learn (in yoga)?
And whatever you can!
It doesn’t make sense, isn’t it?
But, that’s what it is with yoga. Before you go ballistic( breathe!!), please let me explain.
The basic tenant of yoga is to slow down and observe. Which means, your mind needs to take rest from overthinking (even from normal thinking).
Only, when you slow down, you start to observe. And when you start observing, you stay in present. This is the way to deepen your practice.
But, the reality of being yoga practitioner in a city is totally different from that in an ashram (or similar condition like in a retreat).
On most days, the mind takes several trip on the happenings of the day while we are practicing. Especially, when you are doing savasana or holding any easy asana.
Which means, most of the time of holding any asana, is spent in evaluating the stretch we are getting, or trying to touch our limits of the day, in that asana.
How does teaching yoga helps?
In simple words: Teaching makes you aware!
Aware of all the things you should be doing/focus on while practicing.
This awareness develops with each class you teach.
Firstly, while teaching, you are exposed to variety of students. Which means, you need to focus on your instructions, to be able to deliver a proper class.
And in addition to that, you are exposed to questions by students (remember what all you asked, when you started your practice!).
Which is a good thing!
Each time you answer a question, related to practice, understanding or anything related to yoga, it pushes you. (In the right direction :)
As a yoga teacher, you represent the practice itself.
No, this does not mean that you need to remember each text, sutra or complete anatomy of human body.
This means, you answer with your existing knowledge and understanding.
And if you don’t know. It’s ok. Convey to the student, that you are not sure about the answer yet and you will get back to him.
But, then read/ask/enquire about it.
This is how teaching yoga keeps you on track to self progress.
With each reading/doubt clearing, your awareness improves.
Now comes the second part
The main reason you should teach to begin with. The growth of your practice.
Once you start teaching, you get different perspective about the teaching by watching, observing your students.
You get to look at postures, breathing and approach from different angle.
And then, when you yourself practice, you have the mental model for how to proceed further. The reason is that now you have direction to move to.
This comes from guiding the student about their growth and practice.
When you explain concepts, you have to dive deep into your own experience and knowledge. You can’t simply quote what is written in texts each time. A student can read texts themselves.
What they need is proper understanding from a practitioner’s perspective. This comes when you are aware in your practice. Observant about yourself.
And once you are observant and then start to relate what you read about practice, you start to progress.
You see, the plateau in your progress came because you have reached the highest point with your current understanding.
Let this statement sink in.
Each knowledge and understanding (and mindset) has its limit. The point after which it is no longer sufficient.
If you want to progress from that point, you need new understanding, deeper concepts, knowledge.
The reality is that it is applicable on all fields on life.
If you are specialist in any field, there is upper limit of what you can do with that skill. Unless you upgrade your skills or learn new ones to work along existing ones.
The knowledge and routine required for a casual runner ( or jogger) is way different from what is required for competitive running. Though the basic act of running is same.
Similarly, when you have reached your limit for today’s understanding, you need to upgrade yourself.
One of fastest way, in yoga, is to be a yoga teacher and help others.
When you start teaching, you are exposed to multitude of things which were not required when you are a student.
Let me explain that with a simple scenario:
When you are a student, you are dealing with only your body. Thus whatever you hear from teacher about kriyas, asana and pranayamas, you just have to adapt that to your body.
But how about teaching same things, to someone who doesn’t have same physical structure as you? You can’t push at 40 year old homemaker the same way as a 20 year old fitness buff.
The first priority of a 40 year old homemaker is health. She wants health, relief from chronic pains, more that which asana she is able to do.
Which means making her comfortable with easy stretches and asanas first, reminding her to breathe while holding the postures and so on.
This requires depth in understanding. It requires observation. Of yourself and others. Your what you have read and how it is executed.
Apparently, this is what is required for self progress too.
Small acts are enough!
To teach yoga for self progress, you don’t need to open a yoga studio and take regular classes.
You can do recognized teacher’s training course, so that you are qualified to assist.
- Offering to assist your teacher (if it is allowed) in regular classes or workshops is good enough.
- Teaching your fellow practitioners about anything you are good at is also helpful.
Don’t worry about performance or that you don’t want to be teacher.
Though let me warn you, if your intentions are only about your own progress, there are high chance that you may not get the benefits you are looking for.
Ironic, it may be, but to get the benefits of yoga by teaching, you need to focus on person in front of you. Focus on experience of your student.
As it was there opening pages of Swami Sivananda’s pamphlet Sadhana Tattwa
An ounce of practice is worth tons of theory.