Teaching Stability

Posted on March 21st, 2013 by in Yoga

“Welcome. As we begin, please close your eyes and consider this: From where do you draw stability in your life? Is it your faith or religion? Possessions? Relationships? Career? Experiences? Traditions? Where do you find stability when you’re on the mat?

Is it possible that the stability that you find on the mat is connected to the stability in your life? Today I invite you to consider where and how you feel safe, stable, and alive, as we focus on poses that build physical stability.

Let’s start with easy pranayama, the dhirga and ujjayi breaths, which center and ground the mind, release tension in the chest and abdomen, energize brain power by boosting oxygen in the body…”

Thus begins my first practice-teaching session at my 200-Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training. From here, I guide my students (the other three women in my study group) into a squatting pose, and have them rise slowly while patting their legs, trunk, and arms—a gentle self-massage. We move into Tadasana, Mountain pose, and I instruct them to think of their feet as bedrock, and feel the strength and stability of that energy lift into their legs, hips, core, rising through their heart center, the neck and head, creating length in the spine. “When practiced mindfully, Tadasana makes you solid as a mountain,” is what I intend to say. I think I actually do say it. The adrenaline rush is slowing now, and I am cheering myself on internally. Yes! I built the pose from the ground up. Yay, me!

Once they are rooted in Tadasana, we move into side bends. Then I use Breath of Joy to warm them up, followed by a thrusting hara breath to sneak them into the more challenging Utkatanasana, Chair pose. I press my navel toward my spine, tuck my sacrum to flatten my back, and instruct the students to do the same. One woman clearly loves the surprise; the other two look mildly annoyed. After sustaining the pose for a few full, deep breaths, we lower to Table position on our hands and knees and Thread the Needle to twist and warm the obliques. We push back to a squat, then rise again for a second round of Utkatanasana.

“If you’re feeling challenged, return to your ujjayi breath, “I instruct. “Notice how it helps you focus and sustain the posture. Do you feel that?” My students nod.

To their apparent relief, I lead them down to a squat, and begin rocking slightly from heel to toe, to stretch the shins. We lower the hands to the floor behind us and sit, then rock back and forth like balls to engage the core. We stabilize, lift the toes, and transition into Paripurna Navasana, Full Boat.

I show them how to do the pose with a strap around the feet for support first, and then demonstrate how to release the strap and rely on their core for stabilization.

We transition out of the posture and into several cool-down exercises before I instruct them to lay on their backs, for Savasana, Corpse pose. I read a simple poem I wrote in preparation for the occasion:

Though the wind blows

Over the mountain

Still it rises.

 

Thought the chair bears

Much weight

Still it stands.

 

Though the waves rock

The boat

Still it floats.

I segue into an improvisational wrap-up that goes something like, “Today, you have played with stability. Remember the challenges you experienced in each posture, and how you rose to meet them.”

I feel rather eloquent as I deliver this message, designed to tie up the entire practice into a neat little package. Finally, I transition the students out of Savasana and into Sukhasana, Easy pose, for a short guided meditation. As we finish chanting our closing om, the bell rings, signaling that every teacher trainee should finish their session. My study group and I look at each other in surprise. I did it! My timing was perfect, and the whole session went as well as I hoped it would. I am elated, and it seems like I have a good shot at fulfilling my intention to become a fun, inspiring Kripalu Yoga teacher.

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