Friday, March 25, 2011

Student Training Program

I want to develop a student training program.  “But Ron, isn’t that what we do every class?” Truthfully, no.  No. Because, if we did, there would not be teacher training programs advertising “Deepen Your Practice,” or “From Advanced to Master”  both claims being complete crocks. If students want to deepen their practice, they are not getting something they need from their current practice.   They should not have to shell out thousands of dollars to do this from the same teachers they see regularly. 

Many classes are stuck on anatomy.  There are many teachers who advertise their expertise on alignment.  This is an incomplete teaching.  Now, I can build a toaster by following directions, by precisely aligning the individual pieces.  Problems arise if I do not put the pieces in the correct place.  But at the end, I have a nice collection of metal.  Now, if I understand that I have to run power through the toaster, I can make toast.  If I understand how the power works within the mechanics of the toaster, I can build a tv, clock, radio, etc.  Some students want the toaster, some the toast, some the knowledge to go beyond toaster and toast.
Why is this important?  An example from my practice.  My issues with Urdhva Dhanurasa are well documented.  During my teacher training I asked the question “Why am I having trouble with this?” I really did not receive an answer.  Much later, a good friend and fellow teacher with whom I practice at times pointed out that when I stand with toes parallel, my right knee turns in and my right shin is bowed.  If I have both knees pointed forward, my right foot is pointed outward.  This effects my ankle, knee, and hip joint, and all the muscles which work across those joints.  In part, there is a very individual, anatomic reason why, if I do the pose with the “correct” alignment, it does not yield the “normal” result.  I would not expect a teacher in a regular group class to notice this, but senior teachers, in a training program, and another “master,” when asked the question directly were not paying attention to physical alignment.

Much, much more importantly, if this training was to deepen a student’s practice, that is to move them further along in Raja Yoga, the answer to “Why can’t I…” would be “Reflect upon why you feel the pose you have right now is not the correct pose, when it truth it is.”  PYS I.2.  3 senior teachers whom I spoke with (and paid a LOT of money to) never once brought this up. Out of sheer frustration, I asked it myself.  This one question did more for my practice than years of asana. 

Two more examples which will benefit students and teachers alike.  Padmasana, the poster pose of yoga.  According to Pattabhi Jois, which means according to Krishnamacharia, which means according to Rama Mohan Bramacharia, which means according to Vamana Rishi, the right foot goes on the left thigh first.  Always.  Right first, left on top.  Why?  This energetically benefits the liver and spleen.  It balances out the imbalance in the abdominal cavity.  “But shouldn’t we alter to balance out the hips?”  Padmasana does not balance out the hips.  That is why we do standing poses. The counter to padmasana is Yoga Nidrasana, where the left leg is first placed behind the head.  This balances the imbalance in the chest cavity.   This method is in agreement with Swami Svatmarama, author of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. HYP I. 4-9 traces his lineage and teaching all the way back to Adanath.  If you do not know who Adanath is, go to your copy of HYP and reference it.  Do not know what this book is or do not have it?  Was it not part of your teacher training?

Paschimottanasa, seated forward bend.  The pose involves grabbing the toes, feet, or binding the hands (Left hand on right wrist, right hand in chin mudra).  Many students cannot reach their toes and are encouraged to use a strap.  If this is a gymnastics class, go ahead, use the strap.  In a Yoga class, specifically Hatha Yoga (any yoga focused on postures and breath.  Yes, this includes “restorative”), we are concerned with moving energy within the body.  By holding the toes as above, we are creating a circuit of energy which flows freely within the body to give the benefits of the pose.  By using a strap, we have broken the circuit, the same benefits (those beyond physical) are no longer there. 

I give these two examples because I have never heard these very basic principles explained in classes, workshops, or trainings.  Yet these are the details which deepen the practice, not adding more contortions or memorizing some idealist placement of the tibia which may or may not work for any given student. 

Understanding purpose, like understanding history, moves us forward.  This is the class I try to teach. 

Want to deepen your practice?  Talk to your teacher.  That is why they are there; it is their job as a teacher to provide guidance.  They should reference the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata in answer to your questions. 

Do you need the HYP, the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita.  Contact me, I will send them to you.  Free.  Ask me questions.  I don’t know it all, but will point you in the right direction. Click “Contact Me” on the right.  Or, better yet, come to class and put theory and practice together. 

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