When teaching a yoga class, words can be a powerful means of carrying us into the language of the body. The right words become the guide that takes us from a mindset of intellectualizing and analytical thinking to a mindset of feeling.
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Inspiration that uses words to bridge the language of the mind and the language of the soul. Quotes and poems can remind us that we are all connected and share the same emotions.
I begin the class by leading students to awareness of breath. And, as the class connects to their breath gently transitioning from the day to the mat, I read the first part of the inspiration as an introduction to the theme. Throughout the class I refer back to the theme to create parallels between the words and the yoga practice. In closing, after savasana, I read the second part of the inspiring piece and tie it all together- asana + yoga philosophy + class theme + life.
I strive to bring life to the spiritual power of yoga and to honor live your yoga, using the poems to provide inspiration for on and off the mat.
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Note: The inspiration is a combination of excerpts, poems, and some of my own thoughts and words.
Inspiration for Yoga Teachers
Just for Now
by Danna Faulds
Just for now, without asking how, let yourself sink into stillness. Just for now, lay down the weight you so patiently bear upon your shoulders. Feel the earth receive you, and the infinite expanse of the sky grow even wider as your awareness reaches up to meet it.
Just for now, allow a wave of breath to enliven your experience. Breathe out whatever blocks you from the truth.
Just for now, be boundless, free, with awakened energy tingling in your hands and feet. Drink in the possibility of being who and what you really are – so fully alive that the world looks different, newly born and vibrant, just for now.
It only takes a reminder to breathe, a moment to be still, and just like that, something in you settles, softens, makes space for imperfection. The harsh voice of judgment drops to a whisper and you remember again that life isn’t a relay race; that waking up to life is what we were born for. As many times as you forget, catch yourself charging forward, that many times you can make the choice to stop, to breathe, to be, and to walk slowly into the mystery.
Let Your Body Lead You
Our bodies can help provide us with direction.
Many of us have heard the expression I’m leaning toward that or I’m leaning away from that. When we’re centered, balanced and connected, our body will help show us what we really want to do. We will literally lean toward or away from what we like or don’t like.
We’ve all spent time in our lives, and in our practice, forcing our body into situations, circumstances and poses that the body resisted and moved back from. Then we wondered why we felt uncomfortable.
Learn to open to the subtle guidance and messages your body sends to you about what it likes, what it dislikes, what it leans toward, and what it leans away from. Learn to listen to where it’s leading you and move accordingly.
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Listening To the Voice of Your Heart
Cultivate the art of listening to your intuition, your inner voice. This is the guidance of your heart. It’s a voice that speaks differently from the one in your head. The heart whispers softly; the head rambles loudly.
The head has an agenda for our lives. It chatters away boldly; but it’s vision is limited. It leaves no room for the mysterious workings of the universe, nor does it take into account the side trips we need to take to get where we’re going. Where we need to go. It’s the voice that says, This is the way it’s going to be.
The heart, the inner voice, speaks differently. Sometimes it whispers. Sometimes it pulls. Sometimes it pushes. It’s spontaneous, in the present moment, and often a surprise. The heart takes into account what has to be done and the best way to do that. The heart takes emotions info account- the way things feel, the way you feel, the wisdom of your soul. The heart leads us into and through the lessons we’re here to learn.
Cultivate your inner voice. Practice listening to the whispers of your heart. Practice trusting your intuition, what you really feel, what you really know. Practice until that voice is the one you hear.
Be patient. Be gentle. Let yourself learn to hear the gentle and trustworthy words of your heart. On and off the mat.
Too often out of sheer habit we tighten up, tense up and approach life from this stance. When we have something to do our automatic response may be to tense up- shoulders and neck strained, back bent, and breathing shallow. But anything that needs to be done can be done better if we’re relaxed.
Learn to relax. Program your body, each part of it, to let go and be at ease. Allow yourself to come into your natural posture and alignment. Learn to relax until moving, acting, speaking, being all come naturally from this relaxed place.
Find activities that help you do this. Yoga. A hot bath. A massage. Walking. Meditating. Teach yourself to become aware of how your body feels during these activities. Memorize that feeling. Practice relaxing until you can recall that memory and carry it throughout your day.
Periodically throughout the day, take a few moments to check your tension level. If you find any part of your body tense, take a few moments to consciously relax that part. Visualize warmth and ease flooding any part of your body that has become tight. Release the strain, the tension, the stress from your body.
Your body wants to relax. Your body wants to be comfortable.
The transition between postures is a nebulous space. It is similar to the end of an exhale where we completely let go and embrace the next breath. The full expression of a pose comes within the transitional space. The space between the poses; it is a passageway full of information about our practice and life.
Transitions are connectors or bridges to the bigger picture. When we emerge from the transitional space we create our full expression of the pose. How we treat the passageway to the end result is reflective of how we move through life. Is it just a means to an end or do we approach the transition with as much enthusiasm and awareness as the postures? How we engage the passageway between postures is as important as the posture; it shows us how we feel about the process and the poses.
How we approach transitions in yoga reveals how we approach those undefined, ambiguous areas in our lives. If we do not use our abdominal muscles when moving from downward dog to lunge, we lack strength and grounding. We need to notice how we handle changes and transitions in our lives and use tools that support us. Do we embrace the process and experience a smooth transition to the bigger picture or do we muddle through hoping to reach the end result without experiencing the process?
Yoga reminds us that life is always in transition. Every day is new, and each new day invites us to have a fresh mind and an open heart. We often expect the day (or ourselves) to be the same as yesterday or as it will be tomorrow. Life is full of uncertainty and surprises. In life and in yoga we need to be present to our individual process. Pay attention to how you move from pose to pose and day to da. When we refine our transitional movement we learn to fluidly move through life with grace and ease.
Rest your awareness on various facets of life without analyzing or judgement. Notice how you feel- emotions, physical sensations, thoughts.
Rest your awareness on the immediate environment- notice sounds, temp, body connecting to the mat. Being mindful of feelings and physical sensations and letting go.
Bring your awareness inward- notice feelings and physical sensations that come with a shift in awareness from the external to the internal. Are you relaxed, energized, neutral?
Create awareness without analyzing or judgement. Allow the thoughts and feelings to come and go.
Bring mindfulness to day to day life, bring your awareness inward- notice life an internal perspective. Are you relaxed, energized, neutral?
Create awareness without analyzing or judgement. Without holding onto the past or grasping for the future.
Trust Each Step
Stay present for each step of your journey. We don’t go from one place to another in one gigantic leap. We get there in increments, but going through each feeling, each belief, each experience one step at a time.
Sometimes when we pray for miracles, what we’re really praying for is help in skipping steps, for shortcuts. The simple act of acceptance, of returning to each step of our path, can often bring us the miracle we need. Then we see the truth. The real miracle is one always available to each of us, it’s the miracle of acceptance. We can go where we want to go one step at a time.
Stay present for each step of your journey. Trust each stage. Many things are possible for you if you can accept that the fastest way is one step at a time.
Being Truly Thankful
Our gratitude deepens when we begin to be thankful for being alive and living the life we are living.
Often when we practice being thankful, we go through the process of counting our blessings, acknowledging the wonderful people, things and places that make up our reality. While it is fine to be grateful for the good fortune we have accumulated, true thankfulness stems from a powerful comprehension of the gift of simply being alive.
In this deep state of gratitude, we recognize the purity of the experience of being, in and of itself, and our thankfulness is part of our awareness that we are one with this great mystery that is life.
Create a deep state of gratitude and recognize the purity of the experience of being.
It is difficult for most of us to access this level of consciousness as we are very caught up in the ups and downs of our individual experiences in the world. The thing to remember about the world, though, is that it ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, gives and takes, and is by its very nature somewhat unreliable.
No one is exempt from the twists and turns of fate.
Tuning in to our breath and making an effort to be fully present for a set period of time each day can do wonders for our ability to connect with true gratitude.
Practicing yoga presents us with many opportunities for exploring self-compassion. The first of the yamas or ethical guidelines that Patanjali gives in the Yoga Sutras is ahimsa or non-harming, encompassing words, thoughts, and actions. Most of us learned this golden rule while still on the playground, and yet in daily life and even in a yoga class, we create struggle and inner conflict, striving for our idea of the perfect pose or competing with other students and ourselves, trying to top our “personal best,” as though asana and life was a contest or performance.
Self-compassion is not merely a state of being or quality; it’s a practice, and we learn it through experience. During asana, pranayama, meditation, and other yoga practices, we learn to observe and befriend the body and mind—developing self-awareness and discernment.
These are the lessons we can take from the yoga studio into the world beyond.
Take a moment to contemplate: What are some ways yoga has helped you develop self-compassion?
Winter Solstice is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest and darkest day of the year. We experience fewer hours of sunlight. And then, the days begin to get longer.
In the depths of the darkness of winter, we are called to ignite our faith, belief and trust that the light will return again. The Winter Solstice, represents both the darkness and the light. As hidden in the darkest of nights, lies the knowing that the light is returning.
On this day we are called to use this powerful turning point in our year as a time to turn our attention inwards, to call in stillness, and reflect on all that has been before we begin this new year ahead.
Winter calls for us to be still, the earth lies dormant calling for us to do the same. Animals hibernate, trees grow bare, plants, flowers and herbs all die, only awaiting to be reborn again in spring. Nature needs this time, and so do we.
We are being called to slow down, to step back, to be with our loved ones, to listen rather than speak, to be rather than do.
The Winter Solstice reminds us that it’s just as important to honor the dark as it is the light. For they are the two halves that make up the whole. Let us not fear the darkness, but give gratitude, love + honor to all that has been, all that is now and all that is to come.
Listen To Your Inner Voice
Our inner voice, that quiet guide within, will lead us along our path, will help us create our destiny, will keep us in harmony.
So much stress comes from not listening, not trusting our inner voice. So much confusion comes from trying to act before we have heard, before we are guided. So much pain comes from when we deny what that voice is saying. We wonder how we can trust ourselves. The better question is, how can we not trust ourselves?
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What are your favorite words of inspiration to share when teaching a yoga class?
Peace + Wellness