In December of 2019, I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge of yoga and use my training as a teacher to conduct a free 5-day workshop. The workshop benefitted me in various ways, giving me the occasion to structure my free time creatively and helping me develop certain strengths as a facilitator.

Purpose Mission Vision

Swamiji has initiated the second chapter of Yoga. He has said that the phase of propagation of Yoga is complete and it is now time to deepen our understanding of yogic science. In his lectures and messages he has stressed the importance of slowing down and understanding the nuances of yoga-vidya and prana-vidya.

This workshop was an attempt in that direction.

My objective in conducting the program was to present Yoga in the right perspective, to dispel certain misconceptions and attempt to correct the distorted and limited view that people may have of it.

Approach & Class Structure

In the program, I stressed on the understanding and experience of what prana is. It was my attempt to take the lessons beyond lectures and focus on experiments, observations and reflections to induce an understanding of the various levels of our being. The students were at the end of the course able to distinguish between the physical body and the psychological (non-physical). I attempted to make the idea of the non-physical relatable and comprehendible, and encouraged the participants to discern physical from non-physical, gross from subtle. To be able to realise that prana lies in between and permeates both the gross and subtle aspects of our being, further cemented their understanding of prana.

My approach was:

  1. firstly to initiate a discussion about prana, keeping it open throughout the week,
  2. secondly to help them identify prana after each yogasana practice, also incidentally encouraging them to practice self-observation,
  3. progressively intensifying their experience of prana with each day’s practices and
  4. finally, consolidating these observations in a written document and repeated discussions about prana.

It was important to anchor their learning and help them revisit the discussion, rather than allowing a concept to be relegated to a lecture in theory.

Concepts Covered

We discussed the following concepts and what is meant when we use these words.

  • prana
  • subtle and gross body
  • the meaning of Yoga – word meaning and in application
  • pawanmuktasana (anti rheumatic postures) series I
  • simple spinal stretches and bends
  • introduction to yogic psychology and Yoga Nidra

Class Structure

I identified the following aspects of a yoga session:

  1. converging attention to class
  2. prayer, setting intentions
  3. theory
  4.  asana
    1. demonstration
    2. practice with supervision
    3. observation, reflection, rest
    4. alternating practice
  5. questions, discussions
  6. short relaxation
  7. prayer and conclusion

Deviations

I remember having heard or read Swamiji talk about innovation and originality in teaching. I took that as a permission to introduce my personal pedagogical style into the sessions.

I deviated from the traditional classroom guidelines in the following ways:

  1. Breath:

    1. I professed free and relaxed breathing in all postures and did not insist on the purity of linking in- and out- breaths with the initial and final positions. Rather I stressed on releasing the breath and ensuring natural and free flow of breath.
    2. I extended the duration of holding in the final positions. This necessitated free and natural breathing as professed above.
    3. The coordination of in- and out- breaths was taught in later classes (days 4 and 5) but not stressed upon.
    4. The awareness and auto-correction of posture and relaxation in the end-position was my primary focus rather than the coordination of in- and out-breaths with the movements.
  1. Invocation

At the beginning of class I used bhramari or silence to anchor the attention to the class instead of Om-chanting and shanti-mantras. This was done respecting the diverse religious and cultural beliefs of the participants. Another reason was lack of confidence. I concede, however, that I ought to have stuck to tradition and will do so in my subsequent workshops.

  1. Compilation

I compiled a concise booklet by typing each day’s notes and practices. To this we added the participants’ hand-written reflections. We used A5 size stationary for their writings as well as for the printed notes, such that they could be bound together on the final day. This gave the students a handbook of knowledge already acquired and a permanent reference for continuing practice.

Insights

With every workshop one facilitates, one’s knowledge is reinforced, and experience is gained. At the same time, one is humbled by challenging questions and situations in class.

At a personal level, this workshop firstly helped me overcome my hesitation and lack of confidence. Having completed it successfully, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, it was a reminder that my knowledge in Yoga is still limited and that knowledge is vast.  Conducting a workshop or teaching a class is a constant check on the ego and a steady reminder that we are seekers and learners just like the participants.

Gratitude

With humility I accept the gift of confidence and learning that this program provided. I am grateful to the guiding force of the universe.

हरि ओम् तत् सत् ।

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