Teaching Yoga – Encouraging Students Through Questions

As teachers, we are of most benefit to our students when we help them explore, discover, and fulfill their individual dharma. In class, encourage your students to contemplate their dharma by frequently asking them powerful questions.

Ideally, ask questions when your student are sitting quietly. The beginning of class is an auspicious time, or after Shirshasana, Sarvangasana, or whenever your students are sitting and feeling the effects of the pose just completed. Of course, a perfect time is at the end of class during Shavasana – when the mind is quiet and the heart is being explored.

Many commonly held notions do not serve our quest for dharma, and in fact run contrary to the journey of self-exploration that is yoga. For example, we believe that “being number one” will make us happier, but is this so? We believe that the acquisition of things defines success, but is this so? I encourage you to ask deep questions and weave yogic philosophy into the fabric of your class. Ask people to question these often harmful assumptions foisted upon them by unscrupulous advertisers and well-meaning family members. You don’t have to disrupt the flow of the class to do so; sometimes all it takes is one well-timed question or a single quotation at the right moment. For example, if you see some students striving too hard while others are hardly striving, you might say to the class, “Yoga teaches us the middle way. If we work too hard, we burn ourselves up, and cannot manifest our dharma. If we work too little, we stagnate, and cannot manifest our dharma either.” Use your life experiences to inspire your students to open their minds, break their habits, and search for their life’s purpose. It is not enough to loosen tight muscles — our job is to loosen constricting thoughts and stifling beliefs as well.

If asking such questions of your students makes you feel uncomfortable, then perhaps it’s your turn to ponder a question: “Do I just want to teach asana, or is it my dharma to be a true teacher of yoga?” Either answer is acceptable, but it’s good to know.

Start each class with a time of quiet reflection, thus giving your students a rare opportunity to become introspective and receptive to deeper sources. As they become still, tell them, “Move your mental energy into your Heart Center and look inside yourself. Search for the true purpose for your practice, and strive to rediscover the intention behind each action you make.” Directions such as these help students slowly but surely come in contact with the Spirit within.

© Aadil Palkhivala 2008