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Teaching Yoga for Stress Management

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Mar 17, 2008
Why do most of your students come to your Yoga classes? If you conducted a student survey, you would be surprised at how many arrived to your classes for the same reason. Surveys reveal much about the needs of your students.

Granted, there are a variety of reasons why students attend Yoga training sessions, but many people participate in our classes because they are seeking solutions to stress management.

It has been estimated that 75%, and possibly more, of doctor visits, are stress related. Stress is a major culprit in illness. Worse yet, stress will make a pre-existing illness worse. If you are seriously ill, one of the last things you need is an extra serving of stress, or anxiety, to go with it.

Most Yoga teacher training courses barely scratch the surface, when considering the needs of stressed-out students. More often, attention is paid to the technical aspects of Pranayama (yogic breathing), asana (yogic posturing), student safety, teacher ethics, teaching methodology, anatomy, physiology, philosophy, and much more.

So, how, in the world, could a Yoga instructor be prepared for the needs of the anxiety-riddled masses? It all comes down to the needs of our students and our continuing education efforts.

For example: If most of our students are young, flexible, strong, alpha-type personalities - our student's needs - will be geared toward physical prowess. In truth, this is fine, because there is a legitimate need for it.

On the other hand, if most of our students are feeling the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual effects of excessive stress and anxiety, there is a need for us to learn much more about effective Yogic stress management solutions for the sake of our students.

Now that you teach Yoga to the public, you clearly realize the need for stress management solutions, on a massive scale. Most Yoga teachers tend to go through life with an inner calm that is sometimes taken for granted.

As a result of conditioning, the Yogic lifestyle is not a stressful one; therefore, you may need to understand much more about what causes anxiety, panic, and worry, within your students. If you are suffering from a panic attack, the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual conditioning of a Yoga teacher, seems like fiction.

Stress is a chemical message to the body from the brain, which is very basic. This "fight or flight" message is very primal, and saved our ancestors lives, throughout the history of humankind. When we perceive a threat, our brain signals the adrenal glands to send, adrenaline and noradrenaline, to our heart, which increases the blood flow to the muscles.

This, in turn, gives instant power to the muscles. At the same time, the breath rate is accelerated to bring more oxygen to vital areas. In terms of survival, the mind and body are programmed to perform an efficient chemical and mechanical reaction to save our lives.

Yet, many people have this same reaction, while commuting to work, on a daily basis. Once one arrives at work, he or she may be subjected to unrealistic deadlines and office politics. This is just one scenario of many possible stressful situations, which may occur in the lives of our students.

Once you have become a Yoga teacher, you have taken a vow to help students in need. The atmosphere in your classes, studio, or ashram, should be tranquil. There is no place for a teacher without compassion. Likewise, the teacher with a personal agenda, about getting his or her best workout during class time, will fall short in helping students who suffer from excessive stress.

The reason why Yoga works for panic, stress, and anxiety control, is not complicated. Most people feel as if they are a victim of outside circumstances, which become triggers for excess stress, such as traffic jams, financial difficulties, raising children, and a variety of daily life situations.

In turn, many people become tense, and irritable, because the body reacts physically to stress. Blood pressure may rise, breathing correctly is difficult, and muscles may tense up due to excessive stress and anxiety.

Yoga works to create solutions for excessive stress, panic, and anxiety, from within. One class, or session, is the exact opposite mind and body experience, when compared to an anxiety attack. Yoga practice makes a tremendous difference in the quality of our student's lives because students feel empowerment.

You see - tension, anxiety, and worry, are a natural part of daily life, but Yoga allows us to decipher the real from the imaginary. This is in stark contrast to someone who is creating their own form of "Hell on earth." To be concerned over our children is logical, but creating negative images in our minds, without any sound reasoning, will cause us harm, and there is no real reason for it.

Students should understand that some forms of daily low level stress are unavoidable, and make them stronger because of the experience, but extreme stress can cause panic attacks, heart attacks, or premature death. The rewards of their practice can be felt during, and after, their first lesson. The first part of the solution is a matter of making them aware of it.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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