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Teaching Hatha Yoga - What Do Hatha Yoga Students Want?

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Jan 3, 2008
At this point in time, yoga has gone "global." Most Yoga students, outside of India, have heard of three of the nine main types of yoga; the most commonly known are hatha, raja (ashtanga), and kundalini yoga. Of these three, hatha yoga, and its many sub-styles, have received the most publicity.

In general, the public perception of Yoga is classified as a "mind and body exercise." When you ask the average person what that means, he or she will respond by saying, "Some sort of exercise." Hence, the reason why Yoga can be found in many health clubs is that yoga becomes an exercise class, which is categorized with tai chi and pilates.

With that said, beginner students, with little knowledge of Yoga, have the perception they are entering an exercise class. Their reasons for coming to a yoga class differ greatly. The main reasons for beginning yoga practice are: Weight loss, weight control, stress management, low impact exercise, or pain management.

Notice that beginners do not often seek enlightenment, meditation, mantras, Pranayama, or to change their lifestyle. In fact, the classification of Yoga levels is easy to understand, but it is inaccurate. Terms such as, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, are all based upon the physical difficulty of performing an asana (yoga pose). Again, the physical challenges are presented as the major aspects of Yoga practice.

So, what do hatha yoga students want? To put it simply, they want some sort of mind and body exercise. Beginner yoga classes could be presented as an exercise class, with much more to learn on the horizon. To guide beginner Yoga students on the path toward the study of yama, niyama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, is a lesson in futility.

Many beginning yoga students do not know what they are looking for. Most beginning Yoga students do not want to hold asanas for long. They are so used to stimulation from technology, that short attention spans are common place. This is why flow yoga, vinyasa yoga, and power yoga, are so popular with beginners. To ask them to practice pranayama and meditation is a big challenge. This would require the mind to focus.

There is an old sales and marketing saying which goes like this: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Let's look at the old saying and how it pertains to teaching yoga classes. After 5,000 years of research, yoga is a very deep subject, which cannot be covered in one class. If a student enters your class, or studio, looking for fitness - So be it.

Label a few classes on the schedule as: Beginner fitness yoga, yoga fitness, fitness yoga, or yoga exercise. Start with warm-ups, teach yoga postures, mix in a few breathing techniques, and end with a five minute body scan relaxation technique. On your schedule, write descriptions of all your classes, and give them options to go deeper into the subject of yoga.

The more serious yoga students will take the path to study more about yama, niyama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, but there some who will choose to exercise the body, only. This is not a problem. Remember this: A little bit of yoga is better than none.

Copyright 2007 - 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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