108 Yoga Teaching Path Pointers – Collated from 2011 to 2024

Started in 2011, these are a collation of short posts collected over 13 years, on teaching Yoga in the West within the 21st Century. They range from Yoga Teaching tips and tactics, through to quips and quotes as observations, advice and social commentary.

They can be explored as individual posts, or via this page as a collation, both within which the linked words can also be cross referenced in terms of meaning and related occurrence within the Saṃskṛta Glossary. Or the current collected collation can be downloaded as a PDF.

The accumulated Yoga Teaching Path Pointers can be viewed as Individual Posts

The accumulated Yoga Teaching Path Pointers can be viewed or downloaded as a PDF

1.
“Tradition is honouring the function.
Innovation is adapting the form.
Good not to get the two confused
or even worse – the wrong way round.”

2.
“TKV Desikachar taught the Viniyoga of Yoga,
or application of Yoga according
to state of life, place, time and circumstance
to optimise the student’s potential within
that situation as seen from his
own, forever evolving, innovating and
maturing, developmental teaching thread.”

3.
Śavāsana is a recovery
from the fatigue of practice,
rather than a recovery
from the fatigue of Saṃsāra.”

4.
Dhyāna Sādhana was taught
according to the principles of
CikitsāRakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa Krama,
with meditational practices ranging from
pacification to protection to empowerment.”

5.
“The Viniyoga of Yoga perspective
is that the role of Śavāsana is
its specific use as a transition
from the fatigue of the Āsana,
rather than its general use as a
recovery from the fatigue of life.”

6.
Viniyoga is not a term that can be
applied to group class teaching.”

7.
“The Viniyoga of Yoga
is the art of learning
how to practice,
rather than
what to practice.”

8.
“Modern Postural Yoga is most certainly one way in.
However have we become trapped within this way in
and thus can’t find the way out?”

9.
“Throughout Krishnamacharya’s teaching life he remained focused on
the priorities of seeing the who as the starting point
before considering the what.”

10.
“The Viniyoga of Yoga is a name for a system to teach to a student,
rather than about students to teach a system to.”

11.
Yoga Cikitsā is about
Respecting the Problem and Treating the Person.
Rather than
Respecting the Person and Treating the Problem.”

12.
“I wonder whether too much time is being spent around
looking at inventive ways of performing a particular Āsana,
rather than looking at questions around its role and purpose in Yoga.
A rationale to consider as to why or even whether we need to do it?”

13.
Tri Bandha Sādhana – Jālandhara, Uḍḍīyāna and Mūla,
starts from the top down rather than the bottom up,
in both senses.”

14.
“The art of Viniyoga presumes that
the five application principles of
1. What is being taught,
2. Why it is being taught,
3. When it is being taught
4. Where it is being taught and especially
5. How it is being taught,
are personally applicable and
socially relevant to
Who is being taught.”

15.
“The beauty of Krishnamacharya’s teaching is that it is about
learning Yoga for different types of people,
rather than todays increasingly studio driven group class modality of
learning different types of Yoga for people.”

16.
“Five questions my teacher taught me that need to be ‘posed’,
for or to any student wishing to practice Sarvāṅgāsana,
or even for and to any teacher wishing to teach Sarvāṅgāsana,
whatever the situation.
1. Who is going to practice it?
2. Why do they wish to use it?
3. When are they going to practice it?
4. How are they going to get in and out of it?
5. What do they need to have done to verify their capability?”

17.
“It appears that Modern Therapeutic Yoga is increasingly angled
at looking at the problems in front of the person
in terms of Yoga for What,
rather than looking at the person behind the problems
in terms of Yoga for Who.”

18.
“Just because a person can achieve the form of the Āsana,
we can’t presume they will also achieve the experience of the Āsana.”

19.
“Some people use Yoga (or even training for a career as a Yoga Teacher),
to move away from something undesirable for, or in their lives (Abhāva).
Others use Yoga to move towards something desirable (Bhāva) for, or in their lives.
Either can be positive, however good to be clear about our motives,
especially if our relationship with that which we wanted to move away from,
or that which we wanted to move towards,
changes along the way.”

20.
“Five questions my teacher taught me that need to be ‘posed’,
for or to any student wishing to practice Śīrṣāsana,
or even for and to any teacher wishing to teach Śīrṣāsana,
whatever the situation.
1. Who is going to practice it?
2. Why do they wish to use it?
3. When are they going to practice it?
4. How are they going to get in and out of it?
5. What do they need to have done to verify their capability?”

21.
“Our Yoga Teaching needs to be an appurtenance to our Yoga Practice.
Rather than our Yoga Practice being an appurtenance to our Yoga Teaching.”

22.
“As a Yoga Teacher we need to ensure that our personal Yoga Practice
doesn’t become a repetition of, or rehearsal for, our Yoga Teaching plans.”

23.
“In the novice phase of our relationship with a Yoga Class,
it’s not so much about what we bring to the Class,
it’s more about what we take away from the Class.
A sign of a maturing in our relationship with a Yoga Class,
is that we accept more responsibility for what we bring to the Class,
being a determining factor in what we take away from the Class.”

24.
“In the novice phase of our relationship with a 121 Yoga Teacher,
it’s not so much about what we bring to the Lesson,
it’s more about what we take away from the Lesson.
A sign of a maturing in our relationship with a 121 Yoga Teacher,
is that we accept more responsibility for what we bring to the Lesson,
being a determining factor in what we take away from the Lesson.”

25.
“The Commercialised in-Corporation of Viniyoga
is in danger of becoming a parody of
the Personalised incorporation of viniyoga.”

26.
“It is ironic when a collective term used to describe
an approach to teaching an individual,
becomes an individual term used to describe
an approach to teaching a collective.”

27.
Sat Viniyoga
is about learning to do more with less.
Asat Viniyoga
is about learning to do less with more.
Whether Āsana or Students!!”

28.
“I wonder if Modern Postural Yoga is confusing,
experiencing a supple body,
with experiencing a subtle body?”

29.
Yoga Cikitsā is about
treating a person in a problem.
Rather than
treating a problem in a person.”

30.
“Two primary roles in the adaptation of Āsana
to the needs and potential of the student are
Facilitating a decrease of tension within the body
whilst
Facilitating an increase of attention within the breath.”

31.
“Amongst the Antarāya that
relegate Prāṇāyāma to the wish list
is the choice of a long relaxation as
a substitute ending to Āsana practice.”

32.
“One hallmark within TKV Desikachar’s teaching on Āsana,
was not to confuse ‘appropriate’ alignment techniques,
with ‘proper’ alignment techniques.
The former implies a personalised starting point,
whilst the latter implies a developmental potential.
However both need to be related to 3 questions:
Where am I coming from?
Why am I practicing Āsana?
Where am I going to?”

33.
“TKV Desikachar did not teach different people different things.
Nor did he just teach the same thing to different people.
He taught different people the same thing in different ways.
The same could be said of T Krishnamacharya’s teaching.
Hence the context of the phrase the Viniyoga of Yoga.”

34.
“Something spreading more widely may not
automatically mean that something is developing.
Should we be reflecting more on that which helps Yoga to develop,
rather than on that which helps Yoga to spread more widely?”

35.
“There are those Yoga teachers who speak to your fantasies
and those Yoga teachers who speak to your realities.”

36.
“I feel we need to ensure that
we use our practice to support our teaching,
rather than using our teaching to support our practice.”

37.
“As a teacher it can be helpful to consider Āsana as
vehicles to transmit the fundamental principles of practice.
For example a cardinal principle of practice is that Āsana
have a primary and a secondary aspect within their Lakṣana.
Thus we must inquire into what is the primary aspect in this Āsana,
and what is the secondary aspect in this particular Āsana?
The idea is to maintain the integrity of the primary characteristics.
Thus we may need to compromise the secondary characteristics.
For example in Uttānāsana to sustain the primary work in the spine
we can consider a secondary compromise by releasing the knees.”

38.
“Krishnamacharya and Desikachar’s transmission
sought to preserve specific personal priorities
when transmitting Yoga teachings to others.
For example when teaching youngsters,
the focus was on doing less with more.
However when teaching adults personally,
the focus was on doing more with less.
This would be with regards to Āsana practice,
as well as with regard to the number of Students.”

39.
“All of Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s
life work focused on the training of students,
some of whom then went on to become teachers.
Rather than the reality that pervades Yoga today,
in that the priority is on the training of teachers,
some of whom may go on to became students.”

40.
“Yoga offerings include

– Yoga for Asthma
– Yoga for Bunions
– Yoga for Colds
– Yoga for Digestion
– Yoga for Eyesight
– Yoga for Flexibility
and so on through to
– Yoga for Volleyball
– Yoga for Witches
– Yoga for Xmas
– Yoga for Yahoos
– Yoga for Zombies
Is it not time for more
– Yoga for Yoga?”

41.
“Has the fusion of Yoga and Fitness
become a confusion of Yoga as Fitness?”

42.
“You apply therapeutics through Cikitsā,
but not protection or preservation.
This is the role of Rakṣaṇa.”

43.
“The principles of CikitsāRakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa Krama
are more applicable to the ‘mindset’ of a person,
rather than looking through the ‘fitness’ of their body.”

44.
“My Āsana study with Desikachar was shaped around forming
a deep appreciation of specific core principles that underpin
the planning and practice of Āsana and their application to
the individual student’s constitution, psychology and need.
Amongst these dozen or so core principles,
the first group when looking at any Āsana in depth,
were the concepts of Nāma, Rūpa and Lakṣaṇa, or the
nameform and characteristics of that particular Āsana.
Obviously, the Nāma is a useful tag point for identification
and the Rūpa is vital as a reference point for the Sat Viniyoga,
or right application of the Āsana within overall considerations of
initial direction and outcomes through such as the Śikṣaṇa Krama,
Rakṣaṇa Krama or Cikitsā Krama application of the forms used.
However, I do feel these days that our understanding in Āsana
practice is more dominated by the Nāma and the Rūpa with
little emphasis on the Lakṣaṇa or inherent characteristics of the
Āsana and how understanding this aspect can have a profound
effect on the approach, application and outcome of the overall or
accumulative impact of the Āsana within the student’s practice.
The teachings of Krishnamacharya around Āsana included
an in-depth appreciation of the Lakṣaṇa, especially around
the thirty or so primary and secondary support Āsana such as
Uttānāsana, Jaṭhara Parivṛtti, Bhujaṅgāsana or Januśīrṣāsana.”

45.
“Desikachar taught me that there were eight steps
in the journey towards learning the teachings.
1. Upadeśa
– To come near to the teachings and remain
2. Śravaṇa
– To listen to the teachings with an open ear
3. Grahaṇa
– To seize hold of or grasp onto the teachings
4. Dhāraṇā
– To concentrate on memorising the teachings
5. Manana
– To carefully reflect on the teachings
6. Anuṣṭhāna
– To live with and put the teachings into practice
7. Anubhāvana
– To have some experiences from following the teachings
8. Pracāra
– To share and apply the teachings with others
In the other words the journey towards:
coming near to, listening to, grasping, memorizing,
reflecting, applying, experiencing and sharing the teachings.”

46.
“Krishnamacharya’s approach
to teaching children Āsana,
was more about cultivating
strength in Prāṇa Sthāna and
movement in Apāna Sthāna.
Whereas for teaching adults
Āsana, the approach was
now more about cultivating
movement in Prāṇa Sthāna
and strength in Apāna Sthāna.”

47.
“The First and Second Chapters of the Yoga Sūtra
can be linked to the teaching concepts of
Śikṣaṇa, Rakṣaṇa and Cikitsā Krama.
In that the Samādhi Yoga in Chapter One
can be seen as apt for a Śikṣaṇa situation,
whereby the primary aim is discernment, as in
exploring what lies within the sense of I-Am.
Whereas, in Chapter Two, the Kriya Yoga section
can be seen as being apt for a Cikitsā situation,
whereby the primary aim is recovering, as in
reducing agitation through lifestyle changes.
Whereas, in the Bāhya Aṅga section of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga
can be seen as being apt for a Rakṣaṇa situation,
whereby the primary aim is establishing stability,
through a formal practice within a Yoga Sādhana.”

48.
“A suggested strategy is to
focus primarily on the length
of the breath when working in
group class situations with Āsana.
Whereas, a suggested strategy is to
focus primarily on the subtlety of
the breath when working in group
class situations with Prāṇāyāma.”

49.
“In terms of Prāṇāyāma from
a one-to-one perspective,
we need to consider whether
the practice starting point for
the practitioner is from a Rakṣaṇa,
Cikitsā, or Śikṣaṇa Krama viewpoint.
From  a Rakṣaṇa Krama viewpoint,
the situation we are focusing on initially
is on developing the length of the breath.
From a Cikitsā Krama viewpoint,
the practitioner’s energy and
respiratory capacity may be low,
so the scope for working on the length
of the breath may well be limited.
Therefore a suggested strategy initially,
is to focus on the subtlety of the breath.
Whereas, from a Śikṣaṇa Krama viewpoint,
the potential is there to work and develop
both the length and the subtlety of the breath.
So both options can be explored from the onset.”

50.
“When we are talking about Yoga,
what percentage of the time are we in
reality actually only talking about Āsana?”

51.
“When talking about Yoga as if a practice,
I feel it could be helpful to distinguish
between which aspects of Yoga practice
we are actually referring to as they tend to
have differing, and at times even seemingly
contrasting, facets, paradigms and purposes.”

52.
“If we can accept that Yoga is more than just Āsana,
what would you see as the difference between
Āsana as a practice and Yoga as a Sādhana?”

53.
“Although the inhale is the
exploratory means to learn
more about the Prāṇa Sthāna,
it is initially the exhale that will
teach us about the Apāna Sthāna,
and here is a primary means in the
application of Āsana as a therapy.
In terms of the breath, the
exhale is naturally passive,
the inhale is naturally active.
So, one of the initial primary
principles in the Viniyoga of
teaching the art of breath work,
is how to make the exhale active.”

54.
“Initially, if teaching breath work in group situations,
we don’t need to worry about people using Ujjāyī
or not. Because, even if you are not using Ujjāyī
and you want the student to learn to make the
exhale longer, they must learn how to initiate the
exhalation by contracting the abdominal muscles.
So, making the exhalation longer is something
you can learn and refine independently of Ujjāyī.
Sometimes, even within the very act of making the
exhalation longer people will naturally shift to Ujjāyī.
If teaching individually, we can start with introducing
the student to the process of activating the exhalation.
However, given the uniqueness of the personal dynamic,
initiation into the art of Ujjāyī can usually be presented
within the first lesson, along with accommodating the
structural and the performance differences between the
characteristics of the exhalation and of the inhalation.”

55.
“One approach in the Viniyoga of
teaching the art of breath work
within group situations is that of,
within working Āsana the Bhāvana is
on cultivating the length of the breath.
Whereas, within seated Āsana the Bhāvana
is on cultivating the subtlety of the breath.
The technique of Ujjāyī can be used within
both situations as in, placing the focus on
length within working Āsana, and placing
the focus on subtlety within seated Āsana.”