Written by Savina Shah
Two months ago, I was sitting at the club preparing for a workshop I was going to conduct the same week. I suddenly realzed that I needed a break and hence called for a cup of green tea. As I was sipping my tea, I started talking to this soul from Sri Lanka, who was sitting on the table next to mine. For the fitness freak that he is, the conversation began with yoga and then we spoke about almost everything my work as a yoga teacher implicates and then he suddenly asked me, “With so many teachers around, and without much of social media support, how is it feasible for me to carry on with my classes successfully?” At first, his question stunned me, and the very next moment, I don’t know how the words started flowing out of my mouth. I replied to him, “I take ownership of my work. I, as a teacher and a healer, own my words. Whatever I say, I say it with authority, and I speak with assurance. Words have power, and the frequency at which they travel and reach souls is beyond our human mind understanding. Therefore, as a yoga teacher, I first gauge the energy of the souls each day and just two minutes of “good-mornings”, and the selection of words my students chose to speak with, on any given day, gives me enough clue as to what needs to be orchestrated for the day. Then I immediately, in my mind, plan what my companions, my students need. And that indeed is one of the reasons that my every class is different than the other. I don’t repeat the sequences. I every day listen to the collective energy of the group and intuitively create the series.” I further added, “After assimilation of words, another challenge is augmenting the connotation to the class by giving it a topic or a central message. This can be as detailed as an explanation of yoga philosophy that is attested in the sequences of yoga postures or as easy and natural as embracing the breath or recalling to relax—successful topic functions like a fundamental element. The topic entirely depends on the collective vibration of the souls present in the room- nowadays, Zoom meeting room. I subtly but certainly introduce the topic at the beginning of the class, then I scour several contexts over ninety minutes, and reevaluate at the end.”
I continued, “I initiate brandishing words at the beginning of the session, and then students speculate the topic as they continue through the class. This means that sometimes students discover their embodied experience—how elements feel in their bodies relative to the topic/theme. Sometimes it means they will recollect or reiterate a word, term, or mantra linked to the theme. After class, I paraphrase the piece again, and students get to contemplate its significance off the mat. I ensure that during the course, I come back to the article many times because students process words in the context of their understanding. In my own experience, I have discovered that only the new students focus primarily on bodily cues. If they are stressed, they try to concentrate on maintaining vigilance while their minds wander.”
Then he asked me, “Why and how does the theme matters?” and I continued to tell him, “Words have vibration and power. Words help us change the course of thought patterns. I believe in the strength of beautiful, gentle, provocative, wise, and loving words. When I set a theme and start describing that, at the same time, students move their bodies. I can see them shift, transform, and get relieved from the day-to-day existential irritation that epitomises their energy for even the happiest of the souls. Theme or a topic is significant not just because words are dominant, but also because I perceive that as an opportunity to convey Divine messages and ideas to people when they are vulnerable to listening to them—they are physically flexible or physically challenged, mentally absorbed, and willing to accept. In the seat of the teacher, I speak to the souls when they are keen to believe in the power of inner and outer being —not just on what to move or how to breathe, but also on how to be. Theming in a yoga class plays a significant role. Topic or theme is a gift from me to my students – a gift that enables them to give birth to hope or stability or a restored spirit which is beneficial in our current time and age, as politics, civil chaos, and technology have to lead to anxiety. My chore is to curtail the anxiety of my students. I do that with competent arrangements, but I also care to deliver nourishing and nurturing class content. Another important aspect of the theme is, it helps in distinguishing between a yoga class and a fitness class. In a fitness class, students come to move, whether that’s lifting weights, doing pilates, cardio, or cycling. Often, breath is prompted in these classes, and often fitness teachers encourage self-care (“rest,” “drink water”) and self-awareness (“listen for the voice telling you that you can’t do this—you can!”). When students take a fitness class, they don’t do so with the intent that they will learn something intelligent, like a new life perspective—from the teacher. But yoga nurtures the body and the soul; good themes or central messages helps in generating a healthy body, mind and spirit. When my students come to the yoga class, they want to feel good, and they also hope to learn something. Along with the main course of yoga postures and breathing techniques, they also expect something to satisfy their sweet tooth by having a hearty pudding of philosophy. They believe that as part of the practice of yoga, part of the understanding of shifting, moving and breathing, there will also be a lesson or reflection or guidance about being.”
Concisely, yoga is yoga today, and yoga was yoga over two thousand years ago. Yoga was, and yoga is a device to enable people with the everyday challenges of living. Bodily action performs a pretty decent job of that on its own, but blending movement/action with the theme and prudent words does it thoroughly. In gifting my students’ wisdom on how to deal with the struggles of existence, I see myself engaging with the real history and objective of yoga.
I don’t know after listening to my perspective on yoga and the significance of themes, how convinced that friend of mine was. Still, I was super proud of myself for walking the right path, for my contribution to serving humanity, for teaching life, for connecting souls to their true selves and for being the light to diminish the darkness that many souls are carrying within.