Tradition of teaching has a history of thousand years in India. Established by Rishis and Munis the “Gurukulas” were abode of learning. It is a noble job and ideal profession but requires a skill on the part of the teacher. No doubt teachers are born and not made, but certain skill and good methodology can change the whole teaching in a class room situation. Therefore, it is our effort to bring about a book on teaching methodology for yoga practices for it has come into the realm of education. The role of a teacher is not merely teaching but effective teaching so that the students learn the lesson effectively.
Swami Kuvalyananda Ji, once said on Teacher in education, “A teacher should have a motherly love for his students. One cannot win over students either through creating a personal awe and fear or through creating an aura of one’s knowledge and scholarly panache. Teachers should never insult and use abrasive words to such students in any way. Such students should be treated more affectionately and be encouraged. Give some more time to such students even after the usual school hours. A teacher perceives, instantly, through bodily cues as to whether a particular student has understood the subject matter. He should see to it that the subject matter being taught is thoroughly understood by such a student.
Every teacher should recognize his responsibility for value education and physical education along with formal education. Be it any subject, a teacher should emphasize on value inculcation and ethical values while planning out teaching of his subject matter. It would not be pertinent to leave the subject of Physical Education to the respective subject teacher only. As well, this subject should not be treated as merely a part of sports activities. In a class room situation, during a learning process, even the mode of sitting, standing and conducting oneself properly, can be encompassed within the ambit of physical education. From the view point of biological science all these aspects of human endeavor have an intimate relationship with health and hygiene. With due cognizance to this fact, the class teacher concerned should guide students appropriately. A teacher will be able to perform his above mentioned duties only when he has motherly love for his students”.
We have very little information about the ways and methods resorted to by the teachers in ancient times for teaching various subjects. However, according to Bhagwad Gita the methods of learning consisted of persistent questioning, showing reverence and doing physical work for the teacher. There were no fixed hours of teaching. There were no examinations and no certificates. Being with the teacher was the best way to learn. The conversations between teacher and students were free and frank. Often there were arguments between teacher and student but this never led to any acrimony. Before any lesson began, the teacher and student would both pray together that they might derive the best results. The idea was to study together, not to compete with each other. The teacher always knew more than the student but did not claim that he knew everything. A good teacher always expected that his student should prove his superiority. All learning took place in the residential situation. All education was completely free. Most of the teaching was oral, so this required recitation and cultivation of a good memory. The student not only learned from the content of the lessons but through personal conduct, which was expected to be above reproach.
Teaching of a practical subject involved observation, demonstration and practice on the part of the student and correction of the faults, giving positive suggestions by the teacher. There was also much use of the trial and error method on the part of the student.
Teaching was not a profession but a mission to enlighten innocent young children entrusted to the care of teachers.
Most of the teaching was individualised using instructional method on a one-to-one basis or at the most in a small group.
Today the times have changed. Like other professions teaching has also become a profession. However, the teaching of Yoga differs from other forms of teaching. For the first time in history, Yoga has attracted the attention of enormous numbers of people all round the world and we find it necessary to devise different methods of instruction for class work in order to fulfill the needs of so many interested students. From our experience we have evolved some methods of teaching yogic practices to train the maximum number of persons with minimum time, expenditure and effort.
Yoga and Yogic Practices
Yoga is a very ancient discipline. It is recognised as one of the most important and valuable heritages of India. Today, the whole world is looking to Yoga for answers to various problems faced by today’s people. At no time in the past has Yoga attracted so much attention from people in so many places in the world. In spite of this fact, no field is so grossly misunderstood as Yoga, even in India. If we were to take a cross section of society and make a general survey of the public’s opinion about Yoga, we would find many mis-conceptions about Yoga, the most common of which are:
i) Yoga is not meant for the ordinary person, the house-holder but is only for a select few.
ii) Yoga is associated with the idea of the supernatural or linked with miracles.
iii) Yoga is equated with mysticism, black magic or various types of mortification.
iv) Yoga is a system of therapy which can cure all diseases.
v) Yoga is a system of philosophy dealing with metaphysical theories about the universe.
vi) Yoga is just a system of exercise.
All these misconceptions indicate that most people are unable to see Yoga as a whole concept, but are only aware of a fragment of its potential.
The term “Yoga’’ is used in the literature both as an end as well as means. As an end yoga signifies ‘integration of personality’ at the highest level. One of the meanings of Yoga derived from the root ‘yuj’ is SAMADHI. It is a comprehensive term really means ‘integration’ and includes in it all other meanings. Samatva or harmony is another word which suggests the same meaning. This is the meaning of Yoga as an end.
In order to help the development of such integration, various techniques are employed. These techniques or practices are mentioned in yogic literature and are also referred to collectively as Yoga’. Thus we find various individual practices coupled with the term Yoga like Netiyoga, Laulikiyoga, Dhyanayoga and so on. When various practices are systematised and formed into a discipline employing such practices, these systems are known as ‘schools’ of Yoga like Bhaktiyoga, Jnanayoga, Karmayoga, Hathayoga, Layayoga and so on.
Thus, it will be seen that the word ‘Yoga’ is traditionally used to convey the meaning of an ‘end’ as well as a ‘means’. Lack of discrimination between these two meanings is one of the causes of confusion about Yoga.
The discipline of Yoga passed through several stages and in the course of time different schools emerged which had evolved a variety of techniques and practices. Every school of Yoga emphasized specific practices, but their aim always remained the same: the highest level of integration through the control of the modifications of mind. Some schools use practices that deal with the mind directly and some use indirect means through the body to tackle mental processes.
All the yogic practices may be classified as (i) Asanas, (ii) Pranayamas, (iii) Bandhas and Mudras, (iv) Kriyas, (v) Meditation and (vii) Attitude training practices. Each one of these classifications consists of a group of several practices. Let us now get acquainted with these groups.
These are special patterns of postures that stabilise the mind and the body through static stretching’s. Their aim is to establish proper rhythm in the neuromuscular tonic impulses and improve the general muscle tone.
The two basic principles governing the performance of Asanas are stability and comfort. This suggests that the nature of Asanas is psychophysical and not only physical. Although they are practised by the body the effect on the mind is also felt.
Every Asana should be performed effortlessly and maintained for a comfortable time. There should be no jerks and the performances of Asanas should not lead to undue fatigue.
Asanas may be classified as (1) Meditative, (2) Cultural and (3) Relaxative.
1) Meditative Asanas are sitting postures which maintain the body in a steady and comfortable condition. By various arrangements of the legs and hands different Meditative Asanas are formed. The characteristics feature of the Meditative Asanas is, however, keeping the head, neck and trunk erect.
2) Cultural Asanas involve static stretchings which bring about proper tone of the muscles. They contribute to the flexibility of the spine and render back and spinal muscles stronger. They also stimulate proper working of the vital organs in the thoracic and abdominal cavities. There are innumerable varieties of cultural asanas which are performed in sitting, lying and standing positions.
3) Relaxative Asanas are few in number. They are performed in the lying position and are meant for giving rest to the body and mind.
Asanas in general form the basis of other yogic practices by preparing an adequate background.
These practices bring control over the respiratory impulses which form one of the channels of the flow of autonomic nerve impulses. Holding of the breath for a prolonged and comfortable time is an essential technique of Pranayama. However, in the initial practice the breath holding phase is completely avoided and emphasis is put on the controlled inspiration and expiration with a time ratio of 1:2 between them. The expiratory phase is so controlled that the following inspiratory phase is not affected in its slow and controlled inspiration.
There are many varieties of Pranayama which use different permutations and combinations of breathing techniques through one or two nostrils or sometimes inspiration through the mouth.
The three phases of Pranayama, namely controlled inspiration, controlled retention and controlled expiration are technically known as Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka respectively.
The main purpose of Pranayama is to gain control over the autonomic nervous system and through it influence the mental function. It is useful in higher yogic practices like meditation.
Bandhas and Mudras:
These are locks and holds of the semi-voluntary and involuntary muscles in the body. They decongest the vital organs, improve circulation and nutrition by pressure manipulations and contribute to general health and emotional stability. A difference is made between the Bandhas and Mudras on the basis of their use in Pranayama. Mudras that are used in Pranayama are usually called Bandhas because they bind and channelize a particular nervous activity in a particular place or direction. Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Mula are important Bandhas. Some Asanas are called Mudras because of their specific and channels through which the effects are brought about.
These are purification processes usually classified into six divisions and therefore they are often called Shatkriyas. These are Dhauti, Basti, Neti, Trataka, Nauli and Kapalabhati, each one of which consists of many subsections. They increase the range of adaptability of the tissues forming various organs and systems and raise the threshold of their reactivity. Kriyas bring control on different reflexes and establish psychophysiological balance. The modes of purification in the kriyas are air, water, friction and manipulating movements. The regions of cleansing involved in various kriyas are nasopharyngeal, orocranial, gastro esophageal, anorectal and intestinal.
This is the practice involving control of the mental functions which start from the initial withdrawal of the senses from external objects to the complete oblivion of the external environment. There are innumerable techniques of meditation. It is a process of absorption in which the individual tries to turn his attention to dwell upon a single object, sound, concept or experience.
Meditation is a great tranquillizer. However, it is not always safe to start one’s practice in Meditation without preparing adequately through Asanas and Pranayama. In the hierarchy of yogic practices Meditation occupies a higher position. The basic principle of Meditation is to develop internal awareness.
Attitude Training Practices:
These are technically called Yamas and Niyamas. These are self-imposed restrictions to govern one’s behavior to form a particular attitudinal pattern. These form the basis of all the yogic practices.
The nature of all yogic practices is psychophysical. All yogic practices are complementary to each other and each practice contributes to similar effects on a greater or lesser scale using different channels.
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