Yoga Lesson Planning - What should be the contents of Yoga session?
By Gandhar Mandlik (under the Guidance of Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik)
Typically a Yoga lesson should contain techniques to improve physical and mental health. Mostly asanas or positions, Pranayama or breath control, relaxation techniques for body and mind, meditation or other mind control techniques are the techniques practiced in the session.
How to start a Yoga lesson?
At the start, a Prayer or chanting Omkar or Mantra or brief relaxation can help students forget their anxieties, worries or stress related thoughts. These techniques should help the students to focus the mind on the yoga, relax the mind, and get rid of the thoughts.
How to select & design the Asana sequence?
Hatha Yoga talks about asanas as discipline of Body & Mind. The asanas are primarily focused on the physical body and through body, one can control the mind. Asana involves stretching various parts of the body, typically muscles, ligaments, tendons and internal organs as well. This various movements are helpful to different systems of the body.
There are numerous benefits one can get by regular practice of asanas, like good physical health, maintaining proper weight, controlling metabolic activities of the body, better functioning of heart, lungs, brain, digestive system, excretory system, reproductive system, respiratory system, muscular system, endocrine system and much more.
To get most of these effects in a short asana practice of 1 hour or less than that involves great skill in designing and sequencing the asanas.
There are few basic principles if followed properly can get most of the advantages mentioned above.
- Preparatory movements - One should always practice few warm up movements to loosen the joints, align the ligaments, tendons and muscles at joints. It is essential as asanas exert stress on different joints and if they are not loose then one may overstretch them. These movements should focus on various joints like waist, knee, shoulder, wrist, ankle, neck etc. These movements should be done in a slow and controlled way. This slow and controlled movement helps gain better muscular control.
- Asanas - There is a variety of Asanas available. Forward bending asanas, backward bending asanas, twisting & turning asanas, stretching asanas, inverted asanas, balancing asanas. These asanas should be mixed considering your level of flexibility and practice. You can refer to following URL to see variety of asanas (www.yogapoint.com/info/yogasana.htm)
- The time of practice for backward bending asanas should be more than forward bending asanas as we rarely bend backward during the day. Twisting and turning asanas should equal for right side as well as left side. Stretching asanas stretch most of the body and should be done towards the end of the session as stretching all the muscles help them realign naturally.
- Initially after the preparatory movements, supine position asanas are preferred, followed by prone position, then sitting position asanas and finally standing position asanas are performed. This is based on the natural evolution of balance mechanism of our brain. (The baby is born and is in supine position, then 3 months later it can get on its stomach that is prone position, then it can sit and finally after 1 year it can stand on its own.)
- The asana session also should consist of inverted asanas as it allows the stagnated blood in some part of the body to drain resulting in efficient functioning of body.
- Balancing asanas make the brain and nervous system efficient and helpful in increasing the concentration.
The movements should be slow and controlled as it allows better control over the muscles and mind is engaged in the movement which helps in relaxing it.
The asana position should be maintained for at least 15 to 20 seconds. If you maintain any position and try to relax in it then Golgi tendon or clasp & knife reflex is triggered, this nervous reflex further relaxes the muscles. One can stretch the muscles if they are relaxed, so if you maintain the position and try to relax in it, one can easily stretch more effectively and take ideal position.
If you try to relax the muscles, the stretch in the asana position is transferred to the internal organs which stretch them and increases blood supply, nervous activities in the region. This helps in improving the functioning of the organs and entire system.
How to design Pranayama practice?
Yoga breathing involves 3 types of breathing, 1st is abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, 2nd is chest breathing and 3rd is clavicle breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is the most efficient breathing, so in Yogic breathing diaphragm is used to the maximum capacity followed by chest breathing.
Deep breathing is very important practice, it has calming effect on the entire nervous system, effective absorption of O2, rhythmic breathing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate and effectively helping reduce stress are some of the benefits of Deep breathing. Also it increases lung capacity.
Physiologically breathing can be of 2 types. 1st is hyperventilation, the O2 (oxygen) levels increase and CO2 decreases in the blood and 2nd type is hypoventilation where O2 levels drop and CO2 increases.
The Pranayama practice should have balance of Hyper and Hypo ventilation practices. Kapalbhati, fast breathing, Bhasrika types of Pranayama are Hyperventilation. Nadi Shodhan, Ujjayi, Shitali, sitkari with retention of air are Hypoventilation type of Pranayama.
Another aspect of Pranayama is some types increase the heat in the body and other types reduce excess heat in the body. Fast breathing, kapalbhati, Bhasrika increase the heat. Shitali and Sitkari reduce the heat in the body. So the practice of Pranayama should consist of heating and cooling Pranayama.
Under the guidance of Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik (Rushi Dharmajyoti)