Teaching Yoga – Giving Pause for Your Students


By Aadil Palkhivala, a Master Yoga Teacher, Co-founder, Alive and Shine Center, Bellevue, WA


We often try to do our students a favor by packing as many instructions into each class as possible.  We have an urge to teach everything we know about every pose, particularly after taking an inspiring workshop with a master teacher.  I have observed many beginning teachers who chatter non-stop throughout class, a consequence of the lethal mixing of tense nerves and the desire to impress.  Students, however, need both time and space to assimilate instructions.  Indeed, they become frustrated and agitated when instruction “followsinstructionfollowsinstructionfollowsinstruction” without pause. In the face of this onslaught of verbiage, our students’ minds cannot stay focused, and switch off, much as our minds switched off during the incessant drone of our math teacher years ago.  Therefore, pause between thoughts, between instructions, even between sentences.  This gives your students time to absorb and integrate what they have heard, a chance to go inside themselves, reflect, and assimilate what you have said.  Also, as every good actor knows, pausing makes the audience eagerly anticipate the next word.

Yoga is about self discovery, about learning who we are.  We can only truly learn from what we experience. Therefore, we must allow our students to experience the fact that Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) improves their ability to hear, ask them to sit quietly in Virasana (Hero Pose) after they come out of the pose, or in a simple crossed-leg position.  Ask them to lift their heads, keep their spines erect, close their eyes, and observe the effects of the pose in their bodies.  Instruct them to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and feel.  Then ask them to tune in to the sounds they are hearing, and experience for themselves that Sarvangasana enhances their ability to listen.  In this process, they go inside themselves and experience firsthand what they may have otherwise blindly accepted as fact.  They have practiced yoga from inside out, realizing that they are on the path of self-exploration, self-growth, and self-union rather than a path of accomplishing postures.  Pausing allows this self-discovery.

Modern society is addicted to stimulus and afraid of silence.  Our yoga classes must provide a quiet haven, a refuge from the cacophony of society, giving our students perhaps the only chance they have for silence and reflection – a silence we all internally yearn for.  Mozart once said, “Music is painted on a canvas of silence.“  Let our yogic instructions, too, be painted on the canvas of a silent mind.


© 2008-2017 Aadil Palkhivala