Online Yoga Teacher Training: Beware of Imitations

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www.yogaalliance.com.au www.yogaalliance.it
Article courtesy of Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo
Founder and owner
www.shaktiyoga.it

Given that in an emergency condition such as the one related to COVID19 in which contact between people was not allowed, using the web it was a valid alternative.

However, once the emergency is over, the exception represented by online teaching cannot be considered a substitute for normality, i.e. teaching in presence, especially with regard to technical and practical disciplines such as yoga, which is defined as being 90% practical and 10% theoretical.

Following  online trainings from own computer is definitely a comfort  and a saving in terms of economic resources (travel, gasoline) and time of course. However, we understand the advantages and disadvantages of this type of training. Before considering it the solution to all problems, it is certainly wise to compare advantages and disadvantages.

Given that in an emergency condition such as the one related to COVID19 in which contact between people was not allowed, using the web it was a valid alternative.

E-learning is an on-line learning where, thanks to the use of multimedia technologies and the internet, professional training courses are carried out. Access to resources and services is simplified by digital tools and remote connection.

This is where distance learning was born. The term distance learning is often used in a generic way to identify a type of training and teaching that is implemented, precisely, at a distance or where there is no sharing of space and physical interaction between teacher and students, but everything is mediated by the use of technological means.

If there are many advantages, there are as many disadvantages or rather limits. First of all, “lecturing” through technology cancels out the dimension of teacher-student interaction and among the students themselves. Especially if the lessons are pre-recorded, this becomes even more significant because the student is alone, isolated in the learning process.

Even when the lesson is live online, important elements that animate the vis à vis lesson (face-to-face are missing: first of all human contact and direct communication, made not only of words and listening but of gestures, expressions and facets that make the difference in the learning process and in the understanding of the contents.

With the use of technology the possibility of interaction and confrontation is less direct, slower and often leads to losing some important elements of growth. Especially for beginners compared to the yoga discipline, where contact with the teacher is essential for learning from the technical point of view and personal growth.

The use of media is very complex and may not be very functional if not well used. Especially if the online lesson is pre-recorded you may have difficulties in concentration and understanding, often due to the monotone of the voice, respect for the timing of the various phases during practice.

All things that in the frontal lesson the teacher can consider and grasp from the signals he receives from the students. Another substantial disadvantage is linked to the impossibility of exploiting the ties that are created with fellow students, certainly a source of wealth and important confrontation, from which relationships and exchanges of ideas and support can arise with respect to each other’s motivations.

Teaching online has its advantages:

– No need to have a dedicated place with related management costs
– Time and cost savings for travel
– Independence from collaborations with non-owned structures
– Reaching students beyond the area of residence

However, it should be emphasized that it is impossible for the teacher to observe each student three-dimensional view, from direct experience, the teacher only sees one screen during teaching, with the consequent impossibility to make corrections to support the student’s practice during the lesson. This produces for the teacher a teaching “in the dark”, while in the student insecurity, not feeling protected by the watchful gaze and presence of the teacher

Advantages and disadvantages in online yoga lessons

Advantage: Be able to practice when and from where you want
Disadvantage: You do not use a place, the yoga room, created and equipped for the specific discipline

-Advantage: greater flexibility
Disadvantage: Need for self-discipline (Only direct relationship with a specialized center and a qualified teacher can develop discipline) – Impractical mode for lazy or depressed people.

-Advantage: You can follow different styles with different teachers
Disadvantage: Many styles end up confusing, one finds oneself practicing without a defined and structured line (Many styles, equal to no style). Mixing different modes does not bring results.

-Advantage: practicing at home
Disadvantage: The practice at home is subject to the interference of cohabitants and does not facilitate psychological detachment from family commitments.

-Advantage: Saving money (travel and yoga lessons fees)
-Disadvantage: You spend less to get little or nothing

Attending an online course rather than a class in a yoga centre is NOT THE SAME. However, one does not exclude the other. The integration of face-to-face classes in a yoga centre, with live or recorded online classes held by your teacher, makes yoga practice more consistent, safe, stimulating and effective.

Summary the main tips for a safe approach with the yoga discipline

1-Do not start practicing yoga through an online course, learn first from a teacher in a qualified yoga centre, from a  certified teacher.
2- Try different methodologies in order to then choose one and follow only that choice, only in this way will you get real and profound results.
3- Use online lessons only as a support to face-to-face lessons
4- Do not choose online courses that offer different methodologies from the one you are practicing with your usual teacher, the ideal is to follow videos produced by your own teacher.

Professional training courses for yoga teachers on-line

All the considerations and conclusions made for classroom teaching compared to online teaching are even more valid for training courses, specifically for yoga teacher training courses. In Italy and the rest of the world, among the unregulated professions is the teaching of yoga, this means that anyone can be called “yoga teacher”.

But what many people do not know is that there is no difference in title between a teacher who has trained at a school that provides years of training and study, and that of the aspiring teacher who without any practice decides to enrol in a teacher training that allows you to become a teacher in a very short time, for example a few weekends, or even completely online.

Moreover, since no governmental or para-governmental Yoga organizations exist in any country in the world today, it is important to keep in mind that they have never been established, by national laws of any country in the world and/or by international agreements, true Professional Standards for training and teaching courses in Yoga discipline.

Absence of a Global Yoga Governing Body

In the absence of a global reference legislation, between 1999 and 2013 were born the Yoga Alliance organizations including the prominent ones: Yoga Alliance (International Australia), Yoga Alliance (International/Italy), Yoga Alliance Professionals UK, the Canadian Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance (USA), without any constraint of exclusive representation, to enhance the skills of members and ensure compliance with ethical rules, with the aim of facilitating the choice and protection of users.

The public registry of each Yoga Alliance are useful for consumers to verify the credentials of the teachers they rely on for training courses or yoga lessons. It’s recent news of the emergence in the U.S. of a market for training courses for yoga teachers online, by unscrupulous private organizations, which to the detriment of young and not-so-young users, promise an illusory training at low cost.

For this reason it is absolutely necessary to undertake a serious work of information to protect consumers against uses and abuses in the form of real scams.


COVID19 TIME- THE POINT OF VIEW OF A YOGI

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NOTHING HAPPENS BY CHANCE Article 7.5.2020, by Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo Owner Shakti Yoga Centre Civitanova Marche – Italy

There are moments in the life of each of us, like the one we are living now, when nothing seems to work as it should, moments that come unexpectedly and go to undermine our serenity. With the thought that becomes gloomy, pessimistic about everything. Inevitably, it is inevitable to suppose that misfortune has raged against an “innocent victim”. But the reality, the great sages of history teach us, is another, nothing happens by chance, and since every event happens for some non-random reason, the wise mind reflects on why a situation occurred and tries to take advantage of it, taking advantage of the lesson and taking an important leap towards the path of personal growth.

It is not always easy, this is obvious, but once learned this attitude of “I let events happen and trust in heaven’s will“, each situation will become lighter to bear and clearer in its manifestation, even the apparently harshest one, like the one we have all been experiencing for weeks. It is clear that, however strong and determined our will maybe, what has to happen happens anyway, in one way or another.

Often such events occur in order to make people understand that the road that is being traveled is not the best one (like the blind race to appear, a pathology of which the human being is affected at this moment in his history), blocking channels and putting obstacles along this road to stop a race destined to a certain abyss.

The experience that the human species of the whole planet is living at this moment, is the scream of nature that is calling the human being, to tell him that life is not at all predictable and safe, that anything can happen at any time. The human being is called to become aware that our health is not certain, our financial situation is not safe.

What we can and must do, as a response to this unequivocal truth, is to define our reaction, this is in our hands. We can react in a positive way, or we can simply play the part of the “innocent victim”, waiting more or less passively for someone else to come and save us.

The wisest path for ourselves and for others is that of positivity, but this path is not just to say “everything will be fine”, remaining what we were until January 2020. NO, THIS IS NOT SUFFICIENT! this world event wants to teach us that contemporary man, despite the great technological progress, is not the controller of the planet but rather the controlled. Technological progress without the evolution of human consciousness is not able to make man’s existence healthy, peaceful, and in harmony with creation.

Although we exercise our bodies, we are careful with our diet, we work hard to earn adequate income and, without a doubt, we find some relationship with the Divine to give us some sense of protection and security. All these activities more or less explicitly demonstrate that we recognize or instinctively feel the insecurity of life.

No matter how much we try to control our future, no matter how much we do from a positive or negative point of view, despite all this, we have the feeling that life is not safe after all. The more we try to control the future, the less secure we feel. If we reflect sincerely, we must recognize that the more we try to control life, our insecurity grows rather than diminishes, united by a common emotion, fear.

Perhaps we should listen to nature, integrate with its rhythms, integrate instead of trying to appropriate it with the false illusion of controlling it. If we positively revise the conception of the man-created relationship, this will make things around us take place in a more harmonious way, without harshness and with greater well-being for all. It is time to revise our vision of things because, as we know, once this experience is over, by necessity, all of us will no longer be as we were before.

Yoga also helps us in this: it prepares us physically and psychologically to face everyday life, even the hard confrontation with our most superficial part, the one linked to the search for a happiness that, even if achieved, turns out to be evanescent and not very intense.

The identity principle of yoga is “union”. It represents the end but, at the same time, also the means. In order to reach the realization of union, yoga, if practiced in its entirety, guides us first towards the integration of all our individuality, an individuality made up of body, energy, mind, intelligence and soul, then to the final realization that man, integrated in himself, is naturally in union with his fellow human beings.

The current emergency is clearly showing that individualism makes us weak and dissociated, while union is a fact, human beings are united, for better or for worse, by the laws of nature, even before human laws.

An inner confrontation that, potentially, each of us can win and whose prize is the discovery of a world, the inner world, made of communion with our own self, with others, with the universe and full of that lasting peace, so far sought in the wrong direction.

Swami Sivananda Saraswati teaches us: “This world is your body. This world is your school. This world is your silent teacher.”

Best wishes of: Peace in hearts for world peace

Felice Vernillo (Arjun yogi)

Yoga Overcomes Anxiety

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Anxiety disorders, which include panic disorder, are the most common class of mental disorders present in the general population. The estimated lifetime prevalence of any anxiety disorder is over 15%, while the 12-month prevalence is more than 10%. One study estimated the annual cost of anxiety disorders in the United States only to be approximately $42.3 billion in the 1990s.

Specifically, panic disorder, whose key element is an increase in anxiety level, is also a common mental disorder with significant clinical manifestations and socioeconomic impacts. Panic is characterised by the repeated occurrence of discrete panic attacks that features a variety of physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, perspiration, dizziness, dyspnea, trembling, and uncontrollable fear (fear of losing control and going crazy, fear of dying).

Between attacks, patients might also develop persistent apprehension or anticipatory anxiety, regarding the possibility of another attack. In addition, about one-half of these patients eventually develop agoraphobia.

The magnitude of the short-term societal costs of anxiety estimate in recent studies is surprising. Greenberg et al. estimated that the annual total societal costs of active anxiety disorders in North America alone over the decade of the 1990s exceeded $42 billion.

This estimate excludes the indirect costs of early-onset anxiety disorders through adverse life course outcomes (e.g., the documented effects of child–adolescent anxiety disorders in predicting low educational attainment and consequent long-term effects on lower-income) and through increased risk of other disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders predicting the subsequent onset of cardiovascular disorder). Therefore, it has become urgent the need for effective low-cost strategies that provide the right tools for patients to cope with anxiety themselves, in order to reduce the economic cost of mental disorder in society.

WHAT IS ANXIETY

Anxiety is an emotion that, in itself, would not be inadequate to feel because it is a necessary response to stress. Anxiety is a defensive mechanism aimed at anticipating the perception of danger even before it has clearly manifested itself, it sets in motion physiological mechanisms that lead to exploration, to identify the danger and address it in the most appropriate way.

In the course of daily life, situations that activate anxiety are frequent. In most cases, they resolve themselves positively. Overcoming these experiences, as a physiological phenomenon, represents a fundamental element in the development and maturation of the personality. If, however, we are unable to overcome positively (by deactivating the defence mechanism) a situation of real danger, that is, if the state of alarm does not correspond to a real danger to be faced, anxiety becomes an inadequate or unrealistic response, assuming the connotation of a real psychic disorder. Instead of representing an element of growth and maturation, it becomes an element of the disintegration of the personality.

Integration and adaptation to the external environment are regulated by the nervous system. The nervous system is similar to the hardware of a computer, like a computer, the nervous system analyzes data from outside and inside and then distributes information to various districts and apparatuses.

The functions of the nervous system are:

– Providing sensations about the internal and external environment

– Integrating sensory information

– Coordinate voluntary and involuntary activities

– Adjust and control peripheral structures and equipment

THE ANXIOUS PERSON

Feeling anxious is unpleasant. You feel like people different from everyone else, inadequate, strange, those who suffer from anxiety try to hide it, often you are teased by other people. The anxious person lives himself as a person different from others, represses his fears by taking refuge in his loneliness, the manifestation of this state is to restrain his breath.

The breath represents an access door, it is the connection between the inner world and the outer world. It represents a bridge between the heart and the brain, that is, between the deep, emotional part and the rational cerebral part. It is a key to access the labyrinths of the unconscious. In moments of anxiety and fear, as an act of protection, the breath becomes superficial (almost freezes), the body stiffens the muscles contract.

When the anxiety takes over, the breathing accelerates and increases the anxiety itself. There is an increase in oxygenation of the blood, too high a level of oxygen in the blood prevents the tissues from absorbing the oxygen they need. It seems a paradox, yet too high levels of oxygen in the blood, do not allow the tissues to receive the oxygen they need, while on the contrary, a higher level of carbon dioxide, would allow the oxygen to pass through the tissues.

The Study observed significant improvement in panic symptomatology following both the practice of yoga and the combination of yoga and psychotherapy.  

Scientific search results: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25538634

YOGA FOR ANXIETY

Yoga acts on both the outer and inner spheres of the human being. Yoga is able to recompose the state of dispersion and tension, integrating all the systems: the bodily, emotional and mental system. The ultimate goal of yoga is to sever the connection with what causes suffering.

The yoga practice normally taught concerns the practice of technique. Yoga applied as a resolution of anxiety, on the other hand, must be oriented towards the individual rather than the technique. When we speak of an individual we mean an indivisible being made up of:

1- a material body

2- a functional body

3- an emotional body

4 – an intellectual body

5- an existential body

We move from the material, visible, to the invisible, immaterial, thinner aspect

Yoga applied against anxiety is different from any other therapy. In conventional therapy it exists:

  1- The Therapist

  2 -The Technique

  3- The Patient

During medical therapy, the person can be treated, consciously or unconsciously. With yoga it is we who treat ourselves: the path is individual. The yoga teacher is not a doctor who does everything for us.

The yoga teacher only acts as a guide (this explains why it is not enough to bend well to be a yoga teacher).

In yoga, each individual has to take responsibility. With yoga, we can only work with a conscious person who actively participates in their “treatment“. The essence of yoga applied as anti-anxiety is based on the use of the only function of the body that we can modify and experience with the will: breathing.

Pranayama, the yoga practice that uses breathing. But pranayama cannot be considered as a simple breathing exercise, it is a deliberately controlled breathing. It has as its purpose the control of the upper brain centres.

In the ancient yoga text Hatha-Yoga Pradhipika cap.II v.2:When the breath is irregular the mind is unstable, but when the breath is quiet so is the mind”.

So learning to breathe properly in a deep way helps our body to function better, helps our mind to have more clarity and greater control over our emotions, especially over emotional states such as stress and fear.

To be effective, yoga must be practised in its entirety. Integral yoga consists of both external practices, on the muscles, on the joints (Asana) and on the organs (Pranayama), on the mind (Meditation) that is.

In yoga what is really important is the inner aspect, to reduce the suffering of the person is necessary an inner workable remove the cause of anxiety, not a kind of temporary sedative that soothes the symptom. The whole of the practice of Asana, Pranayama and Yoganidra is what can lead to a new consciousness, to the awareness of being but also of power, of one’s own strength, an inner force that takes us beyond fear and anxiety.

Given the relationship between breathing and mental states, for a yoga teacher it is essential to know how pranayama works in the human being, even before knowing the techniques of pranayama. Especially when dealing with anxious students, who are becoming more and more frequent today.

Practising and knowing in-depth pranayama, for the yoga teacher, today is the ingredient to make a yoga lesson truly healthy.

Om Shanti

Felice Vernillo (Arjun yogi) owner https://www.shaktiyoga.it/ Author of Books of Yoga https://www.shaktiyoga.it/shakti-yoga-books.html 

Felice Vernillo-author Yoga Shakti Theory and Practice

The Guru – The Master and The Yoga Teacher

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by Master Yoga Teacher  Felice Vernillo founder and owner Shakti  Integral Yoga – Italy

Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo

Master yoga (Teacher Felice Vernillo Founder and owner Shakti Integral Yoga – Italy

The knowledge of yoga has been handed down since ancient times orally from master to disciple, a transmission chain called Guru-Parampara. This “chain” over the centuries has ensured yoga of preserving its original identity, the authenticity and the authority of the Masters or Gurus of the past, has meant that none of them derived their teachings from their own imagination, but based it his teachings on his personal experience, matured following the instructions of his master, instructions coming from the texts unanimously recognized as the only authority on the subject and for this considered “the truth”.

Given that a teacher is absolutely necessary for every aspirant involved in the yoga path, as only the teacher is able to identify and remove the defects of the student. The ancient sages affirm “the egoistic nature of the human being is such that it does not allow him to find his faults on his own, just as a man cannot see his back, so he is not able to see his mistakes, so he is necessary the guidance of a teacher to eradicate the bad qualities and the defects ”.

The aspirant who is guided by a teacher is sure not to be misled by his mind. The association with a tutor is like an armour, a fortress able to defend against all temptations and adverse forces. All the great Masters of history have had their Guru.

THE GURU

Let’s see then how the texts written by realized define a Guru: For a sincere aspirant yoga, the Guru is like the sun. It is the Guru who awakens from the sleep of ignorance. It is the Guru who, through his enlightenment banishes the darkness of ignorance, brings the right reasoning, the right perception, the right thoughts. It is the Guru who shows the way, through his instructions and his high personal life. It is the Guru who emphasizes the pitfalls and dangers along the path, warns and makes alert. Just as the sun arouses activity, in the same way the guru inspires and awakens the search for knowledge. All this and much more is done by the Guru .

The method used by tradition to transmit the teachings has always been to use real-life stories in order to make it easier to understand the principles they want to impart. In this regard there is a nice story used to describe the fundamental quality that must distinguish a Guru.

“An old lady went to Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836-1886) one day, bringing her 10-year-old nephew with her. She prostrated herself in front of him and said: “Master! I need your help. This boy is my nephew and has been an orphan since the age of 5, and since then I have been taking care of him. Now I have a big problem. The boy eats too many sweets, so many that his health deteriorates from day to day. I have been to the doctor who severely warned him, but he does not listen to him. The boy, however, has great admiration for you, and I am sure that only you can help him!” Ramakrishna replied:” Mother, don’t worry, come with your nephew in a month, in the meantime I will think about what to do to convince him that health is very important, even more important than wealth!”. The old lady thanked him and left.

After a month, the woman came back on time with her nephew and they both greeted the master with great reverence. Ramakrishna sat the boy next to him and said, “My dear boy, remember that true wealth is health. If you do not take care of your health you will not be able to grow strong and healthy; you will not be able to do anything great in this life if you are a weak and sick man. When what we eat harms our body, we must give it up. So don’t eat sweets any more tomorrow! After a while you will be able to eat in moderation. Are you a good boy and I’m sure you will listen to what I told you, isn’t it?”, The boy nodded and promised that from that moment on he would never eat sweets again.

The old lady sent her nephew to walk and remained alone with Ramakrishna and asked him: “Master, why didn’t you give this advice to my nephew a month ago? Because you told me to come back in a month, I don’t understand!”.

Ramakrishna replied with a sweet smile: “Mother, I myself ate many sweets, how could I tell the boy to do something that I myself couldn’t do? No one has the right to preach to others if they do not practice what they say before. This is why I asked you for some time. I have not eaten sweets this month, and I have acquired the right to advise your nephew.

The woman marvelled at the rectitude with which the Master had behaved, he prostrated himself at his feet as a humble acknowledgement of his authority and then left “.

SIKSHA GURU AND DIKSHA GURU

The human being has a dual task here on earth: to preserve his life and realize his own self. To preserve his life he must work for his daily bread. To realize one’s self, one must serve, love and meditate. The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of the arts of the world is the Siksha Guru. The Guru who shows him the way to realization is the Diksha Guru. The Siksha Gurus can be many, as many as the arts they wish to learn. The Diksha Guru can be only one, the one that leads him to Moksha, or to free himself from suffering.

STAY FAITHFUL TO THE PRECECTOR

In this regard, I think the words of my venerated Guru puja Swami Chidananda maharaji (The Divine Life Society) are illuminating, and he speaks thus: “Do not dig here and there to be shallow to get water. The pits will run out soon. Dig a very deep hole in one place. Centralize all your efforts there. You will get the good water that you will need throughout the year. In the same way, try to absorb the teachings (all the more spiritual) from a single tutor. Absorb deeply by one master. Sit at his feet for a few years. It makes no sense to wander from one teacher to another just out of curiosity, thus losing confidence in a short time. Do not have the changing mind of a monkey. Follow the instructions of one master. If you go to different people and follow the instructions of many people, teachers and teachers, you will be confused.

An Indian saying says: “From a doctor, you get a recipe, from two doctors you get a consultation, from three doctors you get your own cremation”. Similarly, if you have many teachers, you will be confused. One teacher will tell you one thing while another will do something different and so on. Remain loyal to a master, obviously after pondering and choosing among many, follow his instructions. Listen to everyone, but follow one, respect everyone, but abandon yourself to one. Acquire knowledge from everyone, but adopted the teachings of a Master, only then will there be rapid physical, mental and spiritual progress “.

According to tradition the Guru has a dual function, the first fundamental function is the overcoming of the ego by the disciple, if the disciple understands this, the relationship works, otherwise it will not work. So the understanding of the Guru-disciple relationship, traditionally, is not based on a romantic or sentimental idea to be directed towards an idol.

The second function of the Guru is to ensure that we get rid of the concept of disciple. Its purpose is to introduce us to the inner guru, to ensure that we place all our trust in that invisible presence that we cannot mentally understand. This is a very delicate question, because the ego is always inside us to reaffirm that we do not really need an external Guru, and that therefore, we can look after ourselves on our own. It is a very delicate balance between knowing that in the end we must be self-sufficient and at the same time consider that until we recognize who our external Guru really is, we will never be able to recognize who the guru really is within ourselves.

Until we think that the Guru is a body and a mind, we do not really understand the Guru. The Guru is not a thing; it is not an object. The Guru is the whole; the Guru is Spirit; the Guru is a principle. This is what, according to the classical tradition, we must recognize in the external Guru, and it is what we must find within us.

The Guru ever die. The guru never dies because he lives in the disciple. He lives in the disciple through his teachings. For a disciple this is an honor, this is a privilege, this is a great fortune but, It is also a responsibility, a duty: to be what the guru taught him and to be what the guru was”. Thus the guru continues to live.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE GURU

 Puja Swami Chidanandaji says: “If you feel at peace in the presence of a Mahatma (great soul), if you are inspired by his speeches, if he is able to clear your doubts, if he is free from greed, anger and lust, if it is altruistic, loving and without ego, it can be taken as Guru. He who is able to clarify doubts, he who is suited to your sadhana, he who does not disturb your convictions, but helps you from where you are, and in his presence feels spiritually inspired, he is your Guru “.

THE MASTER

The etymology of the word “Master” derives, in fact, from the Latin “magister” (from magis, more); in Hebrew the master is “Rabbi“, which means “great” and in Sanskrit “Guru”, heavy in dignity and prestige …

The master is, therefore, the one who guides, paving the way, a delicate task, characterized by the full sharing of what he teaches. Indeed, the true master is the one who first tries to improve himself and then directs his intervention to others.

The history of pedagogy teaches us that the true masters are those who know how to establish a significant relationship with the student and represent a valid reference model for him. To be masters it is, therefore, necessary to have an idea of life and, through teaching and example, to produce in the student the desire to share it. Because no master can impose, but in respect of individual freedom, he must only lead the student by the hand on the paths of life, direct and not coerce, share and impose. The teacher in addition to providing the “bread” must also provide the “recipe”, otherwise, he failed as a teacher.

The Sadhaka (one who practices a sadhana) must feel this dynamic realization in the master and reproduce it in his own nature, must not strive to imitate the external attitude of his teacher, this simple emulation makes his practice sterile, instead of producing real and spontaneous fruits.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE A YOGA MASTER

 No matter what the scope, there is no more appreciable quality in this world than wisdom. Many people have the knowledge, other people have a great practical experience. But a wise person is that person who combines both knowledge and experience. If a person has only the knowledge of a subject, very often it is not at all a concrete knowledge and his theoretical knowledge often badly addresses himself and others.

It is better if a person has practical experience but, even in this case, with only practical experience, without theoretical knowledge, one does not have a complete vision, this means that the benefit of their experience is limited to practice alone. Thus, whether we refer to a profession or a teacher in any field, what is appreciable is a combination of knowledge and practical experience.

This is valid for both a yoga student and a teacher. Knowledge is one thing, practical experience can be a completely different thing. Some may have a great knowledge of the scriptures and yoga philosophy, but these people are not at all different from ordinary people, as they do not make the knowledge their own, they do not carry it within themselves. They are teachers who have never really discovered what the scriptures mean. On the other hand, there are practitioners who have done years of practice (sadhana) and perhaps they have changed considerably from the physical point of view, they understand the inner workings of the mind. But even these, without the knowledge of the scriptures, their physical ability is not enough, their ability to help others is limited.

The Yoga Vasistha says: “Just as birds are able to fly by means of both their two wings, in the same way action and knowledge together lead to the supreme goal of liberation”.

The Master yoga is the one who combines both: knowledge and practical experience. These are the people that every researcher must desire and seek as a guide. They are considered authentic sages and true masters.

THE TEACHER

Teacher means to be continually called and re-called to express himself, his freedom, his knowledge and method; to be attentive and vigilant about the reality of those in front of him, because if his humanity does not take into account the other one he is facing, delivery by interaction is not possible.

Attention, interest, participation, resourcefulness, are just some of the factors of learning linked to the human being: only if one adheres to the reality of what one is proposing, it is possible to learn, the teacher as a person has put himself in the game of facing reality. The teacher is the one who teaches you how to bring yourself in front of reality, even if of an objective, like a lesson in history, and reminds you, with his, of your humanity. “Things do not become familiar only with explanations, but risking … an experience … because otherwise these things are not understood. The beginning of knowledge is an event; things are understood when they happen, living them “.

 To have an experience is fundamental to know, because if I don’t “move” a part of me, if the adhesion of the person does not take place, “I don’t understand”; this is true for those who learn, but it is equally true for those who teach, if the teacher does not “explore” himself, teaching does not become experience, and therefore not even the possibility of conveying actual knowledge.

The role of the modern yoga teacher is much more than assisting the practitioner by showing him a sustainable yoga path or guiding him along this journey of personal discovery. The fact that one person does not exist the same as the other makes this task a more difficult and demanding challenge.

This is why we need physically prepared teachers, even teachers who put passion and dedication into their work, who are able to inspire, suggest, stimulate, push the student towards the search for his personal path. Teaching yoga is an act of generosity in which passion and love for what you do are decisive, a mission before a job. For this reason, it is an indispensable condition for a yoga teacher to have lived a personal practice (sadhana), that is to say, has already had the experience, before being able to transmit it. A teacher will have to express a condition of harmony and inner centring, through his way of being; through his thoughts, his words and his actions.

A yoga teacher must know, because lived, the two fundamental aspects of the yoga path, the technical aspect and the aspect of perception, the technical aspect is of an external type (Bahiranga), while the perceptual aspect is of an inner type (Antaranga). Knowing these two aspects, he is aware of what kind of yoga he is teaching, without forgetting that a serious and complete yoga practice must include both of these two aspects.

A good yoga teacher has a strong ability to observe himself and others, in order to interpret the condition and needs of the students. It teaches with the awareness of transmitting a personal experience with the heart, it is not a simple activity carried out to cultivate one’s pride, one’s fame, one’s ego. A sincere yoga teacher does not use yoga to affirm himself but, rather uses himself to affirm Yoga. The example is more powerful than teaching, but it is not just the example given by formal external acts that it matters, what will most stimulate the aspiration to “flight” in the students, will be the realization in the inner state of the teacher.

To sum up: The characteristics that a Yoga Teacher must possess in order to be able to correctly guide the development of their students are:

Human qualities – empathy, the ability to not judge, the ability to listen, compassion, a sense of responsibility, patience, perseverance, authority. Qualities that develop only by working on themselves.

Technical skills– Knowledge of human anatomy. Mastery of the techniques of Asana, Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra Kriya and Meditation. In practice, knowing how to practice Yoga in all its parts at a good level.

Deep knowledge– knowing Yoga in its philosophical, scientific, metaphysical and cultural aspects.

Teaching – Knowing how to teach. The ability to make simple what is difficult to understand or understand to a first approach, the ability to keep the students’ interest and enthusiasm alive, to know how to customize a learning path based on the specific needs of the students.

There are certainly many other aspects that make a Yoga Teacher effective in his task of guiding the student but these are certainly those that cannot be missed. It may take a long time to have them all but, the path to becoming a good yoga teacher is surrounded by light when commitment is sincere and born of the motivation to give in the absence of ego.

 Swami Sivananda Maharaji  summarized these principles in one sentence:” Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize”.

Shakti yoga - Italy
Shakti Yoga Founded by Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo

Om Shanti Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo owner Shakti Yoga Italy and book author https://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/yoga-shakti-manuale-teorico-pratico/libro/9788894108118

Asana Yoga Not Just Fitness

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by Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo founder and owner Shakti  Integral Yoga -Italy

Master Yoga (Teacher Felice Vernillo Founder and owner Shakti Integral Yoga – Italy

Yoga is a patrimony, a treasure for the whole of humanity, within which is contained all that can serve to complete the path towards self-realisation, in the awareness of unity with the whole. However, in the process of the discovery of Yoga by the Western mentality, as often happens in the rational and consumerist approach, the meaning of the ancient discipline is being distorted, giving rise to a somewhat distorted and reductive use value of this powerful instrument .

Today “we do” Yoga to get better, to relax, to release tension and cope with the discomforts of an unbalanced life. There is no doubt that Yoga helps in this: ” It’s the least” that such an ancient and wise discipline can offer the fragile and disoriented contemporary human being. Most of the people who come into contact with Yoga today, profusely poured from gyms, spas, hotels, holiday villages and so on, see themselves offered a sort of pill, a symptomatic medicine to break down a fever coming from a much deeper unease.

Thus, Yoga becomes a soothing as another, like a good massage, a sauna, a morning run in a park. More over the proven effectiveness of the postures related to the practice of Yoga has meant that dozens of “new yoga” were born, with exotic and bizarre names, that have nothing to do with the sacred and ancient tradition born of passion, desire and dedication of millions of practitioners at all times. This is why I believe that Yoga should be restored to its original intent, to the spirit of those individuals, practitioners, masters who have strongly desired and wanted to forge a powerful research tool, which could give a concrete answer to man’s eternal questions. To ask questions about one’s own existence is a duty of every human being, and it is his full right to be able to make a free search to become aware of the truth of his being.

Hatha yoga is the most popular aspect of yoga, but at the same time the most misunderstood. More and more often mistakenly considered as a simple exercise of positions, not only by adventurous practitioners but, above all by little or not qualified teachers.

Asana is a term that in yoga indicates assuming a body posture. However, asanas are something more complex than a simple position. Asanas being an integral part of yoga are not just a physical exercise, but involve both physiological and psychological processes. They are connected to all the other aspects of yoga: they are rooted in the ethics of Yama – Nyama and have their purpose in spirituality (Samadhi). Yoga uses the body to exercise and control the mind; in the most advanced stages, the body and mind together harmonize with the soul.

The hatha-Yoga of which the Asanas are the base, have purification as their primary objective. Purification means the removal of what does not belong to the true reality of what we want to purify. The whole yoga path consists in keeping our being free from all kinds of impurities, physical, mental, emotional, intellectual.

The practice of Asanas, first of all teaches us to communicate with the body.

Patanjali defines Asana as a stable, comfortable and effortless position (Sthira-Sukham Asanam). Therefore Asana is a position of the body but also a mental condition, a precise attitude held during the practice.

The etymological root of “Asana” is “ASA“, ie: Where I Am Connected

ASANA … means what helps to take a stable and comfortable yoga position; it is the third aspect of Yoga, according to the scientific scheme of Patanjali. Literally it means: Where I am … and in what state I am …

Speaking of Asanas, according to Yoga, the body is only the starting point for accessing the individual. For any type of activity, a position is required. Yoga defines the position of the body in two ways:

1. Pavitra – It is that situation in which the body takes a certain position that has to do with the outside world.

2. Asana – or Posture when we do not carry out an external activity, through the use of arms and legs but, we assume that posture to be able to start the “inner perceptions“. That is, when we do something that concerns ourselves, inside. Asana is a physical posture but can also be a mental attitude.

If the body can assume a certain position, the mind can also assume its positions and its attitudes; depending on what we have to do, the mind is stable in a certain type of attitude, in this case it is a mental asana.

The term Asana implies the concept of stability; strengthen the ability to be stable, practicing long and consistently. The guidelines have already been scientifically defined by Patanjali who represents the undisputed authority on the subject. Nothing needs to be invented in this regard.

Y.S. 2 °-46: “Sthira Sukham Asanam”

“What is stable (Sthira) and comfortable (Sukham) is Asana”

When we talk about Asanas, in relation to the body, it means that there is no effort at the cortical level but there is an action that takes place at the level of the cerebellum (lower or proprioceptive centers).

The posture thus practiced, allows the mind to be involved in something else that in yoga is the conscious experience of respiratory movements.

As long as it remains at the cortical (voluntary) level, there is involvement and attention cannot transcend into universal or perceptive states.

 THE ASANA OPERATE SCIENTIFICALLY

The central nervous system uses its lower centers of integration to maintain posture and balance. These lower centers are located in the medulla oblongata (varolio bridge), in the cerebellum in the midbrain and in the ganglia. Numerous reflexes are integrated by these lower centers, which operate below the level of consciousness to maintain position. Postural reflexes occur unintentionally following the stimulation of different proprioceptors and visceroceptors, in the muscles, joints, tendons, under the soles of the feet. The rhythm of muscle tone can be regulated by the lower centers completely independently and with absolute efficiency, while the upper centers of the cortex do not interfere in the least.

Every voluntary effort on the part of the body and mind means activity on the part of the higher centers, which prevail over the lower centers of integration. This disturbs the normal activity of the lower centers with regard to postural reflexes, this is due to the fact that the motor impulses are transmitted directly to the skeletal muscles.

When the learning of the asanas is started, a little effort is required for the muscles, joints and tendons. Then gradually, the maintenance time of the asanas is increased. During this phase the will plays a dominant role on the lower centers, it is engaged in the stretching of the muscles, in their contraction, in the abdominal compression, also feeling some discomfort here and there. Many people, since they consider the asanas of simple physical exercises, practice them in the form of isometric and isotonic exercises. It is obvious that, by changing the execution method, the results will be different.

Let us consider the isometric and isotonic elements that are introduced in the practice of asanas, then later we will deal with the mode of execution envisaged by the fathers of the classical yoga tradition.

Voluntary efforts are made to reach the final stage of an asana. The muscles and joints are activated and kept in position for a certain time, in fact the maintenance of the asanas constitutes the final stage. This prolonged contraction of the muscles is nothing more than an isometric exercise. An active stretching of the muscles produces an active contraction, as a result of the stretch reflex. The tension increases and this increase is felt by the joints, tendons and muscles, if it exceeds a certain limit, it causes discomfort and pain. All of this produces muscle fatigue and even tremors. This isometric activity increases the commitment of circulation and breathing, as the muscles’ need for oxygen is increased. Such an execution acts above all on the superficial muscles, rather than on the deep ones and on their nerves. Internal pressure changes and proprioceptive mechanisms (lower centers) hardly have time to affect the nervous system.

Sometimes asanas are deliberately practiced as isotonic exercises. In this type of execution the dynamic phase predominates, and leaves no room for maintaining posture. This type of exercise causes heating and profuse sweating, and excites the activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System, produces cardiovascular exertion, waste of energy with consequent fatigue of the whole body. It is easily understandable that such a practice for an individual suffering from a permanent state of severe stress or anxiety (a very common condition in contemporary society) not only does not help but actually fuels these forms of disorders. However, if a subject is in a state of hypotonicity and depression, active stretching and prolonged contractions will develop tone and muscle strength, producing energy, activity and enthusiasm in the person, thanks to the action on the Sympathetic Nervous System.

What happens instead when the asanas are practiced in the right condition of muscle relaxation, or with voluntary reduction of effort and absence of tension in the joints, muscles and tendons?

Attention is directed to the breath, with a detached observer attitude (Sakshin), this attitude allows to relax the body further, releasing the tension of voluntary efforts. The mind is emptied of thoughts, in the absence of mental activity and voluntary efforts there is no cortical activity (higher centers) for the whole time of maintaining the position. The lower centers that regulate posture and balance are free to act effectively, without interference, however, the type of postural reflexes that are determined with the related stimuli depend on the particular postural model, or on the specific asana performed.

We have seen that muscle tone is the basis of posture and can be influenced by emotional states or the person’s mental condition. When muscle tone is reduced, due to the passive stretching of joints and muscles, a sedative and calming effect on the nerves results. Emotions cannot manifest themselves in a pronounced way: in this way it is possible to face one’s own emotional load, reducing emotional tensions and relaxing more and more deeply. There is therefore the absence of internal disorders (vikshepa) or conflicts (dvandva) and it is therefore possible to eliminate states of physical or mental instability. In a relaxed and stable posture, internal awareness not only calms the mind, but also conditions it through the functional connection of the cerebellum-hypothalamus postural reflex. Sympathetic activity is suspended while parasympathetic activity restores stability to various levels. Now the body begins to “speak” to the mind through various sensations that are perceived by proprioceptors and integrated involuntarily by the lower centers. This explains why, in the long run, we see the effect of such an execution on the postural model of the subject.

According to the principles of yoga, the most profound changes occur when the forces that hinder change diminish. In the case of intrinsic balance, a deep level of internal support is needed, this support exists and takes shape when any extraneous muscular effort ceases to hinder it. The unconscious muscular effort we make to constantly counteract the force of gravity requires a lot of energy. Consequently, when this effort ceases, the experience is that of an energy that is released, because of this we can define the intrinsic balance as a source of energy, precisely because of the profound sensation of vitality that distinguishes it. This explains why yoga asanas help to release the potential energy of the axial skeleton by identifying and loosening the foreign muscular effort that hinders the innermost and deeper forces.

Patanjali clearly indicates how the practice of an asana should be conducted:

Y.S. 2nd – 47: “Prayatna Shaitilya Ananta Samapattibhyam”

“The absence of effort (Prayatna Shaithilya) leads the mind to orient itself (Samapatti) towards (Bhyam) the infinite (Ananta)”.

In asana there is the concept of being able to put oneself in “contact with the infinite” but, if the being remains tied to the physical experience, if it remains within the limits of the body, it will never be able to transcend the state of awareness limited. The “Knowledge” comes when one comes out of the dual game of “effort” and “tension”, the mental state becomes more open and the thought more global; with the absence of effort, the mind enters a state of emptiness.

Patanjali: Y.S. 2nd – 48: “Tato Dvandva Anabhighatah”

“Then (Tato) the tension (Dvandva) disappears (Anabhighatah).”

Speaking of Asanas, in relation to the body, muscular tensions can be released only if one has the capacity to abandon oneself and transcend.

Y.S. 2nd – 49: “Tasmin Sati Svasa Prasvasa Yor Gati Vicchedah Pranayamah”

“Asana is reached, in a stable and comfortable way (Tasmin Sati, comfortable for the body and for the individual), one becomes aware of the movements of one’s breath (Svasa and Prasvasa), of the energy (Prana) that produces the movement (Gati) and how this energy acts within us.

H. P. 1 ° -17: “Sthairyamarogyam Cangalaghavam”

“Asana is a factor that contributes to achieving stability, health and lightness of the body”

The result of the state of “Asana”, when we transcend it, is to be able to enter the “awareness of the breath”

Y.S. II-49: “Tasmin – sati svasa – prasvasa – yor – gati – vicchedah pranayamah”

“You can proceed only if you have the ability to experience” Svasa “and” Prasvasa

a) Svasa: the conscious experience of the movements that follow the inspiration.

b) Prasvasa: the conscious experience of the movements that follow the expiration.

As long as it remains at the cortical (voluntary) level, there is involvement and attention cannot transcend into universal or perceptive states.

During a physical exercise, the mind is concentrated on something that happens outside while in “Asana”, the mind must move inward.

It is essential for a yogi to know “how” the mind must move inward, during a particular Asana.

For example: I could also put myself in perfect Padmasana position and continue to chat happily: while the body is in Asana, the mind is out of practice.

The concept of “asana” is linked to that of “posture” which is completely different from the concept of “physical exercise”. Maintaining a “posture” is the way that allows us to analyze ourselves and remove from ourselves what disturbs us and does not allow us to remain in balance.

This is why Patanjali tells us that there are two ways of practicing Yoga:

1. Bahiranga Yoga: Literally means external Yoga

2. Antaranga Yoga: Internalization of our faculties, Yoga facing inward

Given the person’s two abilities, both to turn outwards: “Bahiranga”, and to return to himself and remain in himself: “Antaranga”, it is fundamental for Yogis to know that they must set their practice on these two aspects.

Working with the individual, as Yoga asks of us, means “working with his conscience”, not only with the “physical structure”.

For yoga the greatest victory is the victory over oneself, over one’s weaknesses, over one’s fears, over one’s afflictions


To find out more about Master Yoga Teacher Felice Vernillo (Arjun Yogi)
please visit his website: www.shaktiyoga.it/