And there are other ways to harm our students with the practice. For instance, the nervous system is agitated by jerky movements. This includes trembling during a pose by working too hard. Remind your students that there is no virtue in holding poses too long, for the benefits quickly unravel and turn into detriments. I have heard some teachers say to their students, “Shake it out!” and encourage their students to shake themselves after intense poses to release tension. This misses the point. It is far better to be still and melt the tension with awareness.
There are a number of specific techniques I recommend for bringing peace to students who are particularly scattered. Have your students do suspended inversions such as hanging on a pelvic swing or Adho Mukha Svanasana with a wall rope around their thighs. In these poses, the spine can release and the nerves in the spine can relax. This creates a sense of calmness as the body moves into its parasympathetic mode. Another way to create this effect is to have your students do Savasana with a head wrap. This contains the scattered waves of the brain so that, when the student removes the wrap, the brain waves are more coherent, focused, and calm.
Encourage your students to strive to maintain equanimity in every pose. However, for cultivating peace, balance is more important than the mere display of equanimity. If your students have been sitting in chairs all day, it is necessary to swing the pendulum the other way and work them vigorously to release pent-up tension. The art in this case is to work vigorously, yet not violently; intensely, yet with equanimity.
We feel peaceful only when we feel safe–when we don’t have fear. Our sympathetic nervous system kicks in as soon as there is fear, in the “fight or flight” response. Hence, it is our duty as teachers to make sure our students feel safe in class. When our students feel safe, their parasympathetic system activates and begins self-exploration and healing. Self-exploration is impossible for one who lives in fear. Fearful people are more concerned with defense and with countering the aggressive force of an “enemy.” When a student appears to be fearful, ask yourself, “What have I done to make this student feel unsafe? Is the student reflecting my doubt or fear, my lack of knowledge or experience?” Do not let an egoistic desire to appear competent create fear in your students or destroy their peacefulness.
Living in a consumer society, we may fear that unless we accumulate a lot of things, we will be labeled as failures. When we desire and are not able to possess, a discord arises within us and propels us into a restless state of frustration and strife. It is only a sense of contentment that can move our nervous system into a state of peace. The ideal is to have the means to acquire whatever we desire and yet be content with not having it. Then we can be calm. In other words, peace seldom comes from austere self-denial. Rather, it comes from having the ability to possess anything we want, yet consciously making the choice to have less in order to keep our lives simple and calm.
While external peace is the result of freedom and choice and lack of fear, internal peace is independent of external phenomenon. No matter what is happening outside, when I tap into my inner spirit, I am at peace. I enter that unruffled quality of chitti (pure consciousness, or God). When we connect with this chitti, then no matter whether we are driving on a freeway, meditating in a mountain meadow, or standing in front of a speeding bullet, we feel an expansive peace, like the feeling of stepping into a hushed cathedral or of melting into the colors of a sinking sun.
When we take the time to be peaceful and calm, we are given more time in return. Calmness grants us focus, and with this we accomplish more while expending less. Indeed, great focus comes from great calmness and not from great fervor. When calmness and peace is ours, we are receptive to our soul. We allow ourselves the imminence of bliss. This bliss is one of the greatest gifts we can share with our students.
Recognized as one of the world’s top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally renowned Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified Naturopath, a certified <a href="/health/ayurveda“>Ayurvedic Health Science Practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified Shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.