Go Slowly with New Students

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I would be grateful for any advice to help these determined souls. I'm happy that they requested the classes twice weekly instead of once a week, and I don't want them to become discouraged.

—Kathie

Read Dharma Mittra's response:

Dear Kathie,

This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for you to grow as a teacher. First, I would say don't worry and just be patient! For new students, especially those who have been unhealthy for a long time, it can take time for the body to relax and rejuvenate and for the mind to become quiet. It is rare for new students to be able to sit still and concentrate. This is why asana, the third limb of yoga, is designed to prepare the student for the other limbs, such as concentration and meditation.

I would recommend that you offer these men simple joint flexibility and warm-up floor exercises before the practice of the postures. Give slow neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist rotation, knees-to-the-chest stretches, and side-to-side movements to soften the lower back and spine, followed by some gentle hip openers. They should then do a number of Bhujangasana (Cobra Poses), back stretches, gentle arches, spinal twists, and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) to practice. Have them repeat these asanas three times each if possible.
Since their minds are not that calm, I recommend giving them less relaxation between the asanas, and keep your conversation with them to a minimum during the practice. After the exercises, guide them through a long, peaceful relaxation. After relaxation, have them sit comfortably against the wall or even in a chair to practice concentration on a candle flame, flower, or crystal ball for a few minutes. It is best to have them end with the simple mantra Om shanti. Don't give them names of the saints to chant, so they won't have any feeling of practicing a religion. This way they may enjoy their journey and, over time, see their bodies begin to unfold.