Lead by Example

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Is there a better way to achieve my goal of passing on the deeper concepts of yoga without boring the students to death? I understand that just because I find reading and attending lectures on Eastern and yogic philosophy fascinating, not everyone will. But I can't in good conscience just lead everyone in movement and call it yoga. Any suggestions?

—Megan

Read Dharma Mittra's response:

Dear Megan,

There are certainly those who come to class only for exercise, and that may be the ultimate challenge for you as a practitioner and teacher of yoga. But don't worry! In the West, the quest for the Supreme Self often begins with the postures. Serious study of any one of the eight limbs inexorably leads to study and knowledge of the other seven limbs. Remember that the majority of students do come in for exercise and are rajasic, always involved in the need for activity. Many are not ready or yearning for knowledge of the self, or even for meditation practices.

One simple way to inspire students to learn more about the philosophical aspects of yoga is by establishing yourself in a deep state of sattva. That is to say, through years of your own dedicated practice, you can establish yourself in a state of bliss where there is no ego, no me, and no you. From this place, you will be endowed with some knowledge and realization. This alone can act as a catalyst for the students you teach. You are not indoctrinating them with any philosophy or so-called religion but rather being the living truth and proof that is yoga. Those around you who are more receptive will begin to wonder what you are doing to be in such a peaceful and loving state. Soon they will come to you to find out what they can do to attain such peace.

Furthermore, as you become more spiritually inspired, you will be able to choose pleasant asanas, breathings, mantras, and meditation techniques that will serve students best. This will naturally prepare their bodies and minds to be still, look inward, and become receptive. At the close of each class, the students are often more open to hear about the amazing powers of yoga techniques and how beneficial the philosophy can be to inspire and change their lives.

Try choosing one topic to teach on briefly, such as the importance of a vegetarian diet. Think of it as if you were planting small seeds in the students. For some students, it may take a long time for the seeds to blossom. For others, there may be more fertile ground, and they will make rapid progress. But always keep working with them, planting, nurturing, and tending to the students. Over time you will notice that even the students who initially came to class for a "great workout" will be happy to sit still, meditate, and study the sacred yogic texts.

This is the joy of teaching. But be patient—it can take a long time. With perseverance, you will eventually have a room full of enthusiastic students, hungry for higher knowledge. May patience be your golden strength.