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Sequencing with Noah Maze- Toronto, June 2011

Three components of an Anusara class:

–       heart based theme

–       UPAs

–       Asana sequence

–       You can plan a class starting from any of those three points

–       “teaching Anusara is a creative process. Method always requires my creativity”

Three types of students (from Christina Sell)

–       mystics- get message and energy of room. Theme/heart/iccha

–       egineers- details of pose and alignment (bring their protractors to classJ) . UPAs/mind/jnana

–       athletes- how much did a sweat, did I get deeper/further than before. Asana sequence/action/ kriya


Important questions guide our teaching:

–       what am I trying to accomplish in this class/practice?

  • Trying changing your intention. Try peak pose in set amt of time- can I get there and it feels good?

–       What level class? What syllabus are we working with?

–       Who is my audience? What do they already know?

–       What are the knowns and unknowns?

–       In what pose does this (action/principle/quality/sequence) come easily? For free?

–       In what poses, when I get _____(the quality/action/principle)__ does a break through occur? Ie, the pose deepens, heart opens, pain alleviated, something new becomes possible that wasn’t possible before.

–       In what pose does the UPA/key action solve a common misalignment? Pay off…


Heart based theme:

–       philosophical teaching, mythic, life experience, stories, images, poems…

–       change tone in voice to emphasize heart qual

–       ex) patience- longer holds (use timer) of familiar poses. UPA- OTG, pausing, in pause, softening…

Planning a class using the there diff components of ME as starting point…

Three components are:

  1. hug- skin to musc, musc to bone
  2. midline
  3. periphery to core

in what pose does #1 HUG come easily?  Ex- hug- warrior 2 pose creates the action automatically, the front thigh has to hug when knees are bent. Or Utkatasana. Vs Tadasana you can do the pose w/out ME.

Ex) in bridge or Urdhva you have to work legs, but in cobra less so. So do action in bridge and then go back to cobra and tell students to remember how they worked legs in bridge, now do it in cobra.


In what pose does #2 MIDLINE come easily? Ex- block btwn thighs, Prasarita with blanket under one foot, tree, Garudasana, dog w/one hand off (unplug one part of the foundation). Pay off:: Bakasana, urdva one leg off…

In what poses does #3 P> C come easily? Ardha Chandrasana, vira 3, UHPadang, crescent warrior, Tadasana leg lifted pull foot into hip, partner arm press, lunge

Pay off: hand balancing, headed bends (for flexible people). Note: ME- floor postures- flexible students tend to flop. So teach ME in standing poses and then the pay off is floor poses.

*poses where it comes easily should be poses where you can visually measure if the students are getting the actions



warm up: 1, 2, 3,

ME #1 Hug

3 poses


ME #2 midline; 3 poses

ME #3 p>c : 3 poses

Pay off poses: 3 poses


cool down

symmetrical pose




Sequencing to a peak pose: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana


Key difficulties: (physical and psychological)- balance, back heel to floor, deep twist, flexion of front hip, arms and shoulders, sq hips, breathing- anxious, agitated, can’t get deep breath, panic

Key actions: midline (for balance), kidney loop (rounded back), shoulder loop (expanding spiral of bottom arm)

What poses teach key actions: twists w/rounded back- concave spine

What parts of the body need to be prepared (anatomy of pose/component parts): spine (twists), low body strong, hip flexion

–       hip- vira 1, Parsvakonasana, Anjaney, Parsva Utkatasana, pigeon, lunge variations, agni stombasana w/twist, pashasana prep

–       psychological- teach in poses where they’re not in the fire- breath into back body- for example child’s pose. Theme with it- trust that even in breath is short, shallow, labored, invoke a sense of trust and faith…



1 cat/cow


lunge twist

key action #1 midline


dog twist


Key action #2 kidney loop




Key action #3 twists

Malasana twist

Pigeon twist

Marichyasana 1

Pinnacle: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana in stages…

Knee down, hands in prayer

Knee up hangs in prayer

Full pose with arm outside foot (can refine the arm spirals depending on group…)


Cool down


Supta padang

Purvottanasana on elbows



Shoulder stand and headstand

–       HS is rajasic

–       SS is sattvic

–       Is it agitating to the nervous system to do HS without SS? “what’s more agitating is rigid adherence to dogma” – john friend

–       Attitude is first

–       If finding it hard to have time for SS, you need to create a culture of it- so students know how to set up props quickly. If you don’t have enough props for everyone, then you can have half the room do Shoulderstand and half do supported setubandha at the wall.

Addressing fear- psychological challenges to poses

–       clear sequencing sets students up for success so they learn component parts gradually. Gives them psychological and physical tools to go deeper

–       “I’m a professional 🙂 … I’ve done this before, will you let me help you?”

backbends at night?

– ge to peak pose earlier and have a longer closing sequence. Give suggestions for people to do at home if they’re jazzed up (like legs up the wall).



Q: Why do we use themes in Anusara Yoga?
A: Teaching with a theme is just easier.

Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking. “What do you mean, easier? Themes are the most challenging part of my teaching and the hardest part to improve!” I hear this a lot from teachers I mentor. If that’s you, I totally understand. Developing, delivering, and wielding a good theme is the most challenging part of my teaching too.

I think of a theme as a complex instrument that can either be used crudely or with great refinement. I’ve delivered meaningful, moving, beautiful themes at the beginning of class and then found myself utterly unable to render them effectively during asana. On those days, it’s as if I’ve carved a very elaborate, refined sculpture and then picked it up by the base and used it as a club.

On rare days, I simply do not have a theme: I didn’t plan ahead, I’m uninspired, and I got nothin’. Those days…are rough. Sometimes I bring in a great theme, but I haven’t fully considered it and it falls flat. There are times when I put a great deal of thought and effort into a theme that does not mesh well with either the sequence, or the students, or my mood. On the other hand, sometimes what I think is a lame duck theme transforms, swan-like, into an amazing inspiration in the context of the class.

I recently tweeted, “A good theme connects the dots between an easily-relatable anecdote and the highest, subtlest virtues of the Universe. Or vice versa.” That’s a tall order! And you have maybe five minutes to set it up at the beginning of your class!

It’s a challenge, but consider this: the presentation of a theme is one of your first opportunities to help your students Open to Grace. Open to Grace is Anusara Yoga’s First Principle, and it contains all other Principles within it. When you’re truly O2G, your foundation is strong and resilient, your inner body is bright, and your outer body is soft. If the theme is rich with meaning and you deliver it effectively, the students’ inner bodies naturally expand with joy, wonder, strength, faith, and love. Because their inner bodies are bright, their form is effortlessly in alignment with the flow of Life. You don’t need a lot of alignment instructions. Your words will have created First Principle in your students without you teaching a single pose.

Without a theme to help create an Opening to Grace, our elegant alignment principles are brittle, wooden. It takes a flood of very detailed alignment principles to even come close to what happens when a Being Opens to Grace. On the few occasions in my teaching career that I’ve taught without a theme, I’ve been utterly exhausted by the end of class. I just can’t give enough instructions to make up for the lack of inspiration.

Yes, good theming is hard. And in my opinion, it’s not hard like math or social studies is hard. It’s hard like finding your life’s purpose is hard. Or having faith in a time of darkness is hard. Or loving a person who is driving you crazy is hard. However, while it may be hard to know your life’s purpose, it’s even harder to live a purposeless life. It may be hard to have faith in a time of darkness, but it’s harder to navigate darkness without faith. It’s hard to love people who drive us crazy, but it’s crazy to live without love. Themes are challenging, but we use them because they channel the blazing mystery at the heart of Life. That mystery is the source of yoga’s transformative, alchemical power.

You get me now? Teaching with a theme is just easier.

Make the theme/quality MATTER to the students


This quality will enable us to _____________in our lives.

So let’s do _____(pose)____ with ________(HQ) so that we can _____(do something in our lives)___________ more powerfully.

Build experiences around the theme/heart quality, linking it to the students’ lives

Using gratitude as an example…

-what are you grateful for in your life? hug into that with strong legs

-charge your legs, grateful for the stability that your legs bring you

-draw the shoulder blades firmly onto the back, creating a strong container to hold all your gratitude

-widen the thighs back, opening to receive gratitude

-be grateful that that pose is over! 🙂

-reach your arm forward toward someone you are grateful for

-turn back in your twist, looking into your past, then carry gratitude to your past forward into your present as you untwist

-what is your relationship to gratitude? notice what attitude you carry towards it.

Link the theme/heart quality to Chit and Ananda

We cultivate _________(heart quality) so we can (chit/ananda – know ourselves, express ourselves).

When we ______(encounter theme in such a way) and can respond with _______(heart quality) then we are embodying/experiencing/creating (chit/ananda – our highest selves, our deepest essence, our true nature, our highest self expression)

Make Chit and Ananda matter to the students’ lives

When we _____(chit/ananda – tap into our deepest selves, revel in our own expression etc.) we have more power to _________(something important or relevant in their lives).


Add real examples to these. Real heart qualities/themes.

Teaching Modifications

To keep the integrity and knowledge of asanas clear, make sure that people know the full form of the pose you are teaching. for example, many people now think that parsvakonasana’s full form is the front forearm on the front thigh. if you are teaching this modification, make it clear that it is a modification. In some cases you can bring people all the way into the full form (front hand outside of front foot) and THEN back it up into the modified version so that it’s clear


Q: what is the difference between dhanurasana (bow pose) with hands holding the outside of the feet versus hands holding the ankles with feet flexed?

The version with holding the feet gives more of an experience of organic energy extending up. The version holding the ankles creates more muscular energy in the feet, empowers shoulder loop and allows a deeper curl in the upper back.

Leens I don’t feel super clear on this – I can see what’s happening in the ankles version, but not really sure what’s happening in the feet version. Any thoughts on this?

Handstand Assists

When doing a handstand assist (of pressing into someone’s hand to come up), many teachers make the mistake of having people come into downward dog, lifting the leg and coming into the handstand from there. Sianna said “As far as I am concerned this is the most advanced way to do it!” because you have to have ALOT of core strength to bring the hips over the shoulders – its a far distance to travel! A good distance for an intermediate student, or someone just learning handstands, would be to have them take a stance halfway between downward dog and uttanasana and then lift the leg. A more advanced student can come into it from uttanasana (with hands a little farther forward than normal) because they may be more open in their hamstrings.

Sianna also suggested the “team of three” to come into handstand – the handstander, the leg presser and the hip holder. one person stands behind the handstander, getting ready to hold their hips once they’ve pressed up. the leg presser presses a hand into their leg and helps them up! the hip holder takes a firm hold of both hips and gives them an organic boost up, making them feel steady and secure.

Movement vs. Action, Giving Just Enough

Sianna spent alot of time talking about learning to instruct action succinctly and economically. Alot of us were teaching action as we were bringing people into the pose, and getting too detailed right away. Sianna explained that this is a really easy way to lose people, if you are overloading them with too much information. Sianna suggested backing off, learning to bring everyone into the outer form of the pose, looking closely at everyone to see what was needed, and then layering the action instructions on top. She also stressed FOUNDATION – that so many people are busy instructing action but their students have misaligned foundations! Especially to demonstrate your skill as a teacher in a certification videos it is important to practice coming back and checking students foundations.

I think my learning edge here is looking at the students closely and being able to see what they need, and giving them enough instruction without overwhelming them. I also want to practice giving quick verbal adjustments to students to line their foundations up, to keep the flow of the class going but keep everyone’s foundations clear and precise.

Twisted Lunge (hands in prayer twist over front leg)

Rather than coming into this with hands in prayer and simply twisting over the front leg, Sianna suggested bringing the hands to the knees, pressing hands into the knees to create a big side body long and then on the exhale taking the arm all the way over. This also prevents binding in the psoas and hamstring, which is more likely to happen if you come into it without lengthening first.

Windshield Wipers

Sianna had a concern about bringing the ankle onto the knee in this pose, as it creates too much pressure on the medial collateral ligament and could eventually wear down and become a problem. To prevent this either don’t bring the ankle onto the knee 🙂 OR really practice SITO – if you have dropped the knees to the right, energize the left foot, lifting the baby toe side of the foot towards the outer knee, and keeping that widening the thigh and drawing it back and up towards the ceiling (the thigh will lift because the pelvis is at an angle) Then really stretch organic energy, can bring the top arm up and stretch, now it would be safe to bring the right ankle to the left knee. You can teach this in stages over time, until you see people can hold that action. It’s also alot of action to teach at the end of a class when people are relaxing, so feel that out and teach that kind of detail only if it makes sense for the studentship and level.

Cobra Arm Details

-Many people can bring their hands farther back because when they come up they end up pressing their hands forward rather than dragging back

-We don’t want to squeeze the elbows into the body, this is a common misalignment

-to practice getting the action, do this in the air. Bring your arms into cobra position in the air. Open to grace, melt the heart. Claw the hands in the air, then bring an expanding spiral to the lower arms to widen the elbows (forearms turn in). Then melt the heart, and create a contracting spiral, turning the upper arms out. Drag hands back. Ya should feel it in the mid back, around the bottom tips of the shoulder blades. Oh yeah.

– to teach beginners, teach on fingertips, widen the elbows out, melt the heart. do fun things like having them stretch their legs back one at a time, reach forward and grab the person’s foot in front of you and pull it back. then have them root back with that same energy themselves.

  • index finger mound
  • head of humerus
  • shoulder blades
  • femur bone/thigh bone (head of femur)
  • sacrum
  • sits bones
  • tail bone
  • crown of head
  • big toe mound
  • 4 corners of feet
  • anatomy of natural curves of spine
  • lumbar curve
  • c7
  • kidneys
  • soft palate/roof of mouth
  • sternum
  • pubic bone
  • hip bones
  • iliac crests
  • hamstrings
  • quads
  • psoas

What are the common needs/limitations/strengths of a beginner student? (Leena’s answers)

  • Relaxation and have fun!
  • Community
  • Increase awareness of body in space- outer form of the pose and foundation of poses
  • Increase flexibility of hamstrings, hips, shoulders
  • Increase lower and upper body strength and stamina
  • Improve balance
  • Learn diaphragmatic breathing. Evenness of breath.

Why do an 8-week intro and how to make it a great experience:

–       Students should gain a basic understanding of what yoga is and the benefits of doing it.

–       Gain strength, flexibility, awareness, confidence, relaxation, stress relief, balance

–       Introduced to basic vocabulary and poses

–       Intro to meditation and basic chanting

–       Prepared, confident and safe for lvl 1

–       Home practice ideas/ Option to give homework. Provide pen and paper. Use white board. In lesson pick one thing that you worked on that day and specify how much you want them to do it (4 times before the next class…). Action homework: while you’re brushing your teeth lift your knee caps… gets people to remember they have a body!)

–       FUN!/Community

  • Partner work
  • Worthy and welcome. Greet people as they come. Shake hands, learn names.
  • Make yourself available for questions after class
  • Give email
  • Use their names in classes (esp from other side of the room- increases students sense of your omnipresence)

–       Students should be comfortable asking for help: be around after class, engage them generally. Shake their hand/make physical connection. Ask about injuries, invite them to remind you if they need modifications. Remind them it’s okay to ask for individual help and to use up your extra time one day, that frees up the space for someone else to ask for help when they need it.

–       Intro to resources and props.

20 + poses that students should have an intro to in an 8-week fundamentals class:

  1. Tadasana
  2. All 4’s- cat and dog tilts. + knee extensions
  3. Child’s pose
  4. Dolphin pose (bend arm/elbow dog)
  5. Dog pose
  6. Straight leg lunge (variations: arms up, twist)
  7. Plank and lower down (knees to floor first)
  8. Cobra (and Ardha Salabhasana, starfish (to strengthen contractive back musc)
  9. Setubandhasana
  10. Tree pose
  11. Baby dancer
  12. Prasarita Padottanasana
  13. Uttanasana
  14. Utkatasana
  15. Parsvakonasana (forearm on thigh, then block)
  16. Virabhadrasana
  17. Trikonasana (w/ block)
  18. Parsvottanasana
  19. Baddha Konasana (also supported baddha konasana)
  20. Jathara Parivartansana/ Alexander twist (foot on knee)
  21. Core strengthening (leg lifts on back keeping low back curve. Or navasana…)
  22. Standing Marichyasana with foot on chair/ seated chair twist
  23. Virasana
  24. Viparita Karani
  25. Savasana – progressive relaxation


  1. Salutation to the sun
  2. Wall push ups
  3. Chair at wall
  4. Cactus pose (to teach shoulder blades on the back)
  5. Diaphragmatic breathing
  6. Ujjayi breathing (towards end)

What are the primary principles of action/movement/alignment they should understand (no more then 6)

  1. Setting the foundation of the pose (what touches the floor) and feeling awareness of breath and inner body (softening the outer body)
  2. Muscular energy (1. Muscle to bone, hug the midline, periphery to core)
  3. Organic extension (1. From core to periphery 2. Lateral expansion from the midline 3. Circumferentially from bone out through muscles)
  4. Inner spiral of legs- thighs back, sitting bones widening (grounding femur)
  5. Outer spiral of legs- tailbone/bottom of buttocks lengthening to heels
  • Other focus points:
  • Shoulder principles (1. Side body long 2. Head of the arm bone back 3. Shoulder blades on the back)
  • pelvis in balance (IS/OS)
  • 90 degree angle of front leg in lunges/standing poses
  • safely coming out of a pose (inhale to come out in order to stay engaged and safe) – be sure to safely come out of poses in your demos!!
  • forward folding actions
  • progressive relaxation
  • introduce back body awareness (kidneys, backs of lungs)

Heart Qualities:

–       goes with an action, still teach all actions, but emphasis on one by tying it to heart quality to help people feel it more.

–       With org extension end with saying “full expression, remember… and you can tie back to the theme. But don’t take on the heart quality here if is really a quality that goes with ME or IS.

–       Connecting heart quality and action brings it into the student’s cellular memory.


–       ME- hug muscles to bone- embracing, stability, steadfastness, standing firm with what’s going on right now

–       IS/thighs back- approach with beginners mind, this is a new action for us. Open to new paradigm, open to something new.

–       Make a list of words that mean the same thing as your heart quality/ a few other ways to say it.


–       what’s the point? How does it relate? So what mantra.

–       All ties back to Chit Ananada (chit- knowing who you are, ananda- your true nature is bliss)

–       All part of the same energy

–       Intuition always speaking to you

–       True nature is joy

–       Knowing you’re part of something bigger- supreme conciousness.

What’s the point of doing the class?

–       can be personal story

–       give an example

–       story from another teacher

–       poem/reading

Teaching Tips

–       don’t use technical language like inner spiral, want to get students out of their heads in and into their hearts. Say what the action does in their body and what it feels like.

–       Be able to teach UPAs in 30 seconds- say them in the mirror every day. That your foundation. Then learn new ways to say it, and choose which to emphasize in different poses. Don’t teach all 5 in every single pose.

–       Don’t use jargon!!

5 UPAs quick and dirty

  1. SF and OTG- stand with feet parallel, take a deep breath and soften your skin. Take a deep breath filling into your back body and connecting with the universal energy. press through four corners of feet (don’t say root for two diff UPAs)
  2. ME- hug muscles to bone, draw to midline (balancing poses), spread your toes (shins in)- chose on aspect to emphasise
  3. IS- more your inner thighs back, press thighs back, take your hips back, roll your inner groins in.
  4. OS- scoop your tailbone, lengthen, tuck (start of pelvic loop)
  5. OE- have to say more for this one- use directionality. Form the core of your pelvis root down through your leg feet, from the core extend/shine, reach up. Moves from where to where. Bones energy

Learning to go from the unknown to known

–       as a teacher you’re offering a gift by believing in somebody before they believe in themselves, or even know what is possible for themselves. You can tell them what they need to know to get there

–       when you teach someone to do something they didn’t think was possible physically it might translate to their life off the mat (might lift glass ceiling at work or empower them in relationships…)

Mixed level classes and teaching tips

–       have top students go to the pinnacle, more limited students can repeat one of the previous poses

–       going to the pinnacle is not a matter of being worthy- each student’s worthiness is a given

–       put yourself in your students shoes, they aren’t always motivated by the same things you are. Might not be interested in complex anatomy.

–       Tell them why they’re doing stuff as it pertains to their context and invite them to try.

Road map

–       * begin with the end in mind- you have to drive through all the states to get to California!


–       give teacher evaluations- help you recommit to your path. Read them when you’ve had a bad teaching day.

–       Celebrate and accept where you are on the path- how wonderful it is that you want to develop and improve

–       Loving where you are as much as you love where you’re going.

–       You don’t have to make yourself wrong for where you were in the past. Love and accept the whole thing.

–       Chanting- practicing one of the best qualities of a student and teacher- listening

Where to start in planning a class

–       Either with a pinnacle pose then find actions and theme to go with it, or visa versa

Why do we challenge ppl to push the edge in our classes?

–       its empowering

–       ppl can do more than they think they can when they understand the basics and we help them put it all together

–       greater transformation when you play the edge

–       women (especially in their 40s +) were raised with a lot of glass ceilings.

hip directions

–       square hips= same distance from front of mat

–       level hips= same distance from floor

–       always going towards this but not always possible (ie warrior 1, 2)

Four levels of competence from new earth

1st. unconscious incompetence

2nd conscious incompetence

3rd consciously competent

4th unconsciously competent

stages/process we all go through as teachers! Enjoy the journey.

** your teaching is not what you teach, its what your students get!

Bits of wisdom and ideas:

–       don’t answer questions that haven’t been asked, give to those who are receptive

–       think from the perspective of your students. Does what your saying matter to them?

–       Physiology- don’t tell them its handstand, little by little you believe in your students and show them how they can get there. GO AROUND THEIR MIND. Directly from body to heart.

–       “earth to class”- inject humour to get attention

You have so much wonderful stuff to offer, don’t waste it on people who are unreceptive.

–       don’t start class with supine asanas, even if they’re wound up, get them up and moving to release nervousness and tension, or sluggishness.  (check sequences in back of JF’s manual.

–       Intro to Yoga classes- don’t teach actions, just teach outer forms of the poses.

*be economical with words, say what you mean and mean what you say.

–       matrika- little mothers, Shakti- supreme consciousness in active form

–       words matter a lot- they create our filters. The way we use language impacts the way we see the world

–       example- half hanuman vs runner’s stretch or half handstand vs. dog at the wall- 2nd example makes the pose sound more accessible/less scary

–       no Sanskrit in level 1