Yoga for students

By A. G. Mohan and Dr. Ganesh Mohan

The aim is to design different teaching methods and techniques to suit pupils of different age groups

The science of Yoga is the link between the purpose and the type of practice. The art of Yoga is the link between the person (who) and their purpose (why) used to define their practice (what). This is because the specific means employed are likely to vary depending upon the person. We might say that the observation, analysis and understanding of the interconnection between the physical and mental forces constitutes the essence of the science of yoga. The art of Yoga involves the assessment of the needs of the student (that is, the links between person and purpose), as well as observation and adaptation of the practice (the links between person and practice). The goal is to design a practice for a purpose, while taking the person into account.

Restore balance

The art of Yoga thus involves the restoration of balance and harmony through opposing, equalising or augmenting the various forces, at all levels, for that person. In every case, appropriate planning of the practice begins with the purpose (needs) and the assessment of the person. Specific decisions on what is to be taught, how, in what way, and so on, should follow thereafter. The Person — Who? The most important of the considerations but, unfortunately, the one most often forgotten is, “Who is the student?”

Each student is unique, with a unique set of personal qualities and a unique starting point. In Yoga, the teaching of methods and techniques should be adapted to the student and not vice-versa. It is very important to realise that the teaching is for those being taught and not for the teacher, nor is it for making a good appearance in a public situation. Otherwise, asana becomes merely the slavish imitation of external form, utterly lacking connection to a particular person. Questions related to the person include: Who is the person practising? What is the capability of the student? What is her age? How fit is she? What is the state of her health?

What is his profession? How much time does he have for a yoga practice? What suggestions might be acceptable to him? How motivated is he? What are her beliefs? Will she listen to me? The purpose of a yoga practice may be similar in two students, but the same teaching will not be optimal for both of them because they are different people.

The Purpose — Why? The practice of Yoga can be for any one (or more) of a number of discrete purposes, including: seeking freedom from a disease we are presently afflicted with (curative); seeking freedom from a disease yet to come (preventive); seeking freedom from the colourings of the mind; or, more generally, to transform the habits of our own mind. Questions related to purpose include: Why does this person want to practice yoga? What is the goal of the practice? Sometimes a student does not have a clear goal for a yoga practice, but a good teacher can help a student determine a purpose or purposes that are appropriate to him. What a student wants out of a yoga practice may not, in fact, be what he needs.

The Practice — What? Practice is the specific means utilised to fulfil the particular purpose taking into consideration the person. In other words, the actual details of the practice are to be decided based on the person and their specific purpose. Personalisation makes it possible to apply asanas to anyone, in a manner uniquely suited to that individual. In fact, the idea underlying personalisation is that the ideal form of the asana is of little importance. Physical and mental well-being is the goal.

This article appeared in The Hindu newspaper.