Our 1st duty as parents – Living the 8 limbs of yoga

The 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga/Raja yoga  provide a holistic methodology to systematically release the mind & thus live more enlightened, purposeful lives! (isn’t that what most of us want?)

The name “8 Limbs” comes from the Sanskrit term Ashtanga and refers to the eight limbs of yoga: Yama (attitudes toward our environment), Niyama (attitudes toward ourselves), Asana (physical postures), Pranayama (restraint or expansion of the breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (complete integration). 

The above can be applied to all areas of our lives including parenting!

All around us, we see that Childrens yoga classes are taking off.  My 2yr old & 3 year old each have their own mat and block & delight getting into mountain, warrior, tree, and downward facing dog poses. Getting children actively involved in yoga from young is great for their bodies, their minds, and breathing!

But do we have to wait until children are standing on their 2 legs to start thinking about how yoga applies to/affects them? 

If you only think of yoga (as the modernised world so often does) as in just the physical, (asanas/poses), then you may say that your baby already started doing yoga whilst in Utero in Pindasana. (Side note: how cute are babies as they progress from svasanasa to dhanurasana and then to happy baby poses?)

When you step away from the physical, and implore the 8 limbs of yoga, you will realise that the consistent practice of this holistic approach benefits not only the practitioner, but their future offspring as well. In one of our lectures, M.Paalu mentioned that consistent pranayama & meditation practiced by parents even before conception, has a tremendously positive outcome on the children they bring into this world – it’s postive effects pass through not just the DNA, but through the energy exuded as well! When both mother and Father are aligned and centred in self, such an environment creates a conducive, healthy space to raise children.

I started thinking of my own pregnancies and pleasantly recalled some of the spiritual & positive daily habits I performed. Unfortunately, once the babies arrived my world turned crazy like it usually does for most mums during the first few years of child-rearing: my swadhyaya (reading/self study), focus (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) practice deteriorated.

It is only now that my kids are in school for half the day, that I finally have some

time for myself and am reintroducing reading, studying, pranayam & meditation back to my life. Although I feel the rustiness of my 37 year old brain and body, I am Glad that I have made the start & have action plans to get myself polished again. The 4 weeks of intense introspection during YTT allowed me to shine the torch inwards on myself (Niyamas). I am grateful to have done this course at the beginning of the year so that i can take forward the very many lessons & techniques learnt, (specifically Sankalpha,  one-pointed resolve to focus both psychologically and philosophically on a specific goal), and build on it  & remember 2019 as the year that Kas returned to the world after being stuck in the ‘mummy cave’ during the last 3.5years! 

There are 2 things we should give our children – one is roots and the other is wings” – Author unknown.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga provide a solid foundation that we can implement so that our children may experience and observe from our behaviours and actions. By introducing concentration games early on in childhood, we plant the seeds for them to focus and concentrate (Dharana) thereby creating their independence.

Life offers no greater responsibility, no greater privilege than the raising of the next generation” – C Everett Koop. We owe it to our children to be the best versions of ourselves; to live to our full potential; and to add (positively and purposefully) to this life that we have been given.

The first taste of Teaching!

Just before my Ytt course began, my husband attended his very first yoga class at the gym and when I asked him what he thought of the class, he said “the voice of the teacher is so important- she/he has the ability to either calm or stress the student.”

We were halfway into Ytt and the time had come for us to cross over to the other side…to begin our own teaching practice! It was then that I realised how accurate he was! Going out there and directing your students (many of whom may be first-timers) into a correct pose (from the starting to end) definitely looks easier than it seems! Like with any new thing you try for the first time, it was tough!

Naturally, since we were all new to yoga teaching, many of us found ourselves fumbling as we tried to demonstrate the pose whilst simultaneously trying to remember & articulate the corresponding instructions, cues, pauses and breathing.

We struggled to find our ‘teacher’ voice (the right tone, pitch and volume) and found ourselves mixing up our left and rights, mispronouncing asana Sanskrit names and often got our inhales and exhales off!

On day 3 of teaching practice, we took it a step further as we had to demonstrate our technical understanding of getting into a pose and then make corresponding adjustments – all this whilst still keeping within the timing of the pose, Cuing accurately, observing everyone and maintaining the flow of the sequence.

For some strange reason, being in front of the mat and teaching, got me thinking of stand up comedy: It takes a lot for a Comedian to just use his voice (words, tone, pitch) to hold the attention of the Audience, to transport them through a story sequence until it peaks & they ‘get’ the intended joke! Then he smoothly needs to transition them out of that Joke and go on to build on his main story/theme by introducing his next sub-story of the sequenced story telling comedy! And so he continues this cycle of start, flow, peak, finish, transition into next step. So the flow into the joke and the flow out of the joke, the pausing and holding the laugh all got me thinking about yoga teaching. The yoga instructor needs to have a story/theme made up of a few sub-storeys with starts, flows, peaks, pauses, finishes and he/she needs to seamlessly communicate these movements in the right sequence,  maintain the flow by building on it before introducing the next part of the sequence, and ultimately ending off with a peak pose. And off course to transition to the final closing, she/he again needs to use his words & cues to direct the students and achieve the desired result.

This is quite challenging, as so much is going on in a short space of time-you need to be think quickly, be spontaneous yet technically precise, you need to look right, sound right, move around right….whew, talk about a juggling act! 

Lesson planning requires well thought out sequencing & strategy and teaching (expressing/delivering your knowledge) seems to be more an art! That’s why they say “the art of teaching is not in the amount of knowledge Teachers have to disperse, but rather in the skills and abilities they have to reach and engage each student”.

And that’s where our brilliant Teachers come in, imparting their experience & wisdom to us. During the technical alignment session, we were taught what to specifically look for in a pose wrt positioning, muscle engagement, twisting, aligning e.g the twisting of the arm to lock it for Marichyasana C.

We were reminded that teacher adjustments is there as opportunity to not only correct students, but also for the teacher to connect (touching within a safe personal space)with her student. But we should always take care to adjust safely! 

Practice practice practice , we were encouraged to go on practicing our teaching and not stop!

More importantly, from the feedback received, a common thread was presence and authenticity of the teacher!  When you come to teach, you need to bring your your true self to the mat, it is from there where your depth of self, meditation & asana practice shines through.

We were encouraged to dig deeper and truly ask ourselves “why do we want to teach Yoga”. Master Paalu encouraged us find the reason from a selfish context to sustain our motivation to teach.

Digging deeper into my reason I know that I want to first teach myself and improve/deepen my practice consistently to rise above my current limitations. Thus, I should use each practice teaching session as an opportunity for my growth, as by teaching others, I will get to teach myself too (which is what I ultimately want).

There are many resources available as to how to teach successfully, these are a just a few steps we can follow:








So to my fellow classmates in Ytt,  May we always remember that this is a learning journey and it’s a Long way to go – Life never stops teaching us, on and off the mat. Let us not stop being a student, regardless of how experienced we may become!

By practicing teaching these last few days, I now have an increased respect for yoga Teachers that not just deliver smooth yoga classes, but also touch and help transform lives positively! 

I can also now appreciate why we say the guru prayer at the end in gratitude to the yogis of this sacred yogic lineage ‘ I bow down to all those who have come before me and studied the art of yoga’.