The poses of yoga are the physical part of the practice. The shapes will stretch, strengthen, and tone the physical body while simultaneously linking the breath with movement. Practicing the poses of yoga is starting with the most obvious part of the self (the body) and gradually including the breath, the mind, the intellect and the spirit.
Practice each pose with the intention of finding stability. Blend movement with resistance to achieve balance. Upon “mastering” a yoga pose, you are controlling your body and instructing it to do something in particular. With that mastery and control, you move on to mastery of the breath, then the mind, the intellect and eventually the spirit.
Move through Range-of-Motion
Physically, yoga asana encourages the body to move through its full range of motion. Range of motion is subjective and everybody is unique. Similarly, range of motion varies from day to day. The poses are intended to be appropriately challenging and to walk the line between ease and strength.
Master your Self
Psychologically, yoga poses are a paradigm for balance within and control of the mind. By doing yoga poses, you convince yourself to create certain shapes with your body; by manifesting this control over your physical self, you practice control and mastery over your emotional self.
Learn Discipline and Patience
It is the combination of physical and psychological control that makes yoga simultaneously powerful, appealing and intimidating. Yoga asana is the first manifestation of yoga for many students and the physical shapes are exciting, challenging and unfamiliar. Your role as the teacher is to instruct the poses in a safe and accessible way while representing the power of the practice through discipline and patience.
Understand the Breadth of Yoga through Sanskrit
Teach with Sanskrit names as a subtle way to represent the body as a physiological and psychological system and not just a collection of organs that must be manipulated. Since the poses are the most obvious part of the practice, it’s easy to misconstrue yoga as a physical feat. Learning poses by their Sanksrit names is a reminder of the breadth and longevity of the practice and its application to all aspects of the self, not just the physical body. Sanskrit names represent a shape (i.e. triangle); an element from the natural world (i.e. tree, cobra); or an allegory of a story (i.e. warrior). Sanskrit animates the practice as an infinite union between body, knowledge, earthly existence and ego.
The poses are described in this section in terms of their shape, with their Sanskrit names and their application to both the physical and the subtle body. Remember that poses and the “ability” to do them is just a fraction of yoga. Consider the poses as a convenient way to represent the elaborate process of yoga.