In Yoga class, the body lengthens and opens, which allows the heart to expand, and inspires the spirit to be free. In this vulnerable place, the mind is quiet and hungry for nurturing. Every word spoken is absorbed like water on dry land. The yoga teacher has a great opportunity to plant thought seeds that will grow into deeper personal awareness. Conversely, the teacher can also influence the student to focus on negativity that decreases personal power and weakens the Self.
As yoga teachers we have a responsibility to use the most helpful words possible for ourselves and our students. We have a great opportunity to pass on messages that will enhance the student in their practice and their life. So, our choice of words is like picking out the perfect gift for the student, understanding that each word is a gift given to the subconscious to incorporate into yoga practice and daily life.
The subconscious has no discernment. It cannot decipher a double negative statement like “no pain”, or distinguish present time from the past or future. That is why experiences can influence us many years after they occurred as if they were in present time. It is also why we can imagine and visualize our desires (or fears) into real experience.
If we talk about releasing worries, pain, stress, problems of the day, etc., that is where the student will focus, and their bodies will become weaker. If we talk about breath, inner balance, joy, and relaxation, that is what the student will focus on and become stronger. Muscle testing for thoughts is a fun way to experience the strengthening and weakening power of words.
Instead of saying “release your worries of the day”, we can say “bring your attention to your breath, allow the flow of air to bring relaxation to the body…” Instead of “Don’t fall, we can say “stay secure in your aerial swing”. Instead of saying “feel where you have tension, pain or discomfort”, we can say “notice the place of most sensation, the “edge” of sensation. Then honor the edge, send breath to the edge with patience and kindness. Allow it to relax from the inside. If it expands, the asana will be deeper, if it doesn’t, back out of the position to the place of comfort and relax into that place”. This is the concept of slower is faster, gentler is stronger. If we push or force past the edge, the body will protect itself by holding tighter to prevent injury. Then it will take longer to relax and move deeper into a pose, and the body is actually weaker, not stronger.
The same applies to what we think and say about our selves, our students, and our bodies. Instead of relating to a body part as “bad”, we can refer to it as “special” or “healing”, so the subconscious will go to work to give it special attention and mobilize the body to heal.
When we introduce an asana or concept, it is important to demonstrate and describe exactly the correct form. That is what the student will emulate, and what their subconscious will imprint. The double negative of demonstrating the “wrong” pose NOT to do can confuse the student and slow progress. “Do this” is easier to assimilate than “Don’t do this”. “Remember this” will work more often than ”Don’t forget this”.
Because what teachers say registers on the subconscious level, it is important to choose verbiage that feeds the Subconscious the healthiest diet possible. Each instruction and thought registers in every cell in the body, increasing or decreasing strength and balance in the body, which influences the emotions and the spirit. Every thought and word spoken in class is an opportunity to strengthen ourselves and our students!