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Why Seasonal Yoga Makes You a Better Teacher

As a yoga teacher, your main goal is to help your students. If you truly want to teach them yoga that will benefit their well-being, you must incorporate the wisdom of Ayurveda. Without it, yoga can be more harmful than helpful and actually cause physical and mental imbalance. This becomes especially true if you ignore nature’s seasonal manifestations.

Ayurveda explains that whatever exists within nature also exists within each of us. Our minds and bodies are greatly affected by each season. Without adjusting our lifestyles accordingly, we can easily become imbalanced and disease can manifest.

This is where Ayurveda’s wisdom of the ritucharya, or seasonal routine, comes into play. Ayurveda teaches that like increases like, and the ritucharya brings balance to each season’s accumulated or aggravated dosha (energy principle) by using the principle of opposites.

You can apply ritucharya to your yoga classes to help students balance the effects of nature and feel their best. Below you’ll find seasonal yoga recommendations that will help to counteract any given season’s inherent qualities.

These recommendations are generalized, and they will likely vary with your local climate. Adopt an ongoing mindfulness of the nature around you so you can structure your classes accordingly.

Teach kapha-balancing yoga classes in spring 

Spring shares many traits of the kapha (water and earth) dosha: the atmosphere is moist, the air is cool, and the general energy is soft, heavy, and slow. Because like increases like, this is the time of year when kapha tends to get aggravated.

Be aware that although spring is generally a kapha season, it’s also a period of transition. Some days might take on more vata (air and space) or pitta (fire and water) qualities.

SPRING YOGA
Class Tone Energetic, vigorous, challenging, playful, and expansive
Surya Namaskar Energetic and fast-paced
Asanas • Poses that focus on the abdomen, chest, and upper back
• Warrior series, chest openers, and backbends
• Bridge, Shoulderstand, Lion pose, Fish pose, Peacock pose, Cobra
• Less rest between poses
Savasana Shorter rest with a bolster under the upper torso to open the heart
Pranayama Kapalabhati, surya bhedana, and bhastrika

 

Teach pitta-balancing yoga classes in summer

Summer and pitta, the fire dosha, share many of the same traits: heat, transformation, and moistness or humidity. Depending where you live, the pitta season might even continue through early fall. It’s important to keep the mind and body cool and calm in the summer so that pitta stays in balance.

SUMMER YOGA
Class Tone Cooling, light-hearted, focused on inner awareness rather than competition, less attention to perfection of alignment
Surya Namaskar Moderate pace
Asanas • Poses that focus on the navel region and solar plexus
• Spinal twists and forward bends
• Cobra pose, Half Lord of the Fishes, Seated Forward Bend, Shoulderstand, Plow pose, Child’s pose
• Shorter holds in headstand
Savasana Moderate rest
Pranayama Sheetali or sheetkari

 

Teach vata-balancing yoga classes in fall

During fall, the weather takes on distinctively vata qualities. The atmosphere is cool, dry, windy, erratic, and clear. Vata tends to be aggravated during fall and early winter, but the right yoga practice can help immensely to keep vata balanced.

FALL YOGA
Class Tone Calming, gentle, grounding, fluid, stable
Surya Namaskar Slow, gentle, and relaxed
Asanas • Poses that focus on the colon and pelvis
• Balancing and seated poses
• Tree pose, Mountain pose, Thunderbolt pose, Wind Releasing pose, Garland pose, Child’s pose
• Shorter holds in warrior poses
• Avoid jumping and big backbends
Savasana Longer rest, covered with a blanket to stay warm
Pranayama Soft and gentle ujjayi, anuloma viloma, and nadi shodhana

 

Teach kapha and sometimes vata-balancing yoga classes in winter

Winter generally takes on characteristics of kapha. The weather is cold and often moist with rain or snow. There’s a sense of heaviness which we feel in winter’s dark and cloudy days. Even the animals take on a kapha nature, as they slow their entire systems down and go into hibernation.

However, winter can also take on characteristics of the vata dosha. In some places, winters can be very cold, dry, and windy.

When teaching yoga during winter, be mindful of the weather, your own energy, and the energy of your students. Try to understand if it’s kapha or vata that needs to be brought back into balance.

WINTER YOGA
Class Tone • Kapha: expansive and energetic
• Vata: calming and grounding
Surya Namaskar • Kapha: energetic and quick pace
• Vata: slow and gentle
Asanas Warrior series, Bridge pose, Cobra pose, Bow pose, Fish pose
Savasana • Kapha: shorter rest with a bolster under the upper torso to open the heart
• Vata: a longer rest
Pranayama • Kapha: kapalabhati, surya bhedana or bhastrika
• Vata: anuloma viloma

Reference: Stiles, Mukunda. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2007.

Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier teaches women the art of self-care so that they feel their healthiest and happiest in their own unique bodies. This holistic approach to individualized wellness is rooted in the ancient Indian knowledge of ayurveda: a complete medical science and way of life which explains that our wellbeing blossoms when we align ourselves with nature. Julie is a registered ayurvedic practitioner by the Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America (AAPNA), a Certified Massage Therapist, and a classical hatha yoga teacher. She studied each of these modalities in the US and straight from the source in India. Connect with Julie at trueayurveda.com, on Instagram, or on Facebook. True Ayurveda, Facebook, or Instagram.

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