Yoga Theme: June, 2010

The teaching theme for the summer is not so much a teaching theme as a reinforcement of the idea of yoga as a way of learning to be intrinsically focused rather than extrinsically focused.

This idea is emphasized in the YES I course and is explained in the Class Structure section of the course and manual where motivation is addressed. On January 19, 2010 the Toronto Star published an article called HOW TO MOTIVATE A CHILD that emphasized the importance of teaching children to be intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated. They refer to extrinsic approaches to motivation as being ‘the
carrot and stick idea of external rewards’ and stated that this Behaviour Psychology approach is not appropriate for the 21st century. New research supports the claim that true motivation comes from within and has three elements:

2. MASTERY and

The article also emphasized that extrinsic or external motivators work for short-term results and simple things, but are not effective for longer term tasks. Teaching in a way that keep the minds of your students internally focused leads to AUTONOMY. Explaining how the body works and why you are doing what are doing in class leads to PURPOSE and keeping the awareness of your students deeply engaged in subtle adjustment to improve posture and body function leads to MASTERY.

“If…then” is terrific at getting compliance but not engagement. the pathway to engagement – whether it’s doing homework or helping around the house – is self-direction not compliance.

I like to call ‘engagement’, absorption or samadhi and teaching engagement is part of Yoga and is the essence of Yoga practice as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as well as in other yogic texts. The emphasis on turning awareness inwards to absorb one’s attention into the sensations of breathing and asana through alignment in yoga practice develop within the practitioner intrinsic motivation or drive. This article also goes on to say that external motivators promote addiction, bad behaviour and short-term thinking. So people who are motivated to do yoga because everyone else is doing it or to achieve some kind of external ability such as doing handstands or contortionistic asana or to lose weight are externally motivated. Those who do it to connect with their interior as a way of unifying body, mind and breath which leads to absorption or engagement, well these people develop inner strength or intrinsic motivation and self-direction. Engagement or absorption is the essence of Yoga, but the practice has become polluted by the commercialization of Yoga and the emphasis on Yoga as gymnastics or contortionism.

Motivation is affected by genetics as well as environment, so some people are more predisposed to being intrinsically motivated than others, but it can be learned by anyone and Yoga class is a great place to develop a motivational approach that leads to long term fulfillment and enjoyment of life, because what is enjoyment? It is engagement or absorption which is called SAMADHI in Sanskrit.

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