In 2009 I decided to leave the Ashram, which I love so dearly, because I felt called to teach more. A couple of months later came the financial downturn. Bad timing? Could a sixty-something Swami make it in the “real world?” I asked the question in meditation, and the only answer I got was “Go ahead…it’s My will.” So here I am.
When I arrived in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I quickly discovered there was an abundance of wonderful Hatha Yoga teachers. How was I going to wade into the waters and find the students I was supposed to serve? The answer so far has come through Stress Management.
Through Haris Lender, I inherited a Hatha Class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a great place that teaches seniors age 50+. I also proposed a meditation class and a stress management class. I wondered if they’d say, “These people are retired. What stress?” But change is a major trigger of stress, and seniors experience plenty of change … declining health, death of loved ones, moving, and the loss of retirement savings due to the downturn in the market. The list goes on. To my surprise, OLLI was most interested in Stress Management. They hired me to teach for 12 weeks–3 sessions of 4 weeks each. Students can sign up for any or all of the sessions.
I have fun teaching the class. The class is structured as we suggest in Stress Management T.T. (S.M.T.T.). We release stress with chair stretches, chair relaxation (often with imagery), simple pranayama, and guided meditation. That’s about half an hour, and I vary it week to week. Then we discuss some topic to help with the mental/emotional part of stress. I use the hand-outs from S.M.T.T. My handout today was an article I wrote called, Four Anti-Stress ‘Pills’ . The article is an example of re-framing the deepest Yoga philosophy in everyday language, minus the Sanskrit. It includes some reference to faith, with plenty of room for people of any faith or no faith.
The discussion is lively, and lots of real issues come up. Today someone spoke of their hearing loss, and fears of going completely deaf. After an honest, funny, frank exploration of the ideas in the handout, we got down to the freedom of letting go. They have great collective wisdom. The group has bonded with each other and become a support team. My part is fairly easy. I do some prep, show up, and they pull out the deepest teachings from me and each other. After the first series, some of them also signed up for my Hatha Yoga and meditation classes. They understood the benefits from seeing how much they got from the simplified chair practices.
I’ve had a number of other invitations to teach Yoga-based Stress Management: this week I’ll teach medical and support staff at Children’s Hospital. Last summer I taught for the nursing staff at UVA hospital in the Cardiac Care Unit. I’ve taught at Cancer Retreats for Smith Farm Center, and for Hospice Staff.
People are hungry for the deeper aspects of Yoga and the teachings. And it helps to be able to offer it in neutral language where sometimes you can’t even say the word “Yoga.” For example I used it all day, every day, in my work as a hospital chaplain last summer at UVA hospital. The patients were from every faith, but the principles are universal.
Check out what some of our other teachers are doing at www.marshapappas.com and www.resilienceforlife.com. I encourage you to get creative, and share the deeper teachings with people in your Hatha Yoga classes. It’s what makes you unique as an Integral Yoga Teacher. And in an abundance of Yoga Teachers, Yoga as Stress Management can help you find service in wonderful places.
Swami Vidyananda, E-RYT 500, has enjoyed many different roles in her life, including radio news reporter, translator for Swami Satchidananda and video producer. She has been teaching Integral Yoga since 1972. She is a versatile teacher, specializing in workshops on Stress Management as well as Yoga and the Emotions. Swami Vidyananda has taught in the US, Canada, Europe, India and Australia. She currently lives and teaches Integral Yoga at Yogaville, VA.
(By Swami Vidyananda, from the May 2011 IYTA Newsletter)