Bringing Spirituality to Class: Background and Hypothesis

In the West, most people equate “doing yoga” with asana practice.  However, yoga as a system encompasses much beyond this.   As Patanjali outlines in the Yoga Sutras, the Ashtanga-based system of yoga is comprised of eight limbs, with asana being one.   When combined together, these eight limbs are primarily designed not to enhance physical strength, flexibility and endurance, as many Westerners who “practice yoga” believe, but rather to provide a pathway to spiritual enlightenment by facilitating connection with the divine.

Prior to the teacher training, I like many in the West, experienced yoga primarily through studio-based asana classes.  Because such classes tend to focus on the physical aspects of yoga, and minimize, or many times completely ignore, yoga’s spiritual aspects, I was surprised to learn through the teacher training that “doing yoga” is actually mainly a spiritual venture.  You don’t even have to sweat!

As I have progressed through the Axis training, I have become more and more interested in the idea of teaching yoga to others.  I view the lack of emphasis on spirituality in studio-based classes a potential need in the local yoga community that would be satisfying as teacher to provide, and hopefully also useful to students.  Thus, one of my aspirations as a yoga teacher is find ways to bring the spiritual experience of yoga to people “doing yoga” in studio-type settings.  Similarly, as a yoga student I aspire to find ways to personally experience greater spiritual connectedness when participating in a studio-based yoga class, no matter how much or little the teacher emphasizes this aspect of yoga practice.

Given this, the goal of my experiment was to test the effect of introducing different actions, practices or thoughts during studio classes to see how they impacted my spiritual experience of yoga.

Hypothesis: Some actions, practices or thoughts will enhance my spiritual experience of yoga more than others during studio-based classes.