Yoga and your Learning Style

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Svadhyaya is one of the Niyamas (restraint to cultivate inner integrity) of the 8 Limbs of Yoga and focuses on learning, knowledge and particularly self-awareness and a deep knowledge of our innate character as an integral aspect of our growth as a Yogi and as a human being. The cultivating of awareness of our own unique nature, and the way in which we exist in the world, is a significant factor on the path to higher consciousness and, ultimately, enlightenment.

Ever since we were born we have been learning to interpret and make sense of our experiences in the world through our senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.  Our physical experiences through our body and the senses are the pathway to higher consciousness.  It has been said we are spiritual beings having an earthly ‘bodily’ experience.  Our bodies are the vehicle in which our souls manifest.

One of the ways in which we can develop Svadhyaya is to know our learning style…the preferred method in which we like to be taught and favors learning outcomes for us, particularly regarding our Yoga practice and attending classes with a teacher.

There are three main learning styles, of which one will be our chief or ideal style, followed by a second preference and the third which is our least used. Our preferred learning style uses the senses of sight, sound or touch/feel to acquire knowledge.  The 3 styles are: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Approximately 65% of the population are visual learners, 35% are auditory and 5% are kinesthetic.  Our optimal learning style has significance for us as students of Yoga.

Visual learners like to ‘see’, they like to be ‘shown’, demonstrations, signs, posters, images, PowerPoint, hand-outs;

Auditory learners like to ‘hear’, they prefer lots of verbal cues, instructions, sounds, they can be particularly aware the music in the class, the teachers voice and background noises;

Kinesthetic learners like to ‘feel’, they like to embody experiences, be physically adjusted, cued into their body.

Most Yoga teachers will use a combination of visual (demonstration of poses), auditory cueing (giving instructions verbally) as well as kinesthetic in both adjusting students and providing mindful awareness indications of the physical and spiritual experience of the Yoga asana, pranayama or meditation practice and its presence in our body, mind and spirit.

Traditional Yoga was taught in India by a teacher (guru or Swami) to one or two students at a time (usually wealthy teenage boys) who often lived with the teacher and his family for several years.  The student/s would also perform household chores as part of their role.  Their Yoga education would be for many hours per day and could include sitting at the feet of the teacher as they were instructed (listening), demonstration (visual) of poses as well as performing and refining poses, pranayama and meditation practices (kinesthetic).  This intimate teacher/student relationship was integral to learning and refining their knowledge of Yoga.  A teacher got to know their student/s very well.  The best students, after many years, may be allowed to teach Yoga themselves.

The modern Yoga classroom or studio has one teacher ratio to many students and their contact may be limited to 1-2 hours per week for a Yoga class.  Knowing our learning style can be a factor in deciding whether a teacher ‘gels’ for us. Our preferred learning style can also be a factor in our judgement of whether a teacher is a “good teacher” or not.  In fact, it can be an experience in personal growth to choose a teacher that does not ‘gel’ with is, but, in fact, like the fierce traditional teachers of Yoga in India, pushes our buttons and challenges us, our learning style and our preferences.

An example of a Yoga teacher who may not cater to your particular learning style is a teacher who is skilled in trauma sensitive Yoga teaching and may have an awareness of a person in the class who has experienced trauma.  The teacher in this class may not move off his/her mat, they may not ask students to close their eyes (or give them the option of closing down the eyes), they may not move or speak in a fast way, they may not dim the lights in the room, they may not use straps, they may not play music, they may not use certain words that may be a trigger, they may not talk as much as another teacher, they may not move around the room much.  All of these actions are designed to allow the experience of a sense of safety for class attendees and particularly those who have experienced trauma.

It is human nature to move towards rewarding experiences and away from adversity.  This is how we evolved as a species.  However, it does not always serve us well to only pursue what we like.  Knowing our preferred learning style and choosing a teacher that challenges this is good for our brain and our souls.  Being the witness to our responses when a teacher does not teach us in the way we may desire is good for our personal growth.  It helps us cultivate Svadhyaya and allows us to pay attention to our reactions, to develop a deeper knowledge of the self.

Janeen Davidson

Janeen currently teaches Yoga every Wednesday morning at 5.30am & 9.15am BOOK NOW and also has a Vision Board Workshop, Introduction to Yoga Workshop and A Womens Retreat Day scheduled for February. Head to the event page for MORE INFO!

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