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Implicit and Explicit Therapeutic and Pedagogical Beliefs of Yoga Instructors



Objective: Notably absent from yoga research is examination of the role of the yoga therapist/teacher in instructional delivery and/or therapeutic relationship. Given the inherent therapeutic relationship and educational role of yoga therapists/instructors, inquiry should specifically explore the extent to which theory and pedagogy inform practice. This qualitative inquiry explored yoga therapists’/instructors’ expression and framing of educational and therapeutic constructs in the context of yoga. Methods: Using qualitative data collected in a larger study analysis focused on descriptive responses to semi-structured interview questions, participants were recruited using purposeful sampling (Patton, 1990) to ensure diversity in scope (N=11). Interviews performed as conversational partners (Rubin & Rubin, 2012) and were transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analyzed, using content analysis, for implicit and explicit assertions that were therapeutic or pedagogical in nature. Results: Findings suggest interwoven systems of philosophy through implicit and explicit expression. While varying in levels and strength, all participants expressed both therapeutic and pedagogical responsibility. Underlying factors such as past experience as a student, lineage of instruction, and individual identity were present across interviews. Potential affectual components also emerged as variant peaks in each interview suggesting comparative points of emphasis. Furthermore, a potential relationship between loyalty to or conviction of a particular style/lineage/brand of yoga taught and rigidity of pedagogical framing suggested that the training and experience of a yoga therapist/teacher may influence pedagogical beliefs. Conclusion: Theoretical acumen shapes understanding of function in both therapy and instruction. Continued empirical inquiry surrounding theory and pedagogy may benefit from thorough exploration of the style, lineage, branding, and education of yoga therapists and instructors.
Implicit and Explicit Therapeutic and Pedagogical Beliefs of Yoga Instructors
T. Reeves1, M. Sullivan2, K. Hawes1, P. Pirkey1, N. Muse1,
1.The University of Memphis 2.Maryland University of Integrative Health
Absent from current yoga research is examination of
Instructional delivery
Therapeutic relationship
Beliefs and values that teachers hold are influential to student outcomes
(Fives & Bhuels, 2012).
Many potential instructional techniques (i.e. mechanisms) have been
identified (Riley & Park, 2015), yet little is known about differences between styles.
Data Collection
Part of a larger mixed methods
Purposeful sampling (Patton, 1990)
Elicitation through semi-structured interviews: conversational
partners (Rubin & Rubin, 2012)
Audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim
Yoga instructors recruited through national organizations
Inclusion Criteria: upper level certification in a specified style of
yoga, at least 5 years of instruction, consent
Styles represented: General, Ashtanga, Holistic, Hot Yoga, Iyengar,
and Power
Qualitative comparative analysis (Ragin, 2007) using grounded theory (Charmez,
Emergent themes identified by lead investigator
Apriori coding by blind research team members
Clusters of styles of Yoga
, Kripalu, Integral, Ananda, Vivekananda
Hot 26, Bikram, Surya
Baptiste, Core Power
Silver, Yin, Vini,
Hatha, Variations, Vinyasa
Alignment Based
Iyengar, Ansura
Note: Clusters were identified by authors
using personal knowledge of styles and
expert input; and public ations of bo th empirical and commercial nat ure.
Further systematic cluster/classifications should be don e to better understand how
styles group together.
*Kundalini Yoga and Gentle Yoga participants were unable to make the interviews due
to scheduling restrictions
20 - 30
30 - 40
40 - 50
50 +
Age Range of Interviewees
Regional Representation of Interviewees
east coast
west coast
Persistent Themes of Beliefs
Apriori Codes Pedagogical Therapeutic
Home Practice
Body(ies) learn
Transformati o n
Body(ies) feel
Authoritative vs Support
Prevalent Across Beliefs
Past experience as a student
think that relationship is directly correlated to the relationship that i
have with my students. the energy of
the relationship between me and my teacher is something that
ilook to emulate with my own students.
home practice
i get "too busy" to practice, or i skip it for some reason, or a couple days go by and i have not taken
care of myself,
iknow it right away. my husband says i'm like a fancy car, one little thing goes wrong and i
can't operate. when
i'm not tuned up with my practices, i definitely see the difference.
all that stuff comes from me practicing at home.
body(ies) learn
i realized that those challenges on the mat are there to strengthen us, to strengthen those moments
when we want to fall into our patterns.
think that the cool thing about teaching yoga is that we're teaching something physical and asking our
students to be completely present in that moment. when you require that presence of mind in the
students for this practice, then it becomes safer for their physical bodies, but
ithink there's this release of
their mental control that people have while they're walking around doing their day to day life.
the human body can't not express. even trying to neutralize and keep the humanity out of the human body
is saying something on a very human level." so if the human body can't not express then it is always
expressing something and
i think that that, as a dancer that was really profound for me, but then when i
started to practice yoga and teach yoga, and as a teacher observing what the bodies were saying on a
deeper level than just "my leg is here, my arm is here.
authoritative vs support
there are some teachers that
have taken classes from, and they were so authoritarian and it was not from
a compassionate place. they never had any friends on the playground so now they are going to boss
everybody around, and since they are yoga teachers they are going to boss everyone in the studio. some of
those teachers are very, very popular and they have very loyal students. you would think, an authoritarian
teacher will drive people away, that is not necessarily true, if fact
ihave seen it a lot.
word choices
always talk in imperative sentences. "lift your leg high. move your head to the right." you know, it's not a
question mark, and
ithink some teachers are more kind of metaphorical or bulky in their language.
saying like, "float up to the ceiling as if you were riding on a cloud," or
ithink there's a tendency to get
really wordy with yoga teachers in the west, and
ithink that does a disservice because you never know
what kind of trauma you're triggering or what memory
when really we're just talking about bones and muscle, and we're talking in such a particular way with such
exact vocabulary that
think that gives people the relief to no longer own their bodies so that they can own
their thoughts a little bit more.
when classes are really well sequenced logically and there's good breath to body movements, teachers
don't have to say anything,
ijust walk out of class and i feel so good physically, emotionally, and mentally.
ies) feel
you know my own practice and study,
i use yoga as a transformational tool, as a system for
transformation… there are specific practices in yoga that ... let's start here, as human beings we
have a tendency to push away things that feel like they're too much for us to deal or to look at or
to be with, right? this is not unique to the west or the east, this is sort of part of the human
condition, right? from yoga perspective these ... he would say that there's big energies and we
push them away, and they're not good energies or bad energies, they're just big.
learned from my teacher and the practice itself, and then trying to pass those on to my students.
ultimately, yoga for me is the practice of inner transformation, and
i want to empower my
students to have that autonomy in their practice so that it can also be a practice for them, of inner
think, you are developing these kinesthetic or neurological connections in the body as you
practice yoga. it's developing your awareness of your feet while you're doing some other aspect of
the posture, right? you're linking in or growing in all these neurological connections.
once a student has been practicing a year or two, what
istart to see is improved functioning of
the body, improved digestion, improved menstrual cycle for women, continue to improve stamina,
things like that that are more subtle but they're still related to the physical body
ies) feel
we expand our container ...
i'm sorry, strengthen our container and expand our awareness so we
can be with all of who we are
the asana is like the map, the road map, the hills and valleys and mountains and rivers that we,
our awareness sort of travels on. and through traveling, figuring out how to climb this mountain,
which is this pose, we learn about how the breath assists us. we learn about the internal
dialogues that either obstructs us or helps us. but we, the asana is what we travel on the path of
going in. on the path of discovering ourselves. and what we discover on that path is ahimsa and
, the eight, the yamas and niyamas. what we discover is one point of focus and sense
withdrawal and all the other limbs. those are the, sort of the, you know like when you're traveling,
like going on a road trip and you find a beautiful view when you turn a corner. that's like a
moment of meditation that you discover in the midst of traveling through the asana.
pain isn't always pain. it's all just information coming from the body and it's still up to how we
interpret it.
you can give them ownership of their right leg and you can give them ownership of if they want to
be touched or not.
but then, eventually, the trust transfers to her own experiences. she has to have enough
experiences with her body to be able to trust. and it's a process of facing fear.
“affectual hot spots” affectual peak
pedagogical rigidity
surrounding context
you can get the general gist of it to people but
i'll go to classes of people that have been teaching longer than me and you know like in the first five minutes of class we're
doing standing splits. well
ilove standing splits but not in the first five minutes. to me that's just doesn't make any logical sense.
lineage -
i'm a bit of an evangelist for the <removed> method because ido think there's such a striking difference between teaching students one on one and teaching students in a
group class. the beautiful thing about micro style is that there are many students in the room at one time, it's just that ev
one is practicing sequence at his or her own pace.
able to give adjustments to each person. i'm able to have relationships with each student.
experience -
that's the message i want to get across to these people. yoga is not some fancy, expensive, fashionable thing for skinny whit
e g
irls. it's not. it's for everybody, and i want them
to know they have every right and ability to get these benefits.
bad teachers see that ideal manifestation and then demand that students meet it.
othering -
Body(ies)seems a persistent theme
across yoga teaching and therapy
Interviews support the idea that yoga
teachers have both unique and
similar pedagogical choices and
therapeutic choices
Identity and experience seems a
persistent theme across yoga
Affect surrounding yoga discourse
seems to be linked to lineage and
raised through loyalty, competition,
and identity
More discourse around yoga teacher
beliefs should be done to properly
understand how intersectionality and
Unity and discord is an important
construct to explore across yoga
teachers and therapists
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