Note: This was the teaching script I prepared for our final teaching session, which was a class in which each trainee taught 1-2 poses within a 5 minute time limit. It didn't all come out of my mouth quite like it was written, but I think it was fairly close. And most importantly, it was well-received by my fellow trainees as well as my trainers.
Opening, Ujjayi Breath, Child’s Pose
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor hips distance apart. Bring your attention to your natural breath and just observe. Is it smooth and slow, or is it uneven and quick? Just observe for a few cycles of breath.
Now begin to slow your breath down, breathing gently in and out through your nose. Make your inhales and exhales the same length – even breath. To create the Ujjayi breath, focus on keeping your belly soft during both inhale and exhale, gently constrict the back of the throat to create a soft sound. The ujjayi breath is often called ocean breath because the sound created is a soft hissing sound, similar to the sound of the ocean we hear when listening to the inside of a seashell. If you have trouble creating this sound, imagine you are trying to fog a mirror with your mouth closed (if it helps, actually open your mouth and “fog” a pretend mirror for a moment to get the idea). Ultimately our goal is to maintain the practice of ujjayi breath throughout our asana practice. If you notice your breath is strained in a pose – or even that you are holding your breath – it may be a sign to come out of the pose for a moment and rest – refocus on your breath, then try the pose again. It takes practice to continue ujjayi through an entire class, so if you feel frustrated because you keep ‘losing’ the breath, try to let the frustration go. It is ok, just refocus on your breath, and continue your practice. There is no time limit that says you must achieve perfect breathing techniques during your first class. It will come with time.
Move to your hands and knees, placing your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Take a moment to be aware of the neutral position of your spine. There should be even length from your neck to your tailbone, with the natural curves of your neck and lower back dipping toward the floor slightly. Press your hands in to the floor, making the index finger, thumb, and base of thumb the heaviest part of your hand. Check the creases of your wrists – they should be parallel to the front of your mat. On your next inhale, soften your belly slightly toward the floor, tipping your sit bones to the ceiling. At the same time, bring your gaze up to the ceiling if that is comfortable for your neck – if not, just gaze forward. On your exhale, reverse the curve, arching the middle of your back toward the ceiling like an angry cat. Draw your belly toward your spine, tipping your sit bones toward the floor, and relax your neck so your gaze comes inward to the floor beneath your or perhaps toward your navel if your neck is not strained. Inhale and repeat the belly sinking gently to the floor, sit bones and gaze rising to the ceiling. As you round on your next exhale, lower gently back onto your heels while keeping your hands firmly pressed into the ground. Inhale and come up and into the gentle backbend, sit bones and gaze to the ceiling. Exhale, round and lower, belly to spine, forehead to the floor. Do this two more times on your own breath, finishing with a neutral spine on your hands and knees.
Come to sukhasana, or any comfortable seated position. Close your eyes and bring your hands together in front of your heart in anjali mudra, also called prayer position. Leave a small space open at the center of your palms, allowing the space to signify the openness of your heart. Take a moment here to focus your intention for your practice today. Make it simple so that it is tightly focused: flexibility, freeing your back from pain, or something wider reaching such as peace and recovery those touched by the disasters in Japan. In the spirit of keeping our hearts open, I would like to share my intention with you today: to honor each woman in this room for sharing this experience with me. I have learned from all of you, and I am grateful for the gift of your presence as we all have grown and deepened our knowledge of yoga in its many forms. Take a deep breath for the OM. <chant>