6 Tips for Incorporating Silence into Your Teaching

As you plan your yoga classes think about allowing time for silence and let students experience stillness and quiet. Silence is a basic tenet of a traditional savasana and restorative yoga. Before sound, there is silence. (In fact, there is a whole school of thought around inaudible sound. In Vedic philosophy, sound was created out of the silence of Atman, ignited by vibration or shakti, and the breath.

Without silence, students miss an important component of the yogic experience. But how can you cultivate that stillness and quiet throughout a traditional asana class?

Here are some suggestions.

  1. First work on YOUR relationship with silence. When a teacher can comfortably ‘sit’ in silence, it is much more available to the students. The following ideas can be incorporated into a personal practice, as well as your teaching.
  2. Be radical, turn off the music. If you regularly use music, consider inserting silence into your class. What happens if you begin your class with silence and then slowly insert the music? Or start with music and gradually let the silence sweep over your class? What happens if you have a class with no music at all?
  3. Pause . . . and make every moment count. From the first moment of your class. If you open with ‘om’, experience it fully, especially the feel of the breath on your finger tips, BEFORE it becomes sound. Only then do you move to the powerful transition when breath and vibration turn audible, and sound moves from the throat to the front of the mouth and the nasal cavity. Only then do you chant or speak.
  4. Don’t cue every moment of every pose. Teachers are excited to share our wealth of knowledge. But as you become more experienced, become more selective (as appropriate for the students’ level of experience). What cues do THESE students need to hear? Cue students on the first side and allow them to find their way through the second side. If they’re experienced, simply say the name of the pose.
  5. Breathe more and let the class breathe more, too. If you as teacher take a moment to breathe, you allow your students to breathe as well, and that breath will guide them back to stillness and quiet.
  6. Allow yourself and your students to be uncomfortable. Hold a pose a little longer, without cueing. Bite your tongue in shavasana and let students cope with their own possible discomfort. You can’t talk students out of discomfort, they have to find their own way.

Dare to set your yoga class apart from the rest of life with all of its noise and distraction. Be deliberate in the aural experience you establish. Cultivate silence. Shhhhhh. . . . .