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Learner Manual

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF)

Unit 1 Underpinning principles of teaching yoga Understanding concentration and
Aims and learning outcomes........................... 3 meditation................................................. 111
Introduction................................................... 4 Understanding how to plan a yoga session.... 114
Understanding teaching skills.......................... 4 Incorporating teaching aids with a yoga
Role of the yoga teacher................................ 11 session..................................................... 120
The benefits of yoga..................................... 17 Planning a series of progressive yoga
The origins of yoga....................................... 18 sessions.................................................... 123
Relevance of ancient yoga texts...................... 25 Setting up a private yoga class..................... 125
Understanding the eight limbs of yoga............ 32
Understanding the four paths of yoga............. 36 References................................................ 128
Key concepts of yoga.................................... 38 Appendix 1............................................... 129
Understanding Kriyas................................... 43 Appendix 2a.............................................. 144
Understanding Mudras................................. 45 Appendix 2b.............................................. 158
Understand Bandhas.................................... 47
Unit 4 Health and safety for yoga
References.................................................. 49 Aims and learning outcomes....................... 168
Understanding different conditions............... 169
Unit 2 Anatomy and physiology for yoga Understanding the importance of screening... 178
Aims and learning outcomes......................... 50 Understanding the health and safety aspects
The skeletal system...................................... 51 of teaching yoga......................................... 186
The muscular system.................................... 57
The respiratory system.................................. 70 References................................................ 195
The circulatory system.................................. 73 Appendix 1............................................... 196
The nervous system..................................... 79
The endocrine system................................... 81 Unit 5 Teaching a yoga session
The effect of yoga on the different body Aims and learning outcomes....................... 197
systems...................................................... 85 Teaching yoga techniques........................... 198
Improving performance of participants.......... 199
References.................................................. 96 Self-evaluation and reflection....................... 203
Appendix 1................................................. 97 Personal yoga practice................................ 204
Personal development plan.......................... 205
Unit 3 Planning a series of yoga sessions
Aims and learning outcomes......................... 98 References................................................ 206
Introduction................................................. 98 Appendix 1............................................... 207
Understanding breath awareness................... 99
Understanding pranayama.......................... 103
Understanding relaxation techniques............ 108

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Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga - Manual
Unit 1 Underpinning principles of teaching yoga

Aim: the aim of this unit is to provide learners with the underpinning knowledge and skills to become a yoga
teacher. This unit contains the information necessary to gain an understanding of what yoga is, as well as an
opportunity to explore some of the skills and lifestyle changes necessary to become a yoga teacher.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will:

• understand the teaching skills needed by a yoga teacher

• understand the role of the yoga teacher
• understand the benefits of yoga
• understand the origins of yoga
• understand the relevance of ancient yoga texts
• understand the eight limbs of yoga
• understand the four paths of yoga
• understand the key concepts of yoga
• understand the concept of kriyas
• understand mudra techniques
• understand bandha techniques

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In all yoga schools there are different opinions on how to teach and perform elements of yoga, i.e. asana,
breathing practices, pranayama, relaxation, concentration and meditation. Depending on the teaching
tradition, there may be many differences in opinion on all aspects of yoga.

Yoga is far from simply being physical exercise; rather, it is an aid to establishing a new attitude or way
of life. However, this way of life is considered by many experts to be an experience that is outside the
realm of simple thought, and can only be fully understood through direct practice and experience (Swami
Satyananda Saraswati, 1996). The ultimate aim of yoga is to release the mind from the restrictions of the
physical body and allow the ‘spirit’ to explore new levels of consciousness.

Throughout this manual the aim is to provide the knowledge and skills to facilitate an understanding of
yoga, and to ensure the information provided is accessible to new yoga teachers as well as their class
participants. Where physical practice is involved, the aim is to ensure the advice is safe and effective.

Remember that Yoga is not just the physical practice of asana or postures and this is often confusing to
new participants. This manual focuses mainly on the practice of asana in yoga but the other aspects are
equally as important.

Understanding teaching skills

Good teaching skills allow teachers to maximise the safety and effectiveness of a session. This success is
achieved through the teacher’s ability to communicate and interact effectively, and this in turn will depend
on developing a series of verbal and non-verbal skills. These may include a large vocabulary of general
and yoga-specific instructions/demonstrations and teaching cues, that make use of imagery, tone of voice,
hand signals, and facial expressions.

Communication skills
Yoga teachers, who masterfully explain concepts through cueing, voice inflection, demonstration, and
assisting, have taken the time to practice the art of communication.

Yoga teaching is more than just imparting knowledge to participants; it is also about effective
communication. When effective communication is missing, teachers can misunderstand participants’
needs and expectations; furthermore participants may not feel listened to or feel understood.

A skilled yoga teacher must be a good communicator, as not all class participants will learn in the same way.
Some will learn by listening to cues, others will gain more from assistance; and some will be able to learn just by

Communication is the key to:

• getting participant co-operation

• participant understanding
• building participant self-confidence and self-esteem
• feeling listened to by your participants
• mutual respect
• everyone feeling safe to be themselves
• more fun for everyone in the class

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Reflective listening

One of the most important communication skills is reflective listening. Reflective listening involves reflecting
(or verbally restating using similar words) the feelings and information from what you heard the other
person saying. This can help determine whether a message has been understood. It also conveys the
intention that a teacher understands and accepts what has been said. If done well, it helps the person to
clarify their own thoughts and feelings.

As well as requiring practice in focussing on what the participant is saying, it will also require an element
of trust to find good solutions, rather than wanting to convince them of your own. It is a skill which
effective facilitators, group leaders, counsellors, consultants, sales people, health professionals, teachers
and parents use more than any other skill.

Reflective listening may also be referred to as:

• the empathic ear

• active listening
• the understanding response
• verbal pacing
• paraphrasing

Because communication is a two-way process, it means that it is as important to be a good message sender
as it is to be a good listener. While hearing is an activity that requires little physical effort, to do it properly can
be challenging. Listening properly, however, is not easy. To summarise, use reflective listening to communicate:

• desire to understand how the other person is thinking and feeling

• belief in the person’s ability to understand the situation, identify solutions, select an appropriate
choice, and implement it responsibly
• belief the person is worthwhile
• respect and/or willingness to accept other people’s feelings
• desire to help
• willingness not to judge the person (Communications World, 2011)

Body language

One of the aspects of understanding what people are saying comes from body language or non-verbal
communication. By developing awareness of the signs and signals of body language, it is easier to understand the
needs of class participants, and more effectively communicate with them.

There are sometimes subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) movements, gestures, facial expressions and
even shifts in our whole bodies that reflect what and how people are thinking and feeling at any given point
in time. By becoming more aware of this body language and understanding what it might mean within a
context, teachers can learn to read people more easily, and adjust their communication and instructions

Body language includes body movements and gestures (legs, arms, hands, head and torso), posture,
muscle tension, eye contact, skin colouring (flushed red), even people’s breathing rate and perspiration.
Additionally, the tone of voice, the rate of speech and the pitch of the voice all contribute to the words that
are being used. Additionally, it is important to recognise that body language may vary between individuals,
and between different cultures and nationalities.

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Theory into practice: Confidence

It is important for yoga teachers to convey signs, signals and patterns that communicate feelings of
confidence. Typical things to look for in confident people include:

• posture – standing tall with shoulders back

• eye contact – solid with a ‘smiling’ face
• gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate
• speech – slow and clear
• tone of voice – moderate to low

If a teacher is about to enter into a situation where they are not as confident as they’d like to be, such as teaching a
new class or covering an existing class, they can adopt these ‘confidence’ signs and signals to project confidence.

All of the above skills cannot be taught and can only come with experience and practice.

The correct use of language

Without the correct use of language, a yoga teacher may struggle to make participants understand many of the
techniques of yoga. Clear, concise language takes participants in a specific direction with minimal distraction or
confusion. Yoga teachers are required to be understood and to inspire the people they work with.

It is important that a yoga teacher’s communication style matches their teaching environment. For example,
not all yoga participants will benefit from chanting mantra, and any yoga teacher should bear this in mind.
Most of the Dharma (Indian term used to explain religion or higher truth) talk that occurs in a class can
easily be translated into lay terms. Teachers can instead use phrases like “let go,” “be in the moment” and
“clear the mind.” Statements like, “surrender to a higher being,” or “aligning your energy with the vibration
of the universe” may be more appropriate for a private yoga studio, than a fitness-based facility.

Further challenges arise for yoga teachers because the yoga postures (asana) are often complicated to
verbalise, and it is down to the skills of the teacher to ensure the participants can safely enter and leave
a posture. The correct use of language can make or break a yoga class; too much technical language, too
much jargon and even too much spiritual talk can confuse and deter participants. Each asana will require
the teacher to know it in detail, so that it can be taught effectively. To help the communication process,
yoga teachers will need to practise the asana many times before teaching them, and to also know the
adaptations and modifications needed if a participant has any difficulties.

When introducing new asana to participants, it is best to demonstrate first (usually with a silent
demonstration) and then to talk through the demonstration while the participants follow. Afterwards, the
teacher can walk around and adjust and refine the participants’ asana either verbally or by assisting them
into position. A good teacher will always explain what the participant should be feeling in a physical sense
and also explain what they should not be feeling (e.g. any pain in the knees, back etc.).

Theory into practice: Non-technical terminology

A good yoga teacher should practice the use of non-technical words rather than technical phrases. For
example, it is wise to avoid the use of terms such as flexion and extension; instead, use phrases such as
‘tip forwards from the hip’ or ‘lengthen the spine’.

It is also best to avoid use of angles such as ‘180 degrees’.

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Voice intonation

The way a teacher says something is just as important than what they say. Voice intonation is the way
information is put across, and may include elements such as volume, pitch, and inflection. For example,
the level of intonation may need to be moderated if working with a complete beginner or the elderly.
This will ensure that the instructor communicates in a way that is appropriate to the individual and their
surrounding environment. A yoga teacher needs to adopt a calm manner of teaching and to be able to
vary the volume accordingly. For example during meditation or breathing practice the teacher may speak
quietly, but when the class need to be wakened from a relaxation, the teacher’s voice needs to be louder so
they can hear the difference. A teacher needs to be aware of any participants who have hearing difficulties.
If this is the case ensure these participants are positioned near the front of the class.

Filler words and phrases

Yoga teachers often fall into the habit of using filler words or phrases, and this is common when teachers
are new. Common words or phrases used include:

• “go ahead”
• “we’re gonna”
• “now”
• “try”
• “uh, um”
• “nice, good, great, beautiful”
• “don’t”

Another word many yoga teachers use is “down”: for example, “Shoulders down the back, put the knee
down, press down into the earth”. The word “down” often has negative associations, and where possible
should be avoided and replaced. The use of the words ‘Downward facing dog’ is fine but ‘Adho mukha
svanasana’ is a stronger way to convey the pose.

Table 1 shows some alternative phrases (containing the word “down”) that can be used in a yoga class.

Usual phrase Change to.....

Push your hand down into the earth Stretch your hand into the earth’
Pull your shoulders down the back Pull your shoulders away from your ears
Put the knee down Put the knee on the floor
Press your foot down into the earth Press your foot firmly into the earth

Table 1 Alternative phrases to use in a yoga class

An excellent practice for yoga teachers is to develop a language of yoga, or more appropriately, to use
language that enhances the theme that is being created for the class. In this way, filler words can be
replaced with a list of alternative words and phrases to express body cues and movements.

Teaching points

Teaching points are used to reinforce a visual demonstration. Their application allows teachers to express,
correct and fine-tune participants’ technique. To use teaching points effectively, the yoga teacher must first
be fully versed in the particular yoga technique they are trying to teach.

Teaching points should be precise and succinct; however, some creativity and imagination is beneficial.
For example, consider the following teaching point: “imagine two lights on your hip bones – ensure these
lights are up” (referring to the hip area in bridge pose.).

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This may help participants visualise and focus on the relevant body part by relating it to an object or
possibly an activity, often leading to greater understanding. Teaching points when used appropriately allow
for easier instruction; however, if overused, they may lead to confusion. Teaching points should be kept
positive at all times to build confidence.


A good clear demonstration allows the participant the opportunity to fully observe the technique to be
performed. For effectiveness, ensure participants can see the technique. For example, if the posture
involves lying down, ensure the participants are sitting up so they can see the demonstration clearly.
Encourage participants to ask questions before they perform the movement.

A participant’s version of the posture may not look exactly like the teacher’s demonstration depending on
their individual physical state.

In shoulder stand for example, a teacher would not want the participants to turn their heads and compromise
the safety of their necks.


The yoga teacher will also need to consider their position of observation in relation to the participants. They
may be able to see most participants from the front of the class in standing postures. In other postures,
such as sitting and lying, it is advisable to walk around the class to check participants from all angles.
This should be done in a non-intrusive manner, especially if the participants are in vulnerable positions.

Using Sanskrit words in yoga

Even though the understanding and use of Sanskrit words in yoga has fallen off, it remains a powerful
force to be rediscovered in yoga. Though participants may not aspire to learn the complete language,
teachers should be mindful of its use and its profound importance in yoga. For those who really care to
know the depth and profoundness of yoga, study of the ancient scriptures and knowledge of the Sanskrit
language is essential, as Sanskrit literature contains a treasure trove of knowledge. Sanskrit is a historical
language (parallel with Latin) and is no longer commonly used in India.

Some yoga teachers feel that the use of Sanskrit names are elitist and may deter certain participants. The
use of Sanskrit terminology suggests there is more to yoga than athletic pursuit and that ancient tradition
underpins the practice of yoga. When you use Sanskrit in class, keep in mind that auditory learners will
benefit from hearing the words, visual learners will benefit from visualising the spelling (some teachers
have a flip chart or white board in their classes), and kinaesthetic learners will benefit from doing the pose.

One of the most important reasons to use the Sanskrit terms is to stir up interest and nurture curiosity. The
use of Sanskrit terminology suggests there’s more to yoga than athletic pursuit. Each of the fifty letters of the
Sanskrit alphabet is thought to have a sound frequency with a specific therapeutic benefit. In Vedic belief,
each word is encoded with consciousness. Put simply, the asana name and the effect of the asana are one.
By simultaneously saying or hearing the Sanskrit name and performing the pose, participants can feel the
unity between sound and body. This universal language creates a deeper, more spiritual connection.

The symbolic aspect of asana or pranayama is in the name. For example, saying the word ‘bhastrika’ (the
Sanskrit name for breath of fire), demonstrates that there is a lot of wind in the sound when spoken - like breath.

All Sanskrit spoken in a yoga class needs to be defined. For example, it is traditional to end a class with the
greeting of ‘Namaste’. This translates to “I honour the light in all beings”. If a teacher says it in front of new
participants, they should always indicate the meaning (Discover yoga, 2011; Yoga flavoured life, 2011).

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Motivational skills
Positive motivational skills help to create enthusiasm and interest for class participants. The trick is not to
motivate participants directly, but to provide optimal learning opportunities that are motivating. Yoga teachers
need to be highly motivated themselves, before they can motivate others. This means motivation must
come from within, something that can be achieved through the teacher portraying confidence, exuding
plenty of enthusiasm, and being passionate about what they do.

Key elements of motivation

Intrinsic motivation
• Involves an interest in the learning of yoga itself and also satisfaction being gained from participating
in the class
• Effective teaching must win the hearts and minds of participants if the class experience is to involve
intrinsic motivation, curiosity, interest and proper engagement
• Participants can find it motivating when teaching creates opportunities for cooperative work with
other participants such as pair work
• Generally, giving participants a degree of choice can be motivating, for example choosing the level
of asana they perform
• Regular feedback is motivating when it shows participants how their skills are developing

Extrinsic motivation
• Praise is a powerful motivator although its effect depends on skilful use
• Praise should be linked to effort and attainment, conveying sincere pleasure on the teacher’s part,
and should be used with credibility
• Participants need autonomy – i.e. they need a sense of control over what they are doing
• Participants need a sense of agency – i.e. interacting with others
• Participants need affiliation – feeling comfortable in the social context of the class and feeling that
they belong
• Participants adopt stances - quietly engaging; harmoniously engaging; energetically engaging;
opposing/threatening; alarming/draining; hiding/upset; and exasperating. Teachers need to recognise
individuals’ stances to enable them to improve motivation.

Four skills of successful motivation

• Engagement – teachers showing that they are interested in their participants and that they value them

• Structure – organising progress through experiences. Strong lesson planning skills are essential so
that the participants know the aims and objectives for each session or series of sessions

• Stimulation – sessions that interest. Each session needs to be interesting and relate to the objectives
of all participants

• Feedback – constructive, supportive information to participants on how they are progressing

Allow questions in class

Yoga participants may have a number of questions about their yoga practice. The teacher should decide
and communicate to students whether questions can be asked during the class or before / after the class.
This will depend on the teacher’s preference and style. If teachers cannot provide an immediate answer,
they should make the effort to find out and share with the participant next time. It may also be something
valuable that can be shared with the whole class.

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Getting to know class participants

Getting to know the participants is a valuable skill every teacher should take the time to do. What are the
interests of the participants? What parts of the lesson plan raise their level of motivation? Do they feel a stir
of excitement or anticipation at certain points in your yoga class?
When participants feel the benefits of a yoga class, it is usually visually apparent on their faces. If teachers
still feel unsure, it is acceptable to ask some tactful questions. A sample question, about one subject,
might be: “Do you feel the benefit of practising Revolved Triangle now?” If participants do not give an
answer, the teacher can list the skeletal benefits to the hips, spine, shoulders and legs. They may also list
the muscles, which are strengthened and stretched, or even mention the particular internal organs which
are massaged and cleansed. Allowing participants to participate completely can increase the proficiency
level of the entire class.

Addressing different learning styles

The visual-auditory-kinaesthetic learning styles (VAK) model provides a very easy and quick way to assess
preferred learning styles, and then most importantly, to design learning methods and experiences that
match people’s preferences.

Visual learning styles involve the use of seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams,
demonstrations, displays, hand-outs, films, flip-chart, etc.

Auditory learning styles involve the transfer of information through listening to the words of self and
others, as well as general sounds and music

Kinaesthetic learning involves physical and tactile experiences such as touching, feeling, and holding.

Relationship between the yoga teacher and participant

Traditionally, students of yoga would seek out a particular yogi or teacher. They may have been referred
to this specific person by his or her loyal students, or knew of the teacher’s skills by reputation. At such
a point, the teacher would make a decision on whether or not to take in another student on a trial basis.
The trial may have consisted of doing work around the ashram (the retreat where the teacher and their
followers live) before being recognised as a formal student. This would have been the way the yoga
teacher/student relationship operated for thousands of years. In some areas of the world, it still works in
this way, and often teachers were honoured and bestowed the highest status.

However, the traditional model of the teacher/participant relationship, within yoga, has changed immensely.
The traditional model cannot work in modern times, and certainly within Western culture. At the same
time, no responsible yoga teacher would want to prevent their class participants from learning about yoga.
Yet, the reason the traditional model worked was because students studied within a ‘vacuum’. The guru
had all the answers and was respected as an authority.

So what is the role of a teacher in the 21st century? The role has not actually changed; the first step is to establish
a relationship with the participant that is based on trust. A large part of what yoga teachers do is to help class
participants find a tranquil state of mind and a healthy body. Yoga teachers should make safety a priority while,
at the same time, helping participants progress toward development of awareness and transformation.

If a participant does not appreciate honesty, compassion, and the way of moderation, it is likely they will
have a difficult time on the Yogic path. The ancient Yogis were extremely wise to have realised this, and
this is why yoga students were accepted on a trial basis (Jerard, 2008).

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Role of the yoga teacher
Yoga teachers as role models
Yoga teachers come from many different walks of life, yet have traditionally been stereotyped as vegetarian,
non-drinkers, non-smokers and so forth. Judging, stereotyping and believing yoga teachers are all virtuous,
is not always an accurate assumption. They have their own obstacles and challenges. One of the main
intentions of teaching yoga is to have the awareness of Ahimsa (a non-violence attitude), which eventually
leads to finding balance in life resulting in peace and harmony.

The yoga teacher can be a friend, mentor or confidante. More than anything, yoga teachers are thinkers,
philosophers; people who live their lives based on logic, wisdom and rationality. Yoga teachers have been
universally regarded as being spiritual and health role models. In general, they play a key role in passing
on the qualities of respect, kindness and social tolerance. Yoga teachers should walk the talk and practise
what they preach. Society gives a relatively high respect towards yoga teachers, which ultimately gives
yoga teachers a certain responsibility to uphold. Fortunately, as most yoga teachers are true to their beliefs
and passionate about the practice, this is not hard to do.

A yoga teacher can affect the lives of their participants by reminding and teaching them about the profound
aspects of yoga and about understanding the nature of the inner self. The yoga teacher helps participants
discover things about themselves and teaches self-awareness and self-discovery. Yoga teachers also teach the
art of detachment and letting go, which allows freedom from obstacles and predicaments. In yoga practice, the
postures that are to be performed may metaphorically represent challenges that participants face in their lives.
When a teacher points out how relevant yoga practice is to personal life, a participant may discover that they
can improve the quality of their life by including regular yoga practice along with other lifestyle and behavioural
changes. As a guide to living life with a positive attitude, yoga teachers have become the ambassadors for
optimism and positivity (Samdjaga, 2011).

Lifestyle choices of a yoga teacher

Below is a story that illustrates the importance of a yoga teacher’s lifestyle:

A young man wanted to know the meaning of life. He searched high and low; he took courses and
workshops; but still he could not quite grasp it.

One day, he went to hear a Master speak. At the end of the lecture, the young man raised his hand and
asked: “Could you please explain the meaning of life?”

The audience chuckled at the eternal question and started to get up to leave. The Master replied: “That’s a
very good question. I have the answer right here in my bag.” He took out a small mirror, captured a ray of
light with it, and directed the light to the young man’s face.

“Can you all see how I am catching the light and directing it to his face?” he asked. “Yes.” “The meaning
of life,” the Master explained, “is to gather Light and to take it where it’s needed the most. Your purpose is
to capture some Light and take it to some dark place in the world.”

Yoga lifestyle can be thought of as having two purposes: “cleaning the mirror” and “spreading the light”.
The mirror is the mind and body which have to be clean and pure to catch the light. Yoga lifestyle is
therefore about purifying the mind and keeping the body healthy.

Yoga lifestyle also includes certain principles and values, some of which refer to the five rules of social
conduct. These principles form the first limb of yoga (the Yamas) according to Patanjali (see later on in this
unit for more information on the eight limbs of yoga).

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Yamas consist of:

• Ahimsa - non-violence
• Satya - truthfulness
• Asteya - non-stealing
• Brahmacharya - faithfulness
• Aparigraha - non-greed

Seven habits for a healthy lifestyle

The following habits must be in balance for optimal physical, mental and spiritual health:

Positive mental attitude

• Stop negative thinking and negative self-talk
• Practise positive affirmations, e.g. (inhale, and think or softly say) “Every moment as I breathe,”
(exhale) “I feel better and better.”
• Practice Karma yoga (selfless service or helping others).
• Seek humour and laughter
• Surround yourself with positive people.

• Spend time out in nature.
• Be mindful of the media. Choose the types that are positive, and the ones that add a real value to
your well-being and health
• Create a healthy environment through the use of healing colours wherever you spend the most time:
bedroom, dining room, office. Light blue, green, and beige are calming. Light yellow, and deep
earthy orange are energising. Surround yourself with positive visual images with images of nature
(flowers, plants, art and photos)
• Surround yourself with peace and quiet or healing sounds.
• Experiment with different scents in the form of a candle or a scent diffuser that make you feel good
and relaxed

Clear physical clutter.

• If your physical space is cluttered, your mind will pick up on that.

Stress reduction
• Take a mini-break at least once every two months in a place where you can be timeless
• Spend a few minutes in deep relaxation every day. Deep Relaxation, or yoga Nidra, is one of the
most powerful methods of stress relief.
• Practice yoga outdoors. This restores energy levels
• Chant or hum “Om”. Let the vibration of the sound of the hum reverberate through your whole body. Feel
the resonance in the chest and the head. Chanting Om is incredibly effective as a stress relief method
• Practice slow breathing and keep up a daily meditation practice
• Connect to animals. Animals are natural healers. Having a pet animal contributes greatly to stress relief.

Sufficient sleep and rest

• Make your bedroom a place of rest. No TV. No Internet. No phone. Calming colours, quiet atmosphere,
pleasant scent and soft bedding
• Early to bed, early to rise. Going to bed around 10pm is most natural for our biology
• Get yourself physically tired before bedtime
• Practice abdominal breathing to induce the relaxation response

• Cardiovascular, aerobic exercise
• Muscle-strengthening, weight-bearing exercise
• Flexibility
• Balance and coordination

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Healthy diet
• Eat simple meals
• Eat as much organic food as possible
• Eat as much locally-grown food as possible
• Go easy on proteins and fats
• Eat foods rich in amino acids
• Get a daily surplus of antioxidants
• Eat pro-biotic foods a few times a week
• Eat a good daily share of raw foods rich in enzymes

• Drink plenty of fluids
• Go to sleep at 10pm - Between 10pm and 2am is the most healing and detoxifying time to sleep.
• Sweat regularly through exercise or by going to a sauna.
• Breathe through the nose not through the mouth.
• Cleanse the nasal passages with a nasal wash or Jala Neti
• Brush your teeth and cleanse your tongue first thing in the morning
• Drink wheatgrass juice or another green vegetable juice several times a week.

Differences between yoga teachers and fitness instructors

To further understand some of the key skills required by a yoga teacher, it can be useful to take a closer
look at the differences between yoga teachers and fitness instructors, as well as understand why it may be
preferable to use the term ‘teacher’ in favour of ‘instructor’.

The primary difference between a yoga teacher and a fitness instructor is that the yoga teacher will teach
yoga participants more than just the physical aspects of yoga. Traditionally, a fitness instructor will tend
to emphasise physical benefits of exercise. A yoga teacher will not only address the physical aspects of
yoga, but also the emotional and often spiritual aspects with their class participants. Yoga teachers can
give their participants tools to enable them to cope with everyday life, for example, methods of stress relief
and ways to alleviate anxiety.

In addition, an instructor is often thought of as someone who shows participants how to do something.
On the other hand, a teacher is thought of as someone who leads their participants down a ‘path of
understanding’, opening new doors along the way (Wiki Answers, 2011).

The best teachers should employ a combination of mindful instruction and teaching. The teacher should
be able to demonstrate each stage of a posture safely and effectively, teaching correct alignment but also
recognising the limitations of individuals.

Does yoga conflict with participants’ religious beliefs?

Some people often regard yoga as a religion, and as such, are often deterred from practising it. Here are
some points to consider.

• Yoga is not Hinduism

• Yoga is a frequent practice in many Eastern religions and philosophies
• Many Western religions, including Christianity, also practise some form of meditation
• The core values of yoga include: honesty, hard work, not harming others, selfless service and
devotion to ‘God’

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Professional codes of practice
Codes of practice guide professional people in their work and help them regulate their behaviour towards
customers. Codes of practice can be summarised by the following key principles:

• Professional action shall bring no harm to clients

• Clients have the right to choose their own direction
• Be faithful to clients, the profession, the employing organisations and ultimately to yourself
• Be just and fair to all clients, thereby ensuring non-discriminatory professional actions
• Be of benefit to clients by promoting their welfare
• Treat all clients with dignity and respect
• Be fully accountable to clients
• Maintain clear and unwavering professional boundaries

Professional bodies for yoga

Each style of yoga has its own independent organisation, and there are other associations and bodies that
can be joined. It is not mandatory to join any associations but the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)
is recommended for all fitness professionals; however, it is also recommended that a yoga teacher updates
their knowledge and skills regularly and by joining an association, opportunities for training are wider.
Associations also often offer specialised insurance policies for yoga teachers.

Below is a selection of yoga associations:

• Bikram Yoga –

• The British Wheel of Yoga - (recognised by Sport England as the governing body
for yoga in Great Britain)
• The Association for Yoga Studies - (formerly Viniyoga Britain)
• British Council for Yoga Therapy –
• British Yoga Teachers Association - www.yogauk
• Friends of Yoga Society (FRYOG) International -
• Independent Yoga Network -
• Iyengar Yoga Association (UK) -
• Yoga Alliance UK -
• Yoga Biomedical Trust -
• YogaUK -

Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)

REPs is an independent public register for exercise professionals. It is important to establish, publicise and
maintain standards of ethical behaviour in instructing practice, and to inform and protect members of the
public and customers using the services of exercise professionals.

Physical activity and exercise can contribute positively to the development of individuals. It is a vehicle
for physical, mental, personal, social and emotional development. Such development is enhanced if the
individual is guided by an informed, thinking, aspiring and enlightened exercise professional operating
within an accepted ethical framework. The role of an exercise professional is to:

• identify and meet the needs of individuals

• improve performance or fitness through programmes of safe, effective and enjoyable exercise
• create an environment in which individuals are motivated to maintain participation and improve
performance or fitness
• conform to ethical standards in a number of areas – humanity, relationships, co-operation, integrity,
advertising, confidentiality and personal standards

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This REPs Code of Ethical Practice defines good practice for professionals in the fitness industry by reflecting
on the core values of rights, relationships, responsibilities and standards.

Exercise professionals on REPs accept their responsibility to people who participate in exercise; to other
exercise professionals and colleagues; to their respective fitness associations, professional bodies and
institutes; to their employer; and to society. Where required, members must also hold adequate liability
insurance. There are four principles to the code:

Principle 1 – Rights
‘Exercise professionals will be respectful of their customers and of their rights as individuals’.

Compliance with this principle requires exercise professionals to maintain a standard of professional conduct
appropriate to their dealings with all client groups and to responsibly demonstrate respect for individual
difference and diversity, good practice in challenging discrimination and unfairness and discretion in
dealing with confidential client disclosure.

Principle 2 – Relationships
‘Exercise professionals will nurture healthy relationships with their customers and other health professionals’

Compliance with this principle requires exercise professionals to develop and maintain a relationship
with customers based on openness, honesty, mutual trust and respect and to responsibly demonstrate
awareness of the requirement to place the customer’s needs as a priority and promote their welfare and
best interests first when planning an appropriate programme. Compliance also requires clarity in all forms
of communication with customers, professional colleagues and medical practitioners, ensuring honesty,
accuracy and cooperation when seeking agreements and avoiding misrepresentation or any conflict of
interest arising between customers’ and own professional obligations. Finally, compliance requires integrity
as an exercise professional and recognition of the position of trust dictated by that role, ensuring avoidance
of any inappropriate behaviour in all customer relationships.

Principle 3 – Personal responsibilities

‘Exercise professionals will demonstrate and promote a clean and responsible lifestyle and conduct’

Compliance with this principle requires exercise professionals to conduct proper personal behaviour at all
times and to responsibly demonstrate high standards of professional conduct appropriate to their dealings
with all their client groups and which reflect the particular image and expectations relevant to the role
of the exercise professional working in the fitness industry. Compliance requires an understanding of
their legal responsibilities and accountability when dealing with the public and awareness of the need
for honesty and accuracy in substantiating their claims of authenticity when promoting their services in
the public domain. A responsible attitude to the care and safety of client participants within the training
environment and in planned activities is required ensuring that both are appropriate to the needs of the
clients. Compliance requires an absolute duty of care to be aware of their working environment and to be
able to deal with all reasonably foreseeable accidents and emergencies – and to protect themselves, their
colleagues and clients.

Principle 4 – Professional standards

‘Exercise professionals will seek to adopt the highest level of professional standards in their work and the
development of their career’

Compliance with this principle requires exercise professionals to commit to the attainment of appropriate
qualifications and on-going training to responsibly demonstrate engagement in actively seeking to update
knowledge and improve their professional skills in order to maintain a quality standard of service, reflecting
on their own practice, identifying development needs and undertaking relevant development activities.

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Compliance requires willingness to accept responsibility and be accountable for professional decisions
or actions. The fitness professional should welcome evaluation of their work and recognise the need
when appropriate to refer to another professional specialist. There is a personal responsibility to maintain
effectiveness and only practice those activities for which their training and competence is recognised by
the Register (Exercise Register 2011).

Yoga Alliance UK

The Yoga Alliance is a member driven organisation that provides resources, networking, transparency and
equal opportunities to anyone who has a passion for, and believes in, the spirit of yoga.

The Yoga Alliance’s vision statement is to:

• Maintain a register of teachers, trainee teachers, centres of excellence and yoga schools
• Respond to and support yoga teachers and trainers in the UK who believe in quality teaching, and
to give the public unbiased information on what is available
• Encourage the sharing of experience and knowledge between members. By coming together and
sharing that knowledge and experience, and by supporting each other, we can grow and develop as
students and teachers more effectively

Code of Practice

This Code of Practice is a summation and declaration of acceptable, ethical, and professional behaviour by
which all Yoga Alliance UK-registered yoga teachers agree to. It contains the following statements.

1. To provide the public with access to safe and effective yoga teachers
2. To maintain and uphold the traditions of Hatha yoga. To teach yoga from the experience of these
traditions and to disseminate these teachings to anyone, from any background, who earnestly
desires to follow these traditions
3. Uphold the integrity of my vocation by conducting myself in a professional and conscientious manner
4. Acknowledge the limitations of my skills and scope of practice and, where appropriate, refer students
to seek alternative instruction, advice, treatment, or direction
5. Create and maintain a safe, clean, and comfortable environment for the practice of yoga
6. Encourage diversity actively by respecting all students regardless of age, physical limitations, race,
creed, gender, ethnicity, religion affiliation, or sexual orientation
7. Respect the rights, dignity, and privacy of all students
8. Avoid words and actions that constitute sexual harassment
9. Follow all local government and national laws that pertain to my yoga teaching and business (Yoga
Alliance, 2011)

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The benefits of yoga
There are many benefits of yoga, both physical and psychological.

Physical benefits of practicing asana and pranayama techniques

• Increased flexibility
• Increased mobility of joints, ligaments and tendons
• Increased strength - many yoga poses require participants to support the weight of their own body
in new ways, including balancing on one leg (such as in Tree pose) or supporting the weight of their
body with their arms (such as in Downward facing dog). Some exercises require moving slowly in
and out of poses, which also increases strength.
• Increased muscle tone
• Massaging organs
• Pain prevention - increased flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain.
• Enhanced body awareness
• Better breathing - basic yoga breathing exercises and deeper practices (Pranayama) focus the
attention on the breath and teach participants how to better use their lungs, which benefits the
entire body.
• Control of weight - as part of a healthy yoga lifestyle, regular asana practice helps to control weight.
• Complete detoxification – by gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various
organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body, and helps in the
flushing out toxins.
• Other benefits of yoga are - lower blood pressure and resting heart rate due to the stress control
techniques and calming effects offered by yoga; yoga is also beneficial for people who suffer with
pain related illness such as arthritis, cancer, auto-immune diseases, multiple sclerosis etc.

Psychological benefits of practicing asana and pranayama techniques

• Peace of mind
• Feeling of well-being
• Stress reduction
• Rejuvenation
• Benefits of meditation

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The origins of yoga
Hatha yoga
The Sanskrit word ‘hatha’ is thought to be derived from the verbal root ‘hath’ which means ‘to force’ or ‘hold
firmly’, and thus Hatha yoga is sometimes called ‘forceful yoga’. It is also thought to be the combination
of two words ‘ha’ meaning ‘sun’; and ‘tha’ meaning ‘moon’, and thus Hatha yoga is said to balance the
opposing energies present in the body, for example the sun and moon energies and the male and female
energies. The first of the Hatha yoga definitions can be traced back to the Hatha yoga Pradipika, which was
written around 1300 AD by the yogi, Swatamarama. This form of yoga is a widely practised combination
of physical (asana) and deep breathing exercises (pranayama). The Hatha yoga Pradipika is an esoteric
text and only describes a few techniques and not in great detail.The methods described in the Hatha yoga
Pradipika have been interpreted over time by many teachers and so the yoga now ‘widely practiced’ is an
evolution of what was documented in the Hatha yoga Pradipika. These exercises bring in vitality to the
body, rejuvenate our senses, and induce a sense of spirituality within those that practise it. It seeks to
establish harmony between the mind and the soul and bring in a sense of spirituality and enlightenment.
It seeks to unite the mind (Ida), body (Pingala) and self (Sushumna Nadi).

In the Hatha yoga Pradipika, Swatamarama describes physical exercises (asana), mudra, deep breathing
exercises (pranayama) and bandha. The text was not detailed but it acknowledges the fundamental
importance of the teacher who can interpret and guide an individual through the techniques of Hatha yoga.

Understanding the history of yoga

The following is a brief introduction of the ideas and influences which have combined together to produce
the philosophies and techniques of yoga. The facts and dates are likely, but approximate, and should not
be assumed as precise or accurate in an academic sense. Greater precision may be obtained by studying
various ancient texts.

Yoga originates from the Hindu tradition. The practice as we know it today is the product of a long process
of development beginning in the Indus civilisations, from as long ago as 2500 B.C. Between 2000 and
1000 B.C. India was progressively invaded by European people and tribes from Southern Russia, and
this began a long period of cultural integration. The ideas and influences that followed are thought to have
formed the basis from which yoga evolved. Looking at the history of yoga will help provide an appreciation
of its rich tradition.

Although yoga is said to be as old as civilisation, there is no physical evidence to support this claim. Earliest
archaeological evidence of yoga’s existence could be found in stone seals which depict figures of yoga postures.
The stone seals place yoga’s existence around 3000 B.C. Scholars, however, have a reason to believe that
yoga existed long before this time, and traced its beginnings in Stone Age Shamanism. Both Shamanism and
yoga have similar characteristics, particularly in their efforts to improve the human condition at that time. Also,
they aim to heal community members, and the practitioners act as religious mediators. Though we know yoga
as focusing more on the self, it started out as community-oriented before it turned inward.

The lineage of yoga can be divided into four periods: the Vedic Period, Pre-Classical Period, Classical
Period, and Post-Classical Period.

Vedic period

The Vedas are the sacred scriptures of Brahmanism which is the basis of modern-day Hinduism. There are
four Vedas; Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda.

During this time, the Vedic people relied on dedicated Vedic Yogis (Rishis) to teach them how to live in
divine harmony. Rishis were also gifted with the ability to see the ultimate reality through their intensive
spiritual practice. It was also during this time that Yogis living in seclusion (in forests) were recorded.

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Pre-classical yoga

The creation of the Upanishads marks the Pre-Classical yoga. The 200 scriptures of the Upanishads
describe the inner vision of reality resulting from devotion to Brahman. These explain three subjects: the
ultimate reality (Brahman), the transcendental self (atman), and the relationship between the two. The
Upanishads further explain the teachings of the Vedas. Yoga shares some characteristics not only with
Hinduism but also with Buddhism. During the sixth century B.C., Buddha started teaching Buddhism,
which stresses the importance of meditation and the practice of physical postures.

Later, around 500 B.C., the Bhagavad-Gita or Lord’s Song was created and this is currently the oldest
known yoga scripture. It is devoted entirely to yoga and it confirms that it has been a practice for some
time. However, it doesn’t point to a specific time when yoga could have started. The central point to the
Gita is that “to be alive means to be active and in order to avoid difficulties in our lives and in others, our
actions have to be benign and have to exceed our egos”.

Just as the Upanishads further the Vedas, the Gita builds on the Upanishads. In the Gita, three facets must
be brought together in our lifestyle: Bhakti or loving devotion, Jnana which is knowledge or contemplation,
and Karma which is about selfless actions. The Gita then tried to unify Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, and
Karma yoga and it is because of this that it has gained importance. The Gita was a conversation between
Prince Arjuna and Krishna and it basically stresses the importance of opposing evil.

Classical period

The Classical Period is marked by another creation - the Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra’s were accredited
to Patanjali but thought to be the work of many writers. It is composed of 195 sutras (from the Sanskrit
word which means thread) which emphasises Raja yoga and its underlying principle which is Patanjali’s
Eightfold path of yoga (also called Eight Limbs of yoga). These are:

1. Yama, which means social restraints or ethical values

2. Niyama, which is personal observance of purity, tolerance, and study
3. Asanas, or physical exercises
4. Pranayama, which means breath control or regulation
5. Pratyahara, or sense withdrawal in preparation for meditation
6. Dharana, which is about concentration
7. Dhyana, which means meditation
8. Samadhi, which means enlightenment

Patanjali believed that each individual is a composite of matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). He further
believed that the two must be separated in order to cleanse the spirit - a stark contrast to Vedic and Pre-
Classical yoga that signify the union of body and spirit.

Post classical yoga

It no longer strives to liberate a person from reality but rather teaches one to accept it and live in the moment.

Yoga was introduced in the West during the early 19th century. It was first studied as part of Eastern
philosophy and began as a movement for health and vegetarianism around the 1930’s. By the 1960’s,
there was an influx of Indian teachers who practised yoga. One of them was Maharishi Mahesh, the Yogi
who popularised Transcendental Meditation. Another one is a prominent yoga Guru Swami Sivananda.
Sivananda was a doctor in Malaysia and he later opened schools in America and Europe. The most
prominent of his works is his modified Five Principles of Yoga which are:

1. Savasana, or proper relaxation

2. Asanas, or proper exercise

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3. Pranayama, or proper breathing
4. Proper diet
5. Dhyana, or positive thinking and meditation

Sivananda wrote more than 200 books on yoga and philosophy, and had many disciples who furthered
yoga. Some of them were Swami Satchitananda who introduced chanting and yoga to Woodstock; Swami
Sivananada Radha who explored the connection between psychology and yoga; and Yogi Bhajan who
started teaching Kundalini yoga in the 70’s (Bance, 2011).

Many of the schools of Hatha yoga popular today in the West can trace their roots to the Indian Sanskrit
scholar and teacher Krishnamacharya (1889-1989), several of whose pupils have themselves become
prominent teachers. Among the most popular and influential in the West are: B.K.S. Iyengar, who founded
Iyengar Yoga; T.K.V. Desikachar (Krishnamacharya’s son), who carries on his father’s tradition, known as
Viniyoga; and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who developed Ashtanga yoga.

Different styles of modern yoga

More important than any style of yoga is the dedication of the student and the quality of the teacher. In
general, all yoga that involves postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama) is Hatha yoga. It is the duty of
a yoga teacher to explain, in simple terms, to their students what Hatha yoga is. There are many schools
of Hatha yoga, and many approaches to teaching. It is not unusual for teachers to study in various schools
and to blend techniques to create their own approaches. Differences among the schools are usually about
emphasis. For example, one may focus on strict alignment of the body, another on coordination of breath
and movement; one may focus on holding each posture for a period of time, another on the flow (vinyasa)
from one posture to another. A new yoga teacher may want to try classes in different styles and with
different teachers to find those that best match his or her needs.

The following forms of yoga will be explored.

• Hatha
• Vinyasa
• Ashtanga
• Iyengar
• Sivananda
• Integral
• Viniyoga
• Kundalini
• Bikram


Please see previous explanation for Hatha yoga.


Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa means breath-
synchronised movement and tends to be a more vigorous style, based on the performance of a series of
poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to the breath. A Vinyasa class will typically
start with a number of Sun Salutations to warm up the body for the more intense stretching that’s done at
the end of class (see Ashtanga yoga below).

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Ashtanga (Power) yoga

Ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the eight
spiritual practices also known as the eight limbs of yoga (see later on in this unit):

1. Yama (moral codes)

2. Niyama (self-purification and study)
3. Asana (posture)
4. Pranayama (breath control)
5. Pratyahara (sense control)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (contemplation)

The first four limbs - yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama - are considered external cleansing practices.
The next four limbs are internal cleansing practices.

The first two steps toward controlling the mind are the perfection of yama and niyama. However, it is
considered impossible to practise yama and niyama when the body and mind are weak and haunted by
obstacles. A participant must first take up daily asana practice to make the body strong and healthy. With
the body thus stabilised, the mind can be steady and controlled. With mind control, one is able to pursue
and grasp these first two limbs.

To perform asana correctly in Ashtanga yoga, participants must incorporate the use of vinyasa and tristhana. Vinyasa
means breathing and movement system. For each movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namaskar
(Sun Salutation series) there are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising the arms overhead, and
putting hands together; the second is exhaling while bending forward, placing hands next to the feet, etc.

The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. Synchronising breathing and movement in the asanas heats
the body so that circulation is improved. Improved blood circulation relieves joint pain and helps to remove
toxins from the body. The sweat generated from the heat of vinyasa then carries the impurities out of the body.

Tristhana refers to the union of ‘three places of attention’ or action: posture, breath and focus point. These
are very important for yoga practice, and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and
mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other.

In Ashtanga yoga, asana is grouped into six series:

• The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) detoxifies and aligns the body
• The Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana) purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the
energy channels
• The Advanced Series A, B, C, and D (Sthira Bhaga) integrate the strength and grace of the practice,
requiring higher levels of flexibility and humility

Each level should be fully developed before proceeding to the next, and the sequential order of asanas is to
be meticulously followed. Each posture is a preparation for the next, developing the strength and balance
required to move further. Without an earnest effort towards the practice of yama and niyama, however, the
practice of asana is of little benefit.

The breathing technique performed with vinyasa is called ujjayi (victorious breath). Both the inhale and
exhale should be steady and even, and the length of the inhale should be the same length as the exhale.
Over time, the length and intensity of the inhalation and exhalation should increase, such that the increased
stretching of the breath initiates the increased stretching of the body. During practice, the eyes are usually
focussed on specific points within each asana to ensure the mind is stilled.
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Iyengar yoga: Symmetry and alignment

Iyengar yoga emphasises posture and the development of balance and alignment. To support the
participants’ explorations of postures, Iyengar yoga makes use of a wide variety of props: belts, blocks,
pillows etc. Iyengar is one of the most widely practised yoga techniques in the West. It was developed
in India by B.K.S. Iyengar and works well for individuals with varying limitations and capacities for
accomplishing postures. Iyengar yoga is noted for great attention to detail and the precise alignment
of postures. The Iyengar method is initially learnt through the in-depth study of asanas (posture) and
pranayama (breath control).

B.K.S. Iyengar delineated over two hundred classical yoga asanas and fourteen different types of
Pranayamas (with variations of many of them) from the simple to the incredibly difficult. These have been
structured to allow a beginner to progress safely from basic postures to the most advanced, as they gain
flexibility, strength and sensitivity in mind and body.

Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way so that the
participant suffers no injury or pain when practising correctly. B.K.S. Iyengar developed the use of props
to help the body into the correct positions required. Props are objects like wooden blocks, chairs, blankets
and belts that help participants adjust or support themselves in the different postures so that they can work
in a range of motion that is safe and effective.

Pranayama is started once a firm foundation in asana has been established, as physically, the student
requires the alignment and flexibility necessary to sit and breathe correctly while practising. Pranayama
gives numerous physical benefits to the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems, activating
the internal organs and creating a feeling of energy and calmness. Equally importantly, it also brings the
mind and senses under control and makes the individual fit for the experience of meditation.


The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre is a non-profit organisation founded by Swami Vishnu-
Devananda to spread the teachings of Vedanta worldwide. There are now close to eighty Sivananda
locations (ashrams, yoga centres, and affiliated centres) around the world. The organisation has trained
more than ten thousand yoga teachers. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres are recognised worldwide for
teaching yoga authentically, preserving its purity and tradition, which dates back several thousand years.
Swami Vishnu-Devananda headed to the West and began travelling and teaching throughout the United
States in 1957. He established the first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Montreal, Canada, in 1959.

Sivananda is one of the world’s largest schools of yoga. It is very supportive to beginners. Developed by
Swami Vishnu-Devananda and named after his teacher, Swami Sivananda, Sivananda yoga follows a
set structure that includes breathing, classic asanas, relaxation, as well as principles of diet and positive
thinking. The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, written by Swami Vishnu-Devananda and first published
in 1960, was one of the first, and continues to be one of the best, introductions to yoga available.

Teachers should encourage students to embrace a healthy lifestyle that is based upon five principles:

1. Proper exercise (Asana, focusing on twelve poses in particular)

2. Proper breathing (Pranayama)
3. Proper relaxation
4. Proper diet
5. Positive thinking and meditation

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Integral yoga: The healing power of relaxation

Sri Swami Satchidananda described Integral yoga as: “a flexible combination of specific methods to
develop every aspect of the individual: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. It is a scientific system which
integrates the various branches of yoga in order to bring about a complete and harmonious development
of the individual.”

Integral yoga integrates various forms of yoga into a united whole. These forms of yoga include:

• Hatha yoga - focuses on the physical aspects through asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control),
mudras, kriyas, yogic diet, and deep relaxation.
• Raja yoga - balance and control of the mind through ethical practices, concentration and meditation.
• Bhakti yoga - the path of devotion, by constant love, thought, and service of the Divine.
• Karma yoga - the path of action and selfless service. Not being attached to the results of any action.
• Jnana yoga - the intellectual approach. Through the knowledge of what really exists and what is not
changeable, participants can realise oneness with the entire universe.
• Japa yoga - Japa means repetition of a mantra - a sound structure of one or more syllables which
represents a particular aspect of the Divine vibration.

The goal of Integral yoga is to realise the spiritual unity behind all diversity, and to live harmoniously as
members of one universal family. This goal is achieved by maintaining:

• a body of optimum health and strength

• senses under total control
• a mind well disciplined, clear, and calm
• an intellect as sharp as a razor
• a will as strong and pliable as steel
• a heart full of unconditional love and compassion
• an ego as pure as crystal
• a life filled with peace and joy

Viniyoga: Gentle flow

This gentle form of yoga places great emphasis on the breath, and coordinating breath with movement.
Viniyoga’s flowing movement or vinyasa is similar to ashtanga’s dynamic series of poses, but is performed
at a greatly reduced pace and stress level. The Vinyasa are chosen to suit the participant’s abilities. It
teaches the yoga participant how to apply the tools of yoga (asana, chanting, pranayama and meditation)
in individual practice. Viniyoga was developed by T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Krishnamacharya (teacher
to some of the great yoga instructors including Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois). It places less stress on joints
and knees since postures are done with slightly bent knees. Viniyoga is considered excellent for beginners,
and is increasingly being used in therapeutic environments.

Kundalini yoga: Awakening energy

Once a guarded secret in India, Kundalini yoga came to the West in 1969, when Sikh Yogi Bhajan
challenged tradition and began to teach it publicly. Kundalini yoga focuses on the controlled release of
kundalini energy, thought to reside at the base of the spine. This style of yoga pays particular attention to
breath work, which aims to get energy moving quickly, but it also involves classic poses, coordination of
breath and movement, and meditation.

Kundalini yoga is based on specially formulated sets of exercises. This allows participants to target specific

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benefits and work on exactly those aspects of that need work at the current time. Any amount of time spent
practising - whether three minutes or an hour a day - produces significant benefits and, in turn, motivates
participants to dedicate more time to its practice.

Practising Kundalini yoga keeps the body in shape and trains the mind to be strong and flexible in the
face of stress and change. It increases oxygen capacity, boosts blood flow, balances the glandular system,
strengthens the nervous system, and reduces stress-induced toxins such as adrenaline and cortisol. The
effect is a heightened self-awareness and vitality that allows participants to harness mental and emotional
energy. Participants feel more in control of themselves, with enhanced peace of mind, concentration, and
a deep inner calm and self-confidence.

Bikram yoga: Hot yoga

A beginners Bikram yoga class is a twenty-six asana series designed to scientifically warm and stretch
muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched. Control of weight, muscle
tone, vibrant good health, and a sense of well-being are some of the benefits.

Bikram teaches not only the ideal posture, but also details what problems participants will have as they
try to do the postures, what clues will help make rapid progress, and where participants might be tempted
to ‘cheat’, thus depriving themselves of the benefit of doing the posture properly. Bikram explains how
his scientifically designed series of twenty-six postures will enhance mind and body, relax, strengthen,
reshape, and heal all of the body in a ninety minute class.

Modern Bikram yoga is taught in heated studios and the temperature is often up to 47 degrees. This is
said to replicate ideal situations for yoga practice (Angell, 2011).

The Sanskrit language

Yoga was written in Sanskrit, an Indian language, and many of the Sanskrit words are still used in yoga
teaching today. Sanskrit is the oldest language known to man. It is considered by many to be the very
origin of language itself; that from which all languages have arisen or evolved. The Vedas, the universally
accepted first scriptures of humanity, were written in the Sanskrit language.

There is also a deeply rooted faith among Indians that Sanskrit itself is the language of the Gods, which
is why this language was known during the Vedic period (6,000 – 8,000 years ago) as the Divine
speech. Literally meaning ‘refined speech’, Sanskrit is still used today and is one of the twenty-two official
languages of India.

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Relevance of ancient yoga texts
Four classic texts of yoga

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The spiritual path of yoga is laid out by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which is one of the earliest texts on
Hatha yoga written by Swatmarama. The text was written in the 15th century BC. The work is derived from
older Sanskrit texts and Swami Svatamarama’s own yogic experiences. Many modern English translations
of the text are available.

The book consists of four chapters which include information about asanas, pranayama, chakras, kundalini,
bandhas, kriyas, nadis and mudras among other topics.

Summary of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Chapter one describes asanas. The text starts with Swatmarama saluting to his gurus. He indicates that
the knowledge has come from the guru-disciple lineage: Siva taught Matsyendranath, Matsyendranath
taught his disciple Gorakshanath and Swatmarama learned Hatha yoga. He explains that the knowledge
is not for everyone - it should be kept secret until the student is ready.

The text describes the conditions necessary for the practice of Hatha yoga, being in a peaceful place
without distractions or concerns for physical safety. It indicates that the yogi perishes by six causes:
over-eating, over exertion due to hard physical labour, too much talk, the observance of unsuitable vows,
promiscuous company and unsteadiness. He succeeds through cheerfulness, perseverance, courage, true
knowledge, firm belief in the words of the guru and by abandoning unsuitable company.

Swatmarama indicates that asanas are the first stage of Hatha yoga, and goes on to describe the practice of
a particular set of postures. He reveals that Siva described eighty-four asanas but that the most important
four are Siddhasana, Padmasana, Simhasana and Bhadrasana.

• Of these the most comfortable and excellent is Siddhasana which purifies the seventy-two thousand
nadis (‘astral nerves’). “A Yogi practising contemplation upon his Atman (Self), and observing a
moderate diet, if he practises the Siddhasana for twelve years, obtains fulfilment”.
• Padmasana destroys diseases. “The yogi, sitting in the Padmasana posture, by restraining the breath
drawn in through the nadis, becomes liberated”.
• Simhasana facilitates the three bandhas (muscular locks applied during breathing in order to direct
the prana).
• Bhadrasana destroys all ills.

One must lead a chaste life, observe a moderate diet and practise yoga. Moderate diet is defined as taking
pleasant and sweet food and leaving one quarter of the stomach free. Sharp, sour, salty or stale food
should be avoided. The text also states that siddhis (psychic powers) are not obtained by the idle, or mere
theoretical reading, but only by practice.

Chapter two describes pranayama. The Pradipika states that when the breath wanders, the mind is
also unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind. It describes left and right nostril breathing,
and kumbhaka (retention), puraka (inhalation) and rechaka (exhalation), which helps purify the nadis.
Participants should perform kumbhakas four times a day and increase the number performed as they get
more practised. They must perform pranayama correctly and they will gradually be free of all diseases. If
performed incorrectly it brings disease to the practitioner. For people of flabby or phlegmatic constitution
it is suggested that they perform the six acts or ‘kriyas’ to purify the body. These are Dhauti, Basti, Neti,
Tratak, Nauli and Kapalabhati.

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The Pradipika then goes on to describe Jalandhara bandha (throat lock) and Mula bandha (anus contraction)
and the eight different kinds of kumbhakas. At the end of kumbhaka, the yogi should draw off his mind
from any objects. “The signs of perfection in Hatha yoga are: the body becomes lean, the speech eloquent,
the inner sounds are distinctly heard, the eyes are clear and bright, the body is freed of all diseases and
the nadis are purified.”

Chapter three focuses on awakening Kundalini (‘Serpent Power’), the energy located in the individual. The
yogi is directed to practise the various mudras (seals), and the ten mudras that destroy old age and death,
which are listed. Uddiyana bandha (the drawing up of the intestines) is taught, and then Mula bandha
which unites prana and apana, heats the body and awakens the kundalini. These lead into a description
of the ‘energy asana’, Vajrasana, which allows one to manipulate the Kundalini.

Chapter four is devoted to Raja yoga, the stilling of the mind, where one reaches Samadhi, the state
of eternal bliss. When participants master the restraint of the breath and the prana flows through the
Sushumna (the central nadi) absorption of the mind ensues.

Nada is where the yogi listens with a concentrated mind to the sounds within. Firstly, sweet tinkling
sounds, arising from the Anahata chakra in the middle of the body, are heard (Arambha Avastha), secondly
the prana becomes one and enters the middle chakra (Ghata Avashta). The third stage is the hearing of
sounds like a drum in the space lying between the eyebrows (Parichaya Avastha). The fourth stage sets in,
where sounds of the flute are heard (Nishpatti) and the mind becomes one (Raja yoga).

The final portion of the text reinforces the power and the benefits of the practice and reaching Samadhi.
He who reaches Samadhi is said not to be affected by death or karma, is freed from his senses and the
world cannot overpower him (Long, 2007).

The Upanishads

The Upanishads were so called because they were taught to those who sat down beside their teachers
(upa - near, ni - down, shad -sit).

These texts developed from the Vedic tradition, but largely reshaped Hinduism by providing believers
with philosophical knowledge. The major Upanishads were composed between 800-200 BCE and are
partly prose, partly verse. Later Upanishads continued to be composed right up to the 16th century.
Originally they were in oral form. Central to the Upanishads is the concept of Brahman - the sacred power
which informs reality. Whilst the priests (brahmins) had previously been the ones who, through ritual and
sacrifice, had restricted access to the divine, now the knowledge of the universe was open to those of the
high and middle castes willing to learn from a teacher.

The Upanishads essentially all ask the same eternal questions: Who am I? Where do we come from? What
is God? What is death? There are four main concepts (known as mahàvàkyas or “great utterances”)

1. Everything is Brahman – The ultimate reality of the universe is identical with our innermost nature
2. The Self is Brahman – Only the realisation of this will liberate you from suffering and the cycle of
3. Consciousness is Brahman – A person’s thoughts and actions determines his/her destiny (karma)
4. I am Brahman – If you aren’t liberated and achieve the formless existence of atman/Brahman, you
will be reborn

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Topics covered

These are, especially for the longer Upanishads, the main but not the only topics, since all are interrelated.

• The path of knowledge versus the path of action, the Self (atman)
• Brahman as the Perceiver, Inspirer of all functions in the Universe
• How to be free of birth – death – rebirth through intuitive knowledge of the Supreme Self
• Brahman and how to attain this state
• Four states of consciousness – meditation on OM
• The Koshas; interconnectedness of all things
• Creation; the life – death cycle
• Atman is Brahman
• Atman as universal consciousness; Brahman is infinite
• Two routes to Brahman

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is India’s greatest scripture and is over 5,000 years old. When Mahatma Gandhi
died, a famous photograph was taken of all his possessions: his simple white cotton piece of clothing, his
glasses, his sandals and his well-worn copy of The Bhagavad Gita. It is read daily by millions of people
around the world and is in the homes of literally hundreds of millions of people, and is considered by a
great many to be the finest source of spiritual teaching in the world.

The Gita is an epic mystical poem about life, death, love, and duty, embedded in the middle of the larger
poem, the Mahabharatha, a literary masterpiece about the heights and depths of the human soul.

Summary of the Bhagavad Gita

The year is 3141 BC, and Arjuna, an esteemed warrior-prince at the height of his powers, is getting
ready to go into battle with his cousin to regain a kingdom that is rightfully his. All his life he has been a
courageous and successful combatant, but now, on the eve of the biggest fight of his life, he begins to lose
his resolve. He sees the tragedy of the potential mutual slaughter of two opposing sides of the same family.
Arjuna’s chariot driver, and his best friend from boyhood, is Krishna, an Avatar, an incarnation of God.
Arjuna asks “what is life all about?” and Krishna gives him the answer, straight from God. First he teaches
that only the body is mortal, and that the Atma, or pure consciousness, is unchanging and indestructible.
One’s personal duty is to remain faithful to the one’s true Self and to never do anything contrary to this.
For a warrior there is no higher duty than to fight for righteousness.

He talks of selfless action, karma yoga, where all action is dedicated to God and not for personal reward.
One should have no thoughts of gain or loss. He describes a person who achieves this as an Illumined
One, who withdraws their senses from the pleasures of the world, and steadies their mind. They are devoid
of cravings and desire.

‘Sacrifice’ is necessary, meaning offering, helping and being dedicated to the welfare of all humanity, and
is the noblest form of action. Truly wise persons recognise inaction in action, and action in inaction. These
persons have equal love for all around them. Krishna indicates that there are many paths to God of which
two are the ‘path of knowledge’ and the ‘path of action’. Most people find the action path is better for
them. One cannot discard one’s worldly duties, but must do them to the utmost extent of their capacity
for excellence. Meditation is then described by Krishna, where the mind is stilled and the ego is mastered.
Krishna indicates that spiritual work is never wasted, even if one does not reach Divinity in one’s own

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Krishna then talks of learned knowledge versus ‘realised’ wisdom and how Divinity is in everything. He
mentions the three ‘gunas’ of sattva, rajas and tamas that are present in all of nature. The four different
types of God worshipper are described, but Krishna makes clear that any of the types need to know their
own Truth before they can know God.

Krishna next indicates that whatever occupies your attention throughout your life will be in your
consciousness when you die and is manifested in the next birth. Two paths exist: freedom from death-
rebirth and bondage to the death-rebirth cycle. The only way to reach the immortal state is through love
and unswerving devotion to the Divine.

He reiterates that God is in everything, above and beyond all worldly objects and even above all minor
deities. Arjuna asks to see Krishna’s True God form and Krishna shows him in a blaze of light. Arjuna
realises God’s limitless and all-pervasive presence.

Krishna brings Arjuna back to the forthcoming war and points out that the destruction of enemies is
inevitable, and that fighting for righteousness one will always win, even if slain in the process.

The two friends talk of worshipping the invisible formless God versus the visible God with form. Krishna
indicates that for most people it is easier to relate to the God with form, however for full liberation,
enlightened yogis have to understand the formless path, without attachment to body.

Krishna then moves on to explain the different levels of consciousness, talking of the ‘Field’ (the world of
nature or ‘matter’) and ‘the Knower of the Field’ (Spirit). He reminds us that all beings are one and they
all come from the same source.

He returns again to the ‘gunas’ and types of people: sattvic (calm and harmonised), rajasic (full of restless
energy) and tamasic (lethargic and indolent). The particular state of mind uppermost at your time of death
is the deciding factor of your next birth, and sattva should be the goal. Wise yogis transcend all three
gunas, as they dwell within the Self where the mind is tranquil and the ego disappears.

To help understanding, Krishna uses an analogy of most humans being like an upside down tree with its
branches firmly rooted in the earthly. Krishna says that to gain ‘the eye of wisdom’ one must surrender the
ego and purify the mind.

He describes how humans have two kinds of tendencies: divine (fearlessness, purity, steadfastness,
charity and control of senses; sacrifice, study of scriptures, austerity, straightforwardness, non-injury,
truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity and not slandering; compassion, not coveting,
gentleness, modesty, no fickleness and vigour; forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, no hatred and no pride)
and degenerate (pride, pompousness, vanity, anger, harshness and absence of discrimination). The gates
to hell are desire, greed and anger.

Arjuna asks whether people can pursue the right path without knowledge of the scriptures. Krishna replies
that people are the sum total of the beliefs they hold in their hearts. He points out that the food people eat
is important and shapes their mental attitudes. The best kind of sattvic food is pure, mild and nourishing.
Breakfast should be light, lunch substantial as required and supper as light as possible so that the organs
are rested overnight.

Krishna elaborates on the three spiritual practices of sacrifice, austerity (or purification) and charity, which
he indicates are the three highest of human activities. He relates these to the different types of action:
rajasic, tamasic and sattvic.

He re-iterates the importance of doing one’s duties and explains the four segments of society: Seers
(providing spiritual and moral leadership), Leaders (to help transform ordinary beings into exemplary
beings), Providers (business people) and Servers (workers). None are more superior than the other and
spiritual growth is possible for all divisions of society. Your duties should be performed for your natural

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calling (‘dharma’), and you should not try to master the work of another. Krishna reminds Arjuna that he
is a warrior and so he must not shy away from fighting the righteous fight.

In summary Krishna tells Arjuna to fix his mind on Divinity and give it his whole heart (Long, 2007).

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The greatest classical text from the yoga school of Indian philosophy is the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali,
written in the second century BC. Sutra means ‘thread’ and these’ threads’ on yoga state essential points
or techniques. Originally these teachings were oral and were explained and interpreted by commentaries
from a teacher guiding the student.

The practice of yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. In
short it is about making balance to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole. This
art of right living was perfected and practised in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga
philosophy were written down in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This sacred text describes the inner workings
of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness to ensure lasting peace.

The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga
practice. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual. Because
everyone is unique a participant can emphasise one branch and then move on to another.

Organisation of the Yoga Sutras

The sutras are in four parts/chapters (padas):

1. Samadhi Pada - Contemplation and meditation. This section gives theory of yoga and a description of
the most advanced stages of the practice of contemplation (samedhi). This chapter states that there are
five activities of the mind that can cause problems or be beneficial and these are:

• Comprehension (right knowledge, perception, faithful testimony)

• Error (misunderstanding, incorrect knowledge)
• Imagination (forming opinions without facts)
• Deep sleep (unconscious mental activity)
• Memory (retains living experience).

This chapter also states that there are nine inner obstacles to mental clarity and these are:

• Sickness and illness

• Mental inertia, stagnation and dullness
• Doubt
• Haste, lack of foresight and carelessness
• Apathy, fatigue and laziness
• Intemperance and overindulgence
• Errors in judgement of oneself and false perception
• Lack of perseverance
• Inability to stay at a level once reached, regression and lack of progress

The chapter states that the following four obstacles will affect us in some way or another whether they be
mental or physical:

• Distress
• Negative thinking
• Physical discomfort or unease
• Disturbed breathing

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2. Sadhana Pada - Practice (the steps to union).

This chapter contains philosophy in a practical nature. It includes the first five steps of the yoga limbs
along with benefits, obstacles and ways to overcome the obstacles. It states that there are five major
obstacles or causes of suffering and pain called Kleshas and these are:

• Avidya – ignorance of our true nature

• Asmita – consciousness of I, egotism
• Raga – attachment, extreme dislike, hatred
• Dvesha – our aversion to things
• Abhiivesha – clinging to life, fear of death, attachment to the body

3. Vibhuti Padi - Accomplishments (union achieved and its results). This chapter discusses the final three
steps of Raja yoga plus all of the powers and accomplishments which could come to a faithful practitioner.
It covers the last three limbs of yoga – Dharana, Dhyana and Samedhi.

4. Kaivalya Pada - Absoluteness (illumination and freedom). This chapter discusses yoga from a
philosophical viewpoint. It explains that life should be lived in a selfless way and to be lived in a dedicated
way i.e. whatever you do, do it for others.

Relevance of yoga texts within a yoga class

The integration of ancient yoga texts within a yoga class, whether verbally communicated, or in written
format (e.g. hand-outs) may serve to both educate and further inspire yoga participants at any level. Some
ideas for inclusion are presented below:

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika

As previously discussed, this text consists of four chapters which include information about asanas,
pranayama, chakras, kundalini, bandhas, kriyas, nadis and mudras, among other topics. During classes,
the teacher can choose one aspect to introduce or to theme the class with and produce hand-outs for the

The Upanishads

These may offer the most benefit by being read out to the participants during relaxation and recovery time,
or after the class finishes. A teacher can choose those that are relevant to the class, as well as those that
the teacher feels are especially poignant to them.

The Bhagavad Gita

Excerpts of this text can be read out to the class during relaxation and recovery.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali can be simply woven into any class. The text can either be read out, or
the teacher can use their interpretation of the text and share this with the class. Hand-outs can also be
prepared using simple language so that the participants can have an insight into the theory of yoga.

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Ideas for integration

• S
ome of the theory can be used for a discussion after the class, for example the Yamas and Niyamas.
• Using Dharana as a theme for a class, the teacher could make an object (e.g. a candle flame or a
crystal) as the focus of meditation
• After relaxation the teacher can get into the habit of reading out selected text from any of the ancient texts.

Table 2 provides an example of how information regarding the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ can be integrated into
an 8-week lesson plan.

Week number Limb of yoga Themes

1 Yama Restraint – non-violence, not lying, not stealing, not
lusting, non-attachment
2 Niyama Observances – cleanliness, contentment, discipline,
surrender to supreme ‘God’
3 Asana Posture or physical exercises
4 Pranayama Breath control
5 Pratyahara Sublimation or withdrawal from the senses
6 Dharana Attention
7 Dhyana Concentration
8 Samadhi Meditation

Table 2 Example lesson plan

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Understanding the eight limbs of yoga
Eight limbs of yoga
The eight limbs of yoga, according to Patanjali are summarised as follows:

1. Yama (Restraint) - nonviolence, not lying, not stealing, not lusting, and nonattachment
2. Niyama (Observances) - cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender to the
Supreme God
3. Asana (Posture or physical exercises)
4. Pranayama (Breath control)
5. Pratyahara (Sublimation or withdrawal from the senses)
6. Dharana (Attention)
7. Dhyana (Concentration)
8. Samadhi (Meditation)

The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the yamas, and the niyamas. Yamas and niyamas are the
suggestions given on how individuals should deal with other people, as well as attitudes towards self. The
attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, and how we relate to ourselves
inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how energy is directed in relationship to others and
to ourselves.

Each of the eight limbs will be explored further below.

1. Yamas (restraint)

Ahimsa (compassion for all living things)

Ahimsa is a key principle of yamas. Ahimsa literally means ‘not to injure or show cruelty to any creature
or any person in any way whatsoever’. It also pertains to self-responsibility; ahimsa implies that in every
situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm. Ahimsa is commonly thought of as the
most important yoga principle as it applies to almost everything:

• How we treat all other beings

• How we treat our own bodies and minds
• How we think and what we think about
• How we talk and what we talk about
• How we eat and what we eat

Mahatma Gandhi is an example of someone who dedicated his life to Ahimsa; he was a great example of
the yoga lifestyle. It is essential that yoga teachers practise Ahimsa in one or more areas of their life.

Satya (commitment to truthfulness)

Satya means ‘to speak the truth’, yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, as it could
harm someone unnecessarily. Satya should never come into conflict with efforts to behave with ahimsa.
This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action is the cornerstone of
any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and
mistruths harm others.

There is a common Ahimsa/Satya dilemma:

Have you ever been in a situation when the truth would be hurtful or harmful to someone? What’s the right
thing to do: to say the truth and be hurtful, or lie and save someone the embarrassment?

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Integrating the first two principles of yoga is an art and a life-long yoga lifestyle practice.

Asteya (non-stealing)
Steya means ‘to steal’; asteya is the opposite. It also refers to situations where someone entrusts something
or confides in an individual. Non-stealing includes not only taking what belongs to another without
permission, but also using something for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted
by its owner. The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This also
includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time.

Consider how much you need? We need only as much as is necessary for our survival in terms of basic
needs of nourishment and comfort. We need just enough (material possessions) to be able to perform our
life’s work.

Ask yourself before making a decision to get something: Am I stealing it from anyone, or from nature? Will
I be able to use it to improve the lives of others and benefit the planet?

Brahmacharya (faithfulness)
This doesn’t only refer to relationships; it encompasses all areas of life - teachers, friends, principles and
values, and personal commitments.

To practise Brachmacharya, as you take on a task or a new endeavour or take a new step, ask yourself:
Am I betraying any of my relationships, principles, promises, or commitments?

Aparigraha (neutralising the desire to acquire and hoard wealth)

Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act
greedy. Aparigraha also implies letting go of attachments to material things, and is often referred to as
‘impermanence’ in Buddhist culture.

Ask yourself, before acquiring something new: Will this new (...) help me to make other people’s lives
better? Is this (...) a real necessity for my yogic living?

The secret purpose of the Yamas

Yoga aims to achieve lasting inner peace and happiness. In order to achieve this, one must learn how to
control one’s mind perfectly which can be challenging. To enable this, it is important to practise limiting
common distractions of the mind such as:

• violence, and violent thoughts

• lies and untruths
• guilt
• being unfaithful
• having more things than are required

Practising the Yamas is the core of the yoga lifestyle. Practising the yamas will gradually minimise the
distractions and set the mind up for lasting inner peace and happiness.

2. Niyama

Niyama means ‘rules’ or ‘laws’; these are the rules prescribed for personal observance. Compared with the
yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude adopted toward oneself to
create a code for living.

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Sauca (purity)
Sauca has both an inner and an outer aspect. Outer purity simply means keeping ourselves clean; inner
cleanliness has as much to do with the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of
our mind. Practising asanas or pranayama are essential means for attending to this inner sauca. Asanas
tone the entire body and remove toxins while pranayama cleanses the lungs, oxygenates the blood and
purifies the nerves. But more important than the physical cleansing of the body is the cleansing of the
mind of disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.

Santosa (contentment)
Santosa means feeling content with one’s lifestyle and to be at peace within, even while experiencing life’s
difficulties. This concept generally accepts that there is a purpose for everything - yoga calls it karma – and
that contentment is cultivated ‘to accept what happens’.

Tapas (disciplined use of energy)

Tapas refers to the activity of keeping the body fit, as well as to confront and handle inner urges without
outer manifestations. Literally, it means ‘to heat the body and to cleanse it’. Behind the concept of tapas
lies the idea that energy can be directed to enthusiastically engage life. Another form of tapas is paying
attention to what is eaten. Attention to body posture, attention to eating habits, attention to breathing
patterns - these are all tapas.

Svadhyaya (self-study)
Svadhyaya means self-inquiry or any activity that cultivates self-reflection. It means to intentionally find
self-awareness in all activities and efforts, even to the point of welcoming and accepting limitations.

Isvarapranidhana (celebration of the Spiritual)

The practice requires that time is set aside each day to recognise that there is a larger force than oneself
that is guiding and directing the course of our lives.

3. Asanas
Asana is the most commonly known aspect of yoga. The practice of moving the body into postures has
widespread benefits; of these the most important are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility.
Asana means ‘staying’ in Sanskrit. Through practice, asana fosters a quieting of the mind; therefore it
becomes both a preparation for meditation and a meditation in itself. Patanjali suggests that the asana
and the pranayama practices will bring about the desired state of health, harmonising the flow of energy
in the body.

4. Pranayama
Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana)
within the body, in order to restore and maintain health. When the in-flowing breath is joined with the
out-flowing breath, perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realised.

Pranayama co-exists with the asana. In the Yoga Sutras, the practice of pranayama and asana are considered
to be the highest form of purification and self-discipline for the mind and the body. The practices produce
the physical sensation of heat, called tapas; this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle
nerve channels of the body, and allowing the mind to become calmer. As the participant follows the proper
rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing, the patterns strengthen the respiratory system and soothe the
nervous system – laying the foundation for concentration.

5. Pratyahara
In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. When
the senses are no longer tied to external sources, the result is pratyahara.

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Pratyahara occurs almost automatically during meditation because the individual is so absorbed in the
object of meditation. Because the mind is so focused, the senses follow it; it is not happening the other
way around. The senses are considered to be a source of temptation to develop cravings; in pratyahara
the opposite occurs.

A person who is influenced by outside events and sensations can never achieve the inner peace and
tranquillity. This is because he or she will waste much mental and physical energy in trying to suppress
unwanted sensations and to heighten other sensations. This will eventually result in a physical or mental

Patanjali says that the above process is at the root of human unhappiness and uneasiness. In a sense,
yoga is nothing more than a process which enables followers to stop and look at the processes of their

6. Dharana
Dharana means ‘immovable concentration of the mind’. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or
focus of attention in one direction. It is said that:

“When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama
and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the yogi reaches the sixth stage,

Here a single point or task is concentrated on and the participant becomes completely engrossed. The
mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.
The objective in dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity. The
particular object selected has nothing to do with the general purpose, which is to stop the mind from
wandering through memories, dreams, or reflective thought by deliberately holding it single-mindedly upon
some apparently static object.

7. Dhyana
Dhyana means worship, and is the epitome of perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a
point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. Meditation becomes a tool to see things
clearly and perceive reality beyond the illusions that cloud our mind.

8. Samadhi
Samadhi means ‘to bring together, to merge’. In the state of Samadhi, the body and senses are at rest, as
if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake. Thus, samadhi refers to union or true
yoga. The achievement of samadhi is a difficult task. For this reason the Yoga Sutras suggest the practice of
asanas and pranayama as preparation for dharana, because these influence mental activities, and create
space in the crowded schedule of the mind. Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and samadhi can follow.

These eight limbs of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, emotional,
and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state
of total health and integration to become a reality (Doran, 2011).

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Understanding the four paths of yoga
It can be quite confusing for a new participant to hear about yoga paths, yoga styles, yoga traditions and
yoga schools. Put simply, yoga paths are the main roads of yoga and the other terms simply mean side
roads that branch off from the main road but still help you meet your destination.

Four paths of yoga

The four paths of yoga are Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, and Raja. The whole concept and organisation of the
four paths can be confusing, particularly if participants have just focused on the physical aspects within a
class. Another source of confusion is that participants do not choose a particular path. More likely, practice
expands so that it touches each of the paths.

Explaining the four paths to class participants

1. Practise asanas in class (Raja yoga)

2. Realisation that you are much more aware of your influence on the world around you (Karma yoga)
3. Begin to experience feeling joy, bliss and oneness, chanting or meditating on a mantra - and bringing
this into your life (Bhakti yoga)
4. Noticing that in meditation and moments of stillness you are attempting to discriminate between the
obvious distinctions in the physical world and your deep experience of oneness (Jnana yoga)

Karma yoga: the yoga of action

Karma yoga is the yoga of action. Here, the participant expresses his or her oneness through everyday
action - focusing on honesty, hard work and selfless service. Karma is the set of obstacles or lessons that
confront individuals in life.

The values of Karma yoga

Honesty, hard work and selfless service form the core values of Karma yoga. Honesty means not just telling
the truth, but digging deep within oneself to know the truth and live it. Meditation helps to achieve this
self-knowledge. Hard work can include Hatha yoga to keep the body ready to do its best. It also means
doing a job fully, whether shovelling a pile of earth or completing a round of sun salutations. Selfless
service entails setting needs aside in making the best choice in any situation.

Karma yoga challenge

Today, as you go through your everyday activities find at least one situation that you might normally walk
right by, and lend a hand instead. Breathe. Feel your feet on the ground and look around yourself. It can
be as simple as letting a car merge in heavy traffic, or going a few extra steps to get a door for someone.
Tomorrow, try for two or three chances.

Enjoy it.

Bhakti yoga: the yoga of devotion

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion and love. The Bhakti yogi seeks to offer up all of their emotional energy
to God (which could mean universal spiritual energy, a chosen deity or any other conception of oneness).
Common practices of Bhakti yoga include: reciting and meditating upon mantras, maintaining shrines to a

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preferred deity and writing poetry. These practices can be a natural outgrowth of any yogi’s physical practice.
Sometimes in a yoga posture, individuals may feel a strength that goes beyond the effort of your muscles; a
feeling that doesn’t seem to have a simple physical explanation. These moments may be thought of simply
as ‘being in the zone’, or more profoundly as ‘universal connection’. They are also moments of yoga union.
Chanting or following a mantra in meditation can provide a reliable way to tap into this feeling (chanting
Aum, for example); the hope being that the yogi will learn to draw upon these energies in everyday life.

Jnana yoga: the yoga of knowledge

Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge. Jnana yoga is considered the most difficult path that requires
immense faith and trust. path. It is based on the Hindu philosophy of Brahman or non-dualism which is
a fundamental belief in the unity of the universe. A similar non-dualistic view of reality is held by many
branches of Buddhism, including Zen, Taoism, Islamic Sufism, as well as by some branches of Christianity.

Jnana yoga looks into the truth about who we are and what we are experiencing, i.e. Who am I? The full
realisation of this truth brings enlightenment or salvation. Jnana yoga teaches that there are four means
to salvation:

1. Viveka (discrimination) - the ability to differentiate between what is real/eternal (Brahman) and what
is unreal/temporary (everything else in the universe).
2. Vairagya (dispassion) - after practice one should be able to ‘detach’ from everything that is ‘temporary’.
3. Shad-sampat (the 6 Virtues) – these include Tranquillity (control of the mind), Dama (control of
the senses), Uparati (renunciation of activities that are not duties), Titiksha (endurance), Shraddha
(faith), Samadhana (perfect concentration).
4. Mumukshutva (intense longing for liberation from temporal limitations). The ‘liberation’ might be
described as ‘wanting to be one with the universe’.

Raja yoga: the royal path

Raja yoga is the royal path to yoga. Far more participants start out on this path than any other. Raja yoga uses
physical asanas, breathing exercises, and meditation to find the union of yoga. It encompasses most of the
types of yoga seen today - Hatha, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Bikram, as well as many forms of meditation.

The term first came about in ancient India, where royalty frequently practised this form. In addition, further
meaning is derived from knowledge of chakra points – through yoga practice, internal spiritual energies
(e.g. kundalini) rise through the major energy centres along the spine, eventually reaching the crown
chakra, located just above the crown of the head.

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Key concepts of yoga
This section provides an insight into the most common concepts within yoga including:

• Prana – kundalini, nadis, granthis and chakras

• Kleshas – ignorance, I-am-ness, attachment, repulsion and will to live
• Mantra – Om/Aum

The information provided in this section needs to be approached with respect and wisdom. The energy work
is deep and potentially disastrous if not approached with care and knowledge. The aspects contained in this
section are not mandatory practices for a yoga teacher and should be approached when and if ready to do so.

Prana is the life force or vital energy, and is the centre of all yoga practices. Prana is considered to be
a subtle form of energy carried by the air, food, water and sunlight, and animates all forms of matter.
Through the practice of asanas and Pranayama, more Prana is taken in and stored in the body bringing
great vitality and strength.


The Sanskrit word, kundalini, means coiled, like a snake. It is an energy that exists in the body in a dormant,
semi-awakened or fully awake state. Sometimes, this energy becomes aroused and activated either by a positive
or negative event. Although unrecognised by Western medical science, Kundalini is mentioned extensively in the
literature of yoga and Tantra (both Buddhist and Hindu).

Kundalini can be awakened or aroused from its dormant state at the base of the spine by intense meditation,
or intense breath control practices. Hatha yoga and Tantra yoga, in their traditional forms, are designed
to arouse kundalini so that the practitioner can use this energy to increase the potency of his or her
meditation. A participant who successfully and safely arouses their kundalini may reap great benefits, such
as increased energy and vitality (Dykema, 2011).


The Nadis are nerve channels or tubes in the astral body through which the Prana flows. Asanas and
Pranayama are designed to purify the Nadis for the Prana to flow freely; if the Nadis are blocked, the Prana
cannot flow easily, resulting in poor health. According to many ancient yogis, there are about seventy two
thousand Nadis, and of these, the most important one for spiritual awakening is Sushumna. On either side
of the Sushumna are two other Nadis called the Ida and the Pingala which correspond to the sympathetic
ganglia of the Spinal Cord. Kundalini, which is a dormant or static energy, is located at the base of the
Sushumna in the Muladhara Chakra. This energy is awakened by the practice of Pranayama and other
yoga practices. Ida and pingala wind around the spine like a double-helix crossing at each of the major
chakras (energy centres). Ida is regarded as the feminine, inward-focused, intuitive energy; and pingala as
the masculine, outward-focused, rational energy. Yoga gently awakens the kundalini allowing it to rise all
the way to the crown of the head. (Dykema, 2011; Swami J, 2011).


The word chakra comes from the Sanskrit and means ‘spinning wheel’. There are seven major chakras
as well as other minor chakras. These swirling energy centres are located between the base of the spine
and the crown of the head. Each of the seven chakras governs a specific bodily function and are related
to behaviour and emotions.

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Base chakra (Muladhara)
The first chakra is called the base chakra or the root chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It
governs survival, base instincts, the sex drive and physical life.

Sacral/navel chakra (Svadhisthana)

The second chakra is called the sacral chakra or the navel chakra and is located below the navel. It
governs the area of the sacrum which is the large bone of the pelvis between the hip bones. it is associated
with emotions, sensuality, intimacy, sexuality, creativity and womb energy.

Solar plexus chakra (Manipura)

The third chakra is called the solar plexus chakra or the power chakra and is named after the complex
network of nerves in the stomach. It is the area governing personal power.

Heart chakra (Anahata)

The fourth chakra is called the heart chakra and is located in the centre of the chest near the heart. It is
associated with love, compassion and happiness.

Thymus/higher heart chakra (Vishuddha)

Throat chakra (Ajna)

The fifth chakra is called the throat chakra and is located above the collar bone. It governs the area of the
throat and the ears and is associated with communication.

Third eye chakra (Sahasrara)

The sixth chakra is called the third eye chakra and is located in the forehead above the eyebrows. It governs the
area of the pineal gland. The pineal gland is believed to be where ‘second sight’ or psychic sight was located.

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Chakras and Kundalini

As the Kundalini moves upwards during the phase of Kundalini rising, it encounters and fills each of the
lower chakras, one after the other.

The chakras function within the following three general groups (known as the Gunas or attributes of life):

1. Tamas - the first two chakras relate to the primal activities that operate according to the physical world,
including the drives for self-preservation and procreation, effectively obscuring higher experience.
2. Rajas - the third and fourth chakras, the navel and the heart centres, involve a subtler relationship
with the world, working with one’s individuality rather than just engaging the physical world.
3. Sattva - the fifth and sixth chakras, the throat and the eyebrow centres, begin movement away from the
outer towards the inner world of purity, intuition, creativity, and wisdom, from which the outer arises.

(Swami J, 2011).

Granthis (the three knots)

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states “When the dormant Kundalini gets aroused by the grace of the guru, then
all the chakras and the granthis (knots) get pierced”.

Granthis are psychic knots in the physical body, distinguishable from chakras in that these knots have to
be ‘pierced’ and dissolved to enable the free passage of prana. The granthis are said to be pierced by the
Kundalini force and so arousal of Kundalini needs to take place before the granthis are dissolved. Along
the Sushumna channel there are three knots (granthis) of energy that will be broken or untied along the
upward journey of Kundalini rising, allowing the flow to go into and through the various chakras above that
point. The granthis individual names are: Brahma Granthi, Rudra Granthi and Visnu Granthi.

• Brahma granthis – located in the pelvic region; blocks the flow from the first chakra, the root chakra
(muladhara), upward to the others; related to bondage to desires.
• Vishnu granthis – located in the head, including the third eye and crown; blocks the flow from the
third chakra at the navel (manipura), upward to the fourth chakra (anahata) the heart; related to
bondage of actions.
• Rudra granthis – located in the centre region, extending from navel to heart and throat; blocks the
flow beyond the sixth chakra between the eyebrows (ajna), upwards towards sahasrara; related to
bondage of thoughts (compared to pure knowing).

It is most common for the awakened Kundalini to rise only to one of the lower chakras, rather than to
awaken and arise through all of the chakras, all the way to the crown. Having the Kundalini awaken and
even partial Kundalini rising is an encouraging and inspiring experience. It is also an experience to observe
with humility, as the ego can claim ownership of the experience and delay further advancement. The many
practices with body, breath, and mind, each have their effect on these various centres, and pave the way
for the Kundalini rising to further upward over time and with practice.

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Kleshas are regarded as mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions; both the
ancient yogis and the Buddhists point to the kleshas as the causes of suffering. These states can distort the
mind and perceptions, affecting how individuals think, act and feel. The five main kleshas vary in intensity
and not only create suffering, but are said to bind individuals to the endless cycle of birth and rebirth, and
thus preventing the achievement of enlightenment.

1. Avidya (ignorance) is the misconception of true reality, believing that the temporary is eternal, the
impure is the pure, and pleasure to be painful. This false representation of reality is the root klesha
and produces the four others.
2. Asmita (I-am-ness) is the identification of oneself with the ego. The creation of a self-image is often
believed to be the true self; however, this self-image can contain both external (I am poor) and
internal (I am a bad person) false projections. As a result, individuals can become trapped within
the projections that they have created of their lives.
3. Raga (attachment) is the attraction for things that bring satisfaction to oneself. The desire for
pleasurable experiences creates mindless actions and blind sighted vision. When desires are not
obtained, suffering ensues; when desires are obtained, feelings of pleasure soon fade, and the
search for pleasure begins once more (trapped in an endless cycle).
4. Dvesha (repulsion) is the opposite of raga, and represents an aversion towards things that produce
unpleasant experiences.
5. Abhinivesha (will to live) is the deepest and most universal klesha, remaining until death. Although
death is inevitable, the fear of death is deeply buried in the unconscious mind.

The first stage of working with the kleshas is to simply acknowledge them. Reflection promotes self-
awareness, self-understanding and self-knowledge to uncover and see the kleshas and their roots as well
as how they create suffering. Yogic techniques are said to burn away the impurities of the kleshas and
purify the mind (Burgin, 2003).

The word ‘mantra’ has its roots in the Sanskrit language. Mantra contains two words – ‘man’ which means ‘to think
(also in manas ‘mind’) and the suffix ‘tra’ which means ‘tool’ - hence a literal translation would be ‘tool of thought’.

In yoga, mantra is a religious or mystical syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Mantras
involve words or vibrations that allow concentration, and are also integrated in many religious rituals to
remove obstacles, avoid danger, or accumulate wealth. Mantras are derived from the Vedas of India. It is
important to pronounce the mantra properly with an understanding of its meaning.

Mantras are often thought of as energy-based sounds; the Indian metaphysical tradition explains that the
body is composed of the combination of five elements and the first of them is sound. Studies in sound
symbolism suggest that vocal sounds have meaning, even in the absence of understanding. A mantra,
when repeated constantly during meditation, first loudly and then through silent and mental chanting, can
change consciousness.

Significance of Aum (Om)

The most basic mantra is Aum, which is known as the ‘pranava mantra’, the source of all mantras. Aum
is regarded to be the most fundamental and powerful mantra, representing the first manifestation of
Brahman - the supreme reality. Thus, Aum is prefixed and suffixed to all Hindu prayers.

Verses from holy Hindu texts like the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita are considered powerful
enough to be repeated to great effect, and therefore have attained the status of a mantra. As per the
Vedic practices, most ancient techniques and classical Hinduism, mantra is symbolised as a requisite for
spiritual advancement (I Love India, 2011).

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The syllable Om (Figure 1) is composed of the three sounds ‘a-u-m’ (in Sanskrit, the vowels ‘a’ and ‘u’
combine to become ‘o’), and the symbol’s threefold nature is central to its meaning. It represents several
important triads:

• The three worlds - earth, atmosphere, and heaven

• The three major Hindu gods - Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva
• The three sacred Vedic scriptures – Rig Veda, Yajur, and Sama

Figure 1 The symbol Om

Thus Om mystically embodies the essence of the entire universe. This meaning is further deepened by
the Indian philosophical belief that God first created sound and the universe arose from it. As the most
sacred sound, Om is the root of the universe and everything that exists, and it continues to hold everything
together. The syllable is discussed in a number of the Upanishads and it forms the entire subject matter
of the Mandukya Upanishad.

‘AUM is a bow, the arrow is the self,

and Brahman (Absolute Reality) is said to be the mark’.
(Mandukya Upanishad)

‘The essence of all beings is the earth.

The essence of the earth is water.
The essence of water is the plant.
The essence of the plant is man.
The essence of man is speech.
The essence of speech is the Rigveda.
The essence of Rigveda is the Samveda.
The essence of Samveda is OM’.
(Chandogya Upanishad)
(Religion Facts, 2011).

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Understanding Kriyas
One of the fundamental theories of Indian medicine suggests the human body is made by three basic
constituents called tridoshas, which are Vata (mechanical functional constituent of the body), Pitta
(chemical functional constituent of the body) and Kapha (material functional constituent of the body). If
there is any imbalance in the constituents in the body, this leads to disease. Kriyas are cleansing practices.
There are six main kriya as described in the Hatha yoga Pradipika and these are:

• Dhauti – washing of the gastrointestinal tract

• Vasti – cleansing of the colon
• Neti – nasal cleansing using either water or cloth
• Tratak – cleansing of the eyes through concentrated internal or external gazing
• Nuali – intestinal cleansing through muscular churning
• Kaphalabhati – breathing technique to create ‘skull shining’

The six kriya are also known as Shatkarma.

Benefits of Kriyas
• Effective in yoga therapy
• Creates harmony in body and mind
• The different systems of the body are purified so the energy can flow through the body freely
• Good for general health - it increases capacity to work, think, digest, taste, feel, experience etc.

Kriyas are not necessary for everyone to practice and should only be applied when there is an imbalance
of one of the tridoshas.

Of these practices, many are considered extreme and would not be suitable for use during a class. The
most useful ones to teach in a class are Kaphalabhati and Tratak, although Neti may also be used outside
of a class. These are discussed below.


‘Kaphala’ means cranium and ‘bhati’ means shining or splendour.

• Kaphalabhati relaxes the facial muscles and nerves
• According to some classical texts of yoga, regular practice of kaphalabhati helps to prevent the aging
• Effective in respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis
• Increases the lungs capacity, makes the lungs strong
• Spiritually kaphalabhati practice is helpful to awaken ajna chakra

Kaphalabhati is explained in the Hath yoga Pradipika as follows:

‘Perform exhalation and inhalation rapidly like the bellows of a blacksmith. This is called kaphalabhati and
it destroys all mucous disorders’.

In Khapalabhati the emphasis is on the exhalation and should not be confused with Bhastrika.

• People suffering from hypertension and heart problems should not do Kaphalabhati.
• To begin with, participants may feel giddiness while practising, therefore practise for two minutes,
relax and repeat for two more minutes.

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‘Tratak’ means to ‘gaze steadily’. Tratak is a process of concentrating the mind and curbing its oscillating
tendencies. In general Tratak practice is gazing at the flame of a candle.

• Tratak is good for eye problems
• Regular practice of Tratak is said to be helpful to overcome depression, insomnia, allergy, anxiety
• Tratak practice awakens the ajna chakra.

The Hatha yoga Pradipika explains the Trataka and its benefits as follows:

‘Looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed down is known as Tratak.
Trataka eradicates all eye diseases. Fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway creating these problems. It
should be carefully kept secret like a golden casket’.

• Trataka can be done at any time; but the most suitable time is early morning after practice of asana
and pranayama
• Symbols or objects like crystal balls or the symbol of ‘Om’ can also be used instead of candles
• At the beginning, start with two or three minutes of practice and after a few days it can be increased
to ten minutes.

Jala Neti

The process of cleaning the nasal passage by salt water is called Jala neti. The specially designed pot used
for this purpose is called a neti pot.

• Prevents and eliminates colds
• Maintains and increases the efficiency of the nasal passages
• Effective in treating sinusitis
• Effective in treating migraine, anxiety and tension
• Makes breathing easier, which leads to improved intake of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide

• People suffering from chronic nose bleeding should not do neti

• Always practise kaphalabhati after neti practice, it will helpful to remove the remaining water content
from the nose
• In traditional yoga techniques, milk and ghee are also used instead of salt water
• The water used for the practice should be pure and lukewarm

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Understanding Mudras
Concept of mudras
A mudra is a psycho-spiritual gesture or position, usually of the hands, that locks and guides energy flow
and reflexes to the brain. The curling, crossing, stretching and touching of fingers and hands is thought
to enhance communication between body, mind and spirit. Together with the Bandhas (see next section),
mudras redirect the energy (Prana) flow, linking the individual pranic energy with universal force.

Each finger represents the energy of a planet, a determinate quality, and emotions. The thumbs represent the ego.

Commonly used mudra

Jnana or Gyan Mudra

This is known as the mudra of knowledge.

The tip of the thumb touches the tip of the index finger, stimulating
knowledge and ability (Figure 2). The index finger is ego and the thumb
is higher knowledge. The three other fingers are the Gunas. This mudra
imparts receptivity and calm.

Figure 2 Jnana mudra

Prayer or Anjali mudra

Palms are pressed together (Figure 3). This mudra neutralises the positive (male)
and negative (female) sides of the body. This mudra can be done before a class or at
the end. By pressing the palms of the hands together firmly, the two hemispheres of
the brain are connected, bringing them into balance. When the sternum is touched
with the thumb, it stimulates the nerve called, ‘nerve mind’, which connects with
the brain. This mudra promotes listening and physical and mental focus

Figure 3 Anjali mudra

Vajrapradama mudra

The fingertips of the hands are crossed (Figure 4). This is the gesture
of unshakable confidence.

Figure 4 Vajrapradama mudra

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Prana mudra

The thumb, ring, and little finger are touching. Index and middle finger are extended
(Figure 5). The Prana mudra can be used whenever you feel drained or need an
extra boost of energy. Good to use in the morning to awaken and fully embrace the
new day

Figure 5 Prana mudra

Dyana mudra

This mudra signifies the gesture of absolute balance (Figure

6). The person meditating is completely unmoved by the
surroundings, immersed in infinite space.

Figure 6 Dyana mudra

The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each
individual that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of
the soul in one by the soul in another. ‘Nama’ means ‘bow’; ‘as’ means ‘I’; and ‘te’
means ‘you’. Therefore, Namaste literally means ‘I bow to you’.

Figure 7 Namaste

To perform Namaste, the hands are placed together at the heart charka, the eyes closed, and the head
bowed (Figure 7). It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the
head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. Although
in the West the word ‘Namaste’ is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture, in India it is understood
that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing
(Palkhivala, 2011).

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Understanding Bandhas
Concept of Bandhas
Bandhas are interior body locks that close off a particular part of the interior and energy body. There are three
main bandha:

• Mula Bandha
• Uddiyana Bandha
• Jalandhara Bandha

These locks are used in various pranayama and asana practices to tone, cleanse and energise the interior
body and organs and redirects prana. When all three bandhas are activated at the same time, it is called
Maha Bandha, the great lock.

Mula bandha (root lock)

This is the first of three interior body locks used in asana and pranayama practice to control the flow of energy.

1. To activate mula bandha, exhale and engage the pelvic floor, drawing it upwards towards your navel.
If you don’t know how to access the pelvic floor, think of it as the space between the pubic bone
and the tailbone.
2. Initially you may need to contract and hold the muscles around the anus and genitals, but really
what you want is to isolate and draw up the perineum, which is between the anus and genitals. Do
not hold your breath.
3. Engaging mula bandha while doing yoga postures can give the postures an extra lift. This is especially
useful when jumping.

Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock)

This is the second of the three interior body locks and can be practised alone or in conjunction with mula
bandha. Uddiyana bandha tones, massages and cleans the abdominal organs.

1. To engage this bandha, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position.
2. Exhale your breath, then draw the abdomen in and up without taking in any breath).
3. Draw the belly up underneath the rib cage.
4. To release, soften the abdomen and inhale.

Jalandhara bandha (throat lock)

The third of the interior body locks, Jalandhara bandha can be practised alone or in conjunction with mula
bandha and Uddiyana bandha.

1. To engage this bandha, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position.
2. Inhale so the lungs are about two-thirds full, and then hold the breath in.
3. Drop the chin down, and then draw the chin back closer to the chest so the back of the neck does not round.
4. Hold as long as is comfortable and then bring the chin up and release the breath.

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To practise in conjunction with the other two bandhas, first draw the pelvic floor upwards, engaging mula
bandha. This leads to the abdomen drawing in and up under the ribcage (Uddiyana bandha). Finally, the
chin drops to the chest and draws back into Jalandhara bandha.

Maha bandha (great lock)

The Sanskrit word, ‘Maha’ means great. Therefore, Maha Bandha is called the great lock, as it combines
the above three Bandhas in one practice.

1. Sit on a folded blanket, in Siddhasana posture. Keep the palms on the knees and slightly press them.
2. Gently close the eyes and relax the whole body, by watching the natural breath for a while. Exhale
forcefully, and completely, through the mouth.
3. Retain the breath outside. Perform Jalandhara, Uddiyana, and Mula Bandha – in this order.
4. Hold the Bandhas and the breath as long as is comfortable, without straining, then release Mula,
Uddiyana, and Jalandhara Bandha – in this order.
5. After coming back, inhale slowly. This is one round. Relax and let the breath return to normal before
commencing the next round.
6. Complete three to five rounds.

Benefits of Maha bandha

Maha Bandha gives the benefits of all three Bandhas. It affects the hormonal secretions of the pineal gland
and regulates the entire endocrine system. It is reported to soothe anger and introverts the mind prior to
meditation. When perfected, it can fully awaken Prana in the main Chakras.

General precautions with bandha

• Maha Bandha should not be attempted until the other three Bandhas have been mastered.
• People suffering from high or low blood pressure, heart conditions, hernia, stomach or intestinal
ulcer, persons with physical weakness and those recovering from visceral ailments, should generally
avoid bandha practice. Mula bandha is alright as long as the breath is not held.
• Women should not practice the full bandhas during menstruation or pregnancy but a modified
version of Mula bandha is very useful for preparation for birth. The focus should be on releasing
tension in the pelvic floor and harnessing apana energy. (Yoga Teacher, 2011).

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1. About Yoga (2011). Bandhas. Available at (Accessed: 31/9/11)
2. Angell G (2011). Different styles of yoga. Available at
(Assessed: 22/9/11)
3. BBC (2011). Yoga as a religion. Available at
texts.shtml (Accessed: 22/9/11)
4. Bance S (2011). Classical yoga texts. Available at
classic-yoga-texts/hatha-yoga-pradipika.html (Assessed: 21/9/11)
5. Burgin T (2003). The cause of suffering - the kleshas. Available at (Accessed:
6. Club Industry (2011). The difference between a yoga teacher and an instructor. Available at http:// (Accessed: 21/9/11)
7. Communications World (2011). Communication skills for teachers. Available at http://www. (Accessed: 21/9/11)
8. Discover Yoga (2011). Sanskrit. Available at
html (Accessed: 19/9/11)
9. Doran W (2011). The eight Limbs of yoga’. Available at
eight-limbs.htm (Accessed: 22/9/11)
10. Dykema R (2011). What is kundalini energy? Available at (Accessed:
11. Exercise Register (2011). Code of professional conduct. Available at
(Accessed: 25/9/11)
12. I Love India (2011). Mantras. Available at
(Accessed: 25/9/11)
13. Jerard P (2008). The relationship of student and teacher. Available at
(Accessed: 23/9/11)
14. Long N (2007). Classic yoga texts. Available at
texts (Accessed: 21/9/11)
15. Mind Tools (2011). Body Language. Available at
Language.htm (Accessed: 22/9/11)
16. Myhre M (2011). The language of yoga. Available at
the-language-of-teaching-yoga-michelle-myhre (Accessed: 21/9/11)
17. Palkhivala A (2011). Mudra. Available at (Accessed: 26/9/11)
18. Religion Facts (2011). Aum. Available at
(Accessed: 25/9/11)
19. Samdjaga A (2011). The yoga teacher as a role model. Available at (Accessed:
20. Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1996). Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Yoga Publications Trust
21. Swami J (2011). Kundalini. Available at
(Accessed: 25/9/11)
22. Wiki Answers (2011). What’s the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga instructor? Available
at (Accessed: on 21/9/11)
23. Yoga Alliance (2011). Codes of practice. Available at (Accessed: 25/9/11)
24. Yoga Flavoured Life (2011). Sanskrit – The language of yoga. Available at http://www.yogaflavoredlife.
com/philosophy/sanskrit-the-language-of-yoga.html (Accessed: 19/9/11)
25. Yoga Teacher Training (2011). Bandhas. Available at
maha-bandha (Accessed: 31/9/11)

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Unit 2 Anatomy and physiology for yoga
Aim: the aim of this unit is to provide learners with a basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology and how
it relates to teaching yoga

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will:

• understand the structure and function of the skeletal system

• understand the muscular system
• understand the structure and function of the respiratory system
• understand the structure and function of the circulatory system
• understand the nervous system
• understand the endocrine system
• understand the effect yoga has on the different body systems

50 Copyright
The skeletal system
The skeletal system consists of bone, cartilage and ligaments.

Bone is calcified connective tissue that forms most of the adult skeleton. The skeleton consists of
approximately 206 bones.

Anterior Skeleton (Front) Posterior Skeleton (Back)


clavicle cervical vertebrae

sternum scapula
humerus humerus
rib thoracic vertebrae

lumbar vertebrae ulna

ulna radius
radius ilium
pubis sacrum

ischium phalanges
femur femur



tibia tibia

phalanges tarsals

Functions of the skeleton

Functions of skeleton Description

Framework To provide a bony framework for the body and to give it shape
Protection To support and protect certain vital internal organs (e.g. the skull giving protection
to the brain)
Locomotion To act as biomechanical levers on which muscles can pull to produce joint motion
Soft tissue attachment To provide surfaces for the attachment of soft tissues e.g. muscles and ligaments
Production Certain bones produce red blood cells, granular white blood cells and platelets
from their red bone marrow
Storage To store several minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, to be released when
required. Triglycerides are also stored in the adipocytes of yellow bone marrow

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The axial and appendicular skeleton

The skeletal system can be broken down into:

• the axial skeleton – spine, ribs and skull
• the appendicular skeleton – upper and lower limbs, the pelvic and shoulder girdles

The following tables list the bones contained within the two components of the skeletal system.

The axial skeleton

General Bones No. of bones Notes
area in body
Skull Cranial 8 The head
Spine Cervical vertebrae 7 The neck region
Thoracic vertebrae 12 Chest area
Lumbar vertebrae 5 Lower back
Sacral vertebrae 5 Rump (fused)
Coccygeal vertebrae 4 Used to be the tail (fused)
Chest Ribs (costals) 12 Pairs All originate from the thoracic vertebrae and pairs extend
round to form the chest wall, first 7 pairs attach on the ster-
num. Next 3 pairs have common cartilaginous attachment to
the sternum.
Last 2 pairs are free (floating)
Sternum 1
Receives the clavicle and upper 10 pairs of ribs

The appendicular skeleton

General Bones No. of bones Notes
area in body
Shoulders Scapulae 2 Held on by muscular attachments to the ribcage at the back
(shoulder blade) and the clavicle at the front

Maintains the scapula at a correct distance from the chest

Clavicle 2 wall
(collar bone)
Arms Humerus 2 Bone of the upper arm

Radius 2 Outer bone of the forearm

Ulna 2 With the radius forms the elbow joint at the humerus and the
wrist at the lower end
Hands Carpals 16 Form the wrist in two rows of four

Metacarpals 10 First metacarpal is the thumb and the rest are in the palm

Phalanges 28 The fingers (3 each) and the thumbs (2 each)

Pelvis Ilium 2 The sacrum interlocks with the pelvis and the lower limbs
Ischium 2 articulate with it
Pubis 2
Legs Femur 2 The thigh bone is the longest bone in the body and forms the
knee joint with the tibia
Tibia 2 Lower leg – weight-bearing
Fibula 2 Lies outside the tibia and forms part of the ankle joint below
Patella (kneecap) 2 Lies within the tendons of the muscles passing over the knee
Feet Tarsals 14 Foot and ankle
Metatarsals 10 Similar to metacarpals
Phalanges 28 Toes – as fingers

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Bone classification
Bones can be classified according to their formation and shape:
Classification Description Examples
Long bones Long bones have a greater length than width and consist of a shaft Humerus, femur, fibula,
with normally two extremities. They contain mostly compact bone tibia, ulna, radius,
in their diaphysis and more cancellous bone in their epiphysis (and metacarpals, metatarsals,
principally act as levers). phalanges
Short bones Short bones are normally about as long as they are wide. They Carpals and tarsals
are usually highly cancellous, which gives them strength with
reduced weight
Flat bones Flat bones are thin cancellous bone sandwiched between two Scapula, cranial bones,
compact layers. They provide protection and large areas for costals (ribs), sternum and
muscle attachment ilium
Irregular Irregular bones form very complex shapes and therefore, cannot Vertebrae and calcaneus
be classified within the previous groups
Sesamoid Sesamoid bones develop within particular tendons at a site of Patella (kneecap)
(‘seed-like’) considerable friction or tension. They serve to improve leverage
and protect the joint from damage

Structure of a long bone

• epiphysis – expanded portion at each end of the bone
• diaphysis – the shaft of the bone
• hyaline cartilage – covering the bone ends
• periosteum – a tough fibrous sheath covering the whole bone
• compact bone – solid, strong and resistant to bending
• cancellous bone – giving the bone elastic strength to resist compression forces
• medullary cavity – the hollow tube down the centre of the compact bone
• yellow marrow – this functions for the storage of fat
• red marrow – this functions in the production of various types of blood cells

Epiphysis Diaphysis Epiphysis

growth plate

Periosteum Medullary cavity



Compact bone

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Bone formation
Bone is made up of minerals and is hard. Many believe that bone is not living material, but a bone in a
living animal consists of both living tissue and non-living substances. Within the “alive bone” are blood
vessels, nerves, collagen, and living cells including:

• osteoblasts (cells that help form bone)

• osteoclasts (cells that help eat away old bone)

In addition, bone contains cells called osteocytes, which are mature osteoblasts that have ended their
bone-forming careers. The non-living, but very important, substances in bone are the minerals and salts.

In the foetus, most of the skeleton is made up of cartilage, a tough, flexible connective tissue that has no
minerals or salts. As the foetus grows, osteoblasts and osteoclasts slowly replace cartilage cells and
ossification begins.


Ossification is the formation of bone by the activity of osteoblasts and osteoclasts and the addition of
minerals and salts. Calcium compounds must be present for ossification to take place. Osteoblasts do not
make these minerals, but must take them from the blood and deposit them in the bone. By the time we
are born, many of the bones have been at least partly ossified.

In long bones, the growth and elongation (lengthening) continue from birth through adolescence. Elongation
is achieved by the activity of two cartilage plates, called epiphyseal plates, located between the shaft (the
diaphysis) and the heads (epiphyses) of the bones. These plates expand, forming new cells, and increasing
the length of the shaft. In this manner, the length of the shaft increases at both ends, and the heads of the
bone move progressively apart. As growth proceeds, the thickness of the epiphyseal plates gradually
decreases and this bone lengthening process ends. In humans, different bones stop lengthening at different
ages, but ossification is fully complete between the ages of 18 and 30. During this lengthening period, the
stresses of physical activity result in the strengthening of bone tissue.

In contrast to the lengthening of bone, the thickness and strength of bone must continually be maintained
by the body, that is, old bone must be replaced by new bone all the time. This is accomplished as bone is
continually deposited by osteoblasts, while at the same time, it is continually being reabsorbed (broken
down and digested by the body) by osteoclasts.

Factors affecting bone formation

Bone development is influenced by a number of factors, including:

• nutrition
• exposure to sunlight
• hormonal secretions
• physical exercise

For example, exposure of skin to the ultraviolet portion of sunlight is favourable to bone development,
because the skin can produce vitamin D when it is exposed to such radiation. Vitamin D is necessary for the
proper absorption of calcium in the small intestine. In the absence of this vitamin, calcium is poorly absorbed,
the bone matrix is deficient in calcium, and the bones are likely to be deformed or very weak.
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Posture and the spine

The spine is shaped in a single curve during development within the foetus. As the spine matures it
develops into four curves; two convex and two concave.

7 Cervical
(lordotic curve)

12 Thoracic
(kyphotic curve)

5 Lumbar
(lordotic curve) Development of spinal curves

5 Sacral

4 Coccygeal

The greatest ranges of movement occur in the cervical and lumbar regions. The degree of thoracic
movement is slight when compared to that of the neck and the lower back (Thompson and Floyd, 2001).

Neutral spine

A neutral spine is the term used to describe a slight lordosis, or arch, in the lower back. This position,
which will vary from one individual to the next, seems to be the ideal position to decrease stress on passive
structures of the body, such as the vertebrae and ligaments (McGill, 2002). This is therefore, an ideal
postural position to teach those participating in physical activity, in order to help reduce the risks of lower
back pain. Lifting in this neutral spine, will help spare the stress on passive structures, and teach the
abdominal and hip musculature to hold the body in this optimal position.

Common postural abnormalities

The diagrams below show some common postural abnormalities. From left to right: normal curvature of
the spine, lordosis (excessive lower back curvature), kyphosis (excessive mid-back curvature) and scoliosis
(a lateral deviation of the spine). These abnormalities increase stress on the spine and surrounding soft
tissue structures, as well as decreasing the efficiency with which the body moves. It is thought that the
normal thoracic and lumbar curves, when in a static neutral position, should be approximately 20-45
degrees. Whilst a minor lateral deviation of the spine is considered fairly normal, a curve of more than 10
degrees would be considered a scoliosis.
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Normal Lordosis Kyphosis Scoliosis
Postural abnormalities

It is not uncommon for posture to alter during pregnancy. The extra weight on the front of the body can
cause alterations to the position of the pelvis and lengthen the abdominal muscles. While a number of
postural deviations may present themselves, this may cause an increased lordotic curve of the lumbar
spine. Following birth, it is not uncommon for a scoliosis to develop as a result of the mother carrying the
child on their hip (one side) which may cause a lateral deviation to the spine.

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The muscular system
Muscles work to create forces across joints and cause movement.

Types of muscle tissue

There are three types of specialised muscle tissue:

• smooth muscle
• cardiac muscle (myocardium)
• skeletal muscle (striated)

Smooth muscle:

• has the greatest diversity throughout the body

• found in the digestive, circulatory, urinary and reproductive systems
• described as involuntary as it’s controlled by the autonomic nervous system and is not under
conscious control

Cardiac muscle:

• found in the heart

• involuntary
• contraction of the heart is controlled by the sinoatrial node (SAN)
• the set rhythm of the heart (on average 72bpm at rest) is called autorhythmicity

The function of the cardiac muscle is to pump blood (and oxygen) around the body.

Skeletal muscle:

• attaches across joints via tendons and bone

• controlled by the somatic nervous system, therefore it’s considered to be voluntary
• produces locomotion and other body movements
• stabilises body positions, as in the maintenance of posture
• stores and transports substances within the body (glycogen)
• generates heat for warmth

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Anterior muscles of the human body Posterior muscles of the human body

Upper Trapezius
Pectoralis Deltoids Trapezius
Brachii Latissimus

Abdominis Gluteus

Hip Hamstrings
Quadriceps Adductors



Muscle properties

The four main properties of muscle tissue (Tortora et al, 2003) are:
• elasticity
• contractility
• electrical excitability
• extensibility

Muscle is described as being elastic, which means that it can stretch and then recoil to its original length.
It can be compared with an elastic band in this respect, but like an elastic band, if the muscle is pulled
too far it can tear. Muscles can also contract, pulling the muscle ends closer together. These muscle ends
pull on the tendons and bones to which they are attached, allowing locomotion and other body movements.

The contraction and relaxation of skeletal muscle are in response to certain stimuli such as neurotransmitters,
hormones or even changes in pH (Tortora et al, 2003). The ability to apply a large force in a short time, or a
sustained force over a long duration, is possible because of the muscle’s capacity to vary energy expenditure
according to demand. During this production of energy, there is a large amount of heat generated. This must
be distributed throughout the body and the excellent supply of blood within skeletal muscles allows this to
occur. Muscles are therefore, described as being vascular, indicating a good blood supply.

There are over 700 skeletal muscles (Tortora et al, 2003) which allow for a multitude of body movements
through contraction and relaxation of voluntary, striated muscle fibres. They make up more than 40% of
the male body weight, though less in the body of a female.

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The main constituents of skeletal muscle are:
• water 70%
• protein (e.g. actin and myosin) 23%
• minerals (e.g. calcium, potassium, phosphorus) and substrates (e.g. glycogen, glucose and fatty acids) 7%

Skeletal muscle is made up of fibres:

• made up of smaller myofibrils

• within each myofibril are strands of myofilaments (actin and myosin)
• the orientation of muscle fibres depends on the location and function of the muscle
• the number of muscle fibres vary dramatically depending upon their function
• fibres grouped together in bundles are called fasciculi
• fasciculi are then grouped together to form the muscle

There is connective tissue throughout the various parts of the muscle:

• the endomysium surrounds each muscle fibre

• the perimysium envelops each of the fasciculi
• the epimysium, or fascia, covers the entire muscle

Connective tissue is continuous throughout the length of the muscle:

• layers of connective tissue converge to form tendons

• tendons are strong, inelastic and strap-like
• the tendon attaches to the periosteum, the sheath that surrounds the bone

Connective tissue

Connective tissue is present in the body to surround, connect and stabilise the various joints. It is not innervated
by the nervous system and has non-contractile properties. Connective tissue comes in three main categories:

• cartilage
• ligaments
• tendons


There are three types of cartilage found in the body, each fulfilling a separate function:

Hyaline (articular) cartilage:

• the most common type
• tough, smooth, thin and bluey-white in colour
• found covering the bone ends to form joints
• found in synovial and cartilaginous joints
• becomes slippery when lubricated with synovial fluid
• will reduce friction allowing optimal joint movement

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Elastic cartilage:
• similar to hyaline cartilage in its structure
• more fibres than hyaline
• most of the fibres are made up of elastin as opposed to collagen
• it’s the properties of elastin that give it the ability to spring back into shape immediately
• found in the ear, walls of the Eustachian tube and the epiglottis, all places that require maintenance
of a specific shape

• thicker and stronger than the other two
• limited distribution within the body
• forms various shapes according to its role
• acts like a shock absorber in cartilaginous joints

Characteristics of cartilage
Dense Very durable
Tough Does not have a blood supply
Fibrous Has a limited ability to repair itself
Withstands compression Is dependent on regular activity for health
Can be worn or torn
Characteristics of cartilage

Skeletal muscle anatomy

Bone Tendon





Endomysium Muscle fibre

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The sliding filament theory

The ability of muscle to contract is one of its distinctive properties. myosin

This is described in relation to the structure of the myofilaments,
actin and myosin, in the sliding filament theory.

Huxley originally developed the sliding filament theory in 1954,

in order to explain the contraction of skeletal muscle, both
physiologically and functionally. In essence, it states that the actin
myofilaments, actin (a thin protein strand) and myosin (a thick myosin cross-bridges attach
to the actin filaments
protein strand), do not decrease in length themselves, but
simply slide over each other, thus shortening or lengthening the
entire muscle. This is accomplished with the unique structure of
the protein myosin. The myosin myofilaments are shaped like
golf clubs and form cross bridges with actin. Each myosin
molecule has two projecting heads, and there are numerous
myosin molecules lying next to each other. These heads will
attach onto binding sites on the actin filaments which surround
each myosin filament.
actin is pulled together and
Once the myosin has attached to the actin, the contraction length is reduced
phase can now take place. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the
high energy molecule stored on the myosin head, provides the
impetus for the myosin head to ‘nod’ in what is termed the
‘power stroke’. It is this nodding action which ‘slides’ the thin
actin myofilaments over the thick myosin myofilaments. The
myosin head then binds with another ATP molecule, causing it
to detach from the actin-binding site, the ‘recovery stroke’. It is Sliding filament theory
then able to attach to the next binding site, and perform the
same routine.

Muscle fibre type

Skeletal muscle fibres are not all identical in structure and function. Two distinct fibre types have been
identified and classified by their contractile and metabolic characteristics. The following list highlights the
structural and functional features of fast and slow twitch muscle fibres, as well as examples of activities for
which they are best suited (list adapted from Tortora and Grabowski, 1996):

Fibre Structural features Functional features Activities

Slow Smaller diameter size fibre Increased oxygen delivery Maintaining posture
twitch or Large myoglobin content Produce less force i.e. stabilisation
Type I Endurance-based
Many mitochondria Long term contractions
Many capillaries Resistant to fatigue
Red in colour
Fast Larger diameter fibre size Decreased oxygen delivery Rapid, intense
twitch or Smaller myoglobin content Produce more force movements
Type II
Fewer mitochondria Short term contractions
Fewer capillaries Less resistant to fatigue
White (pale) in colour
Muscle fibre type
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Muscle fibre type considerations

Most skeletal muscles are a mix of fibre types. The proportion of slow and fast twitch fibres is determined by the
usual role of the muscle. The muscles of the neck and back have a big role to play in the maintenance of posture
and so have a high proportion of slow twitch fibres. In contrast, the muscles of the shoulders and arms are often
called upon to generate considerable force and are not continually active in posture; consequently, these
muscles have a higher proportion of fast twitch fibres. Leg muscles often have large numbers of both fast and
slow twitch muscles, since they must both continually support the body and play a role in locomotion.

Training can increase the size and capacity of both types of muscle fibres to perform more efficiently
(Seeley et al, 2000). Intense exercise, producing anaerobic metabolism, increases muscular strength and
mass and results in an increase in the size of fast twitch over slow twitch fibres. Aerobic exercise increases
the vascularity of muscle and has the opposite effect.

Everyone’s muscles contain mixtures of fibre types but some have relatively more of one variety. These
differences are genetically controlled and will significantly contribute to athletic abilities. For example, the
muscles of marathon runners have a higher percentage of slow twitch fibres (about 80%), while those of
sprinters contain a higher percentage of fast twitch fibres (about 60%). Interestingly, weightlifters appear
to have approximately equal amounts of fast and slow twitch fibres (Marieb, 1995).

Neither fast twitch nor slow twitch muscle fibres can be easily converted to muscle fibres of the other type
(Seeley et al, 2000). However, fast twitch fibres can be further divided into fast twitch oxidative (Type II A)
and fast twitch glycolytic (Type II X) fibres. Type II A might be termed intermediate fibres since they take
on some of the characteristics of Type I fibres. Endurance-type activities, such as running or swimming,
cause a gradual transformation of some fast glycolytic (Type IIX) fibres into fast oxidative (Type IIA) fibres
(Tortora and Grabowski, 1996) giving enhanced endurance abilities.

Origins and insertions

Each muscle has a recognisable end, either on a fixed bone (the origin of a muscle) or on the bone it
usually moves during contraction (the muscle insertion). The origin is described as the proximal attachment
i.e. the one nearest to the centre midline of the body (usually the anchor). Muscles may have more than
one origin e.g. quadriceps (4), triceps (3), biceps (2). The insertion is described as the distal attachment
i.e. the one furthest away from the centre midline. Usually muscles have a single insertion.

Types of muscle action

When lifting a weight muscles will be shortening, when lowering the weight muscles will be lengthening.
Pause the activity in the middle, and the muscle stays the same length. However, be aware that the muscle
is working throughout.

In order to help distinguish between the different types of muscular activity a number of terms are used:
• isotonic (same tone) - used to describe muscle actions involving movement i.e. concentric and eccentric
• concentric - muscle generates force and shortens
• eccentric - muscle generates force and lengthens
• isometric - muscle generates force and stays the same length
• isokinetic (same speed) - muscle actions involving movement at a constant speed

Thus during the lifting action of a bicep curl, the biceps brachii would be working concentrically. If at any
point, the weight were held still, then this would represent an isometric action. Finally, as the weight was
lowered (in a controlled manner) the biceps would be lengthening and thus working eccentrically.

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Roles of muscles
Ultimately, efficient human movement is dependent on the coordinated activity of whole groups of muscles
and will involve varying combinations of different muscle actions. In an attempt to distinguish between the
diverse roles of muscle during movement, muscles can be placed into the following categories:

• agonist/prime mover: the muscle(s) that causes a desired action e.g. the biceps brachii during a
bicep curl or the quadriceps during a leg extension
• antagonist: the opposing muscle(s) to the agonist e.g. the triceps brachii during a bicep curl or the
hamstrings during a leg extension
• synergist: the muscle(s) that assists or modifies the movement of the prime mover e.g. during hip
extension the hamstrings act as synergists for the gluteus maximus
• fixators: the muscle(s) that stabilises the part of the body that remains fixed e.g. shoulder girdle
muscles stabilise the scapula to allow efficient movement at the shoulder joint

Muscle tone
Muscle tone refers to a state in which a muscle in the body produces a constant tension over a long period
of time. Essentially in ‘toned’ muscles many of the motor units are continually contracting out of phase to
maintain an overall level of tension. Many of the muscles in our bodies are contracting throughout the day.
Stabilisers in our back and abdominal regions are contracting to maintain an upright posture and this
regular contraction results in their maintaining a strong muscle tone.

Muscles and muscle actions

Muscle Position Origin Insertion Primary actions
Deltoids Shoulder Clavicle and scapula Humerus Abduction, flexion and extension
of shoulder
Biceps Front of upper Scapula Radius Flexion of elbow,
brachii arm supination of forearm,
flexion of shoulder
Triceps Back of upper Humerus and scapula Ulna Extension of elbow,
brachii arm extension of shoulder
Latissimus Sides of the Lower thoracic Humerus Adduction and extension of shoulder
dorsi back vertebrae, lumbar
vertebrae, ilium
Trapezius Upper back Base of skull, cervical Clavicle and Elevation, retraction and depression
and thoracic vertebrae scapula of shoulder girdle
Rhomboids Beneath Upper thoracic Scapula Retraction of shoulder girdle
trapezius vertebrae
Pectoralis Chest Clavicle and sternum Humerus Horizontal flexion, adduction
Erector Either side of Sacrum, ilium, ribs, Ribs, Extension and lateral flexion
spinae the spine vertebrae vertebrae, of spine
occipital bone
Rectus Along the centre Pubis Sternum Flexion of spine,
abdominis of the abdomen lateral flexion of spine
Internal Sides of the Ribs, ilium Ilium, pubis, Rotation and lateral flexion of spine
obliques abdomen ribs, linea alba
External Sides of the Ribs Ilium, pubis Rotation and
obliques abdomen lateral flexion of spine
Transversus Abdomen Iliac crest and lumbar Pubis and Support of internal organs,
abdominis fascia linea alba forced expiration

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Muscle Position Origin Insertion Primary actions
Diaphragm Beneath rib Sternum, costal Central Depresses and aids in expiration
cage cartilages and lumbar tendon of
vertebrae diaphragm
Intercostals Between ribs Ribs and costal Superior Elevates ribs and aids in expiration
cartilages border of next
rib below
Hip flexors Through the Ilium/lumbar vertebrae Femur Flexion of hip
pelvis onto front
of thigh
Gluteus Bottom Ilium Femur Extension and external rotation of
maximus the hip
Abductors Outside of Ilium Femur Abduction of hip
upper thigh Abduction and flexion of hip
Tibia/ITB (TFL only)
Adductors Inner thigh Pubis, ischium Femur Adduction of hip
Quadriceps Front of thigh Ilium, femur Tibia Extension of knee and flexion of hip
(rectus femoris only)
Hamstrings Back of thigh Ischium, femur Tibia, fibula Extension of hip and flexion of knee
Gastrocnemius Calf Femur Calcaneus Plantarflexion of ankle,
(heel bone) flexion of knee
Soleus Calf, beneath Tibia Calcaneus Plantarflexion of ankle
gastrocnemius (heel bone)
Tibialis anterior Front of lower Tibia Metatarsal Dorsiflexion and inversion of ankle
limb (shin) and tarsal

Note on the pelvic floor muscles

The pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm is composed of a small group of muscles and associated connective
tissue which span the area underneath the pelvis. These muscles form a muscular sling-like structure
running back from the pubis toward the coccyx, uniting behind the anorectal junction with some fibres
inserting into the prostate, urethra and vagina.

The pelvic floor muscles are important in providing support for pelvic organs such as the bladder and the
intestines, in the maintenance of continence and in facilitating the birthing process. In women these
muscles can become damaged during pregnancy and birth.

Damage to the pelvic floor can contribute not only to urinary incontinence but can lead to pelvic organ
prolapse. Pelvic floor exercises can be given to help improve the tone and function of the pelvic floor muscles.

Joint definition: the junction of two or more bones


There are three types of joint, the degree of movement dictating the classification:

• fibrous - immovable and interlocking bones such as the plates in the skull
• cartilaginous - slightly movable bones brought together by ligaments e.g. the vertebrae
• synovial - freely movable, the most common type, having the following characteristics:
• ends of the bone covered with hyaline (articular) cartilage
• stabilised by ligaments
• surrounded by a fibrous capsule
• capsule lined by synovial membrane that secretes synovial fluid as lubrication
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Synovial joints can be further broken down into six sub-groups:

• gliding joints
• pivot joints
• saddle joints
• ball and socket joints
• ellipsoid joints
• hinge joints

Types of synovial joint

Joint type Diagram Example Example Function

Ball and socket Hip A ball and socket joint allows for
movement in almost any direction (e.g.
shoulder and hip joint)

Hinge Knee A hinge joint allows flexion and

extension of an appendage (e.g. elbow

Pivot Atlas – axis joint Pivot joints allow rotation around an

(C1-C2) axis. The neck and forearms have
pivot joints. In the neck, the atlas (the
uppermost cervical vertebra) rotates
around the axis (second cervical
vertebra). In the forearms, the radius
and ulna twist around each other
Saddle Carpometacarpal A saddle joint allows movement back
joint (thumb) and forth and up and down, but does
not allow for rotation like a ball and
socket joint (e.g. carpometacarpal joint)

Gliding Acromio- Gliding joints allow two bones to slide

(plane) clavicular joint past each other (e.g. intercarpal,
mid-carpal and mid-tarsal joints)

Ellipsoid Metacarpo- Ellipsoid joints are similar to a ball and

phalangeal joints socket joint. They allow the same type
(knuckles) of movement but to a lesser magnitude
(e.g. metacarpophalangeal).

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Ligaments have four main functions within the body:

• connect bone-to-bone
• enhance joint stability
• guide joint motion
• prevent excessive motion in the joint

Characteristics of ligaments
Tough, white, non-elastic fibrous tissue Strung together in a cord or strap-like formation
Attach bone-to-bone in all joints to provide Allow normal movement and prevent unwanted
stability movement
Withstand tension Prolonged tension will permanently damage the
Characteristics of ligaments


Tendons are similar to ligaments but play a slightly different role in the body. Tendon functions include:

• attaching muscle to bone

• transmitting the force produced by the muscle

General note

Blood supply is one of the major factors during the healing process of injury. It can be noted that whilst bone
and muscle tissue often unite fairly easily and quickly, this is not as easily achieved with injury to ligaments and
tendons because of their poor blood supply. Healing is even more doubtful for cartilage, which has even less of
a nutrient supply. When torn, fibrocartilage may need surgical removal (e.g the menisci in the knee).

Anatomical terminology

The anatomical position is the descriptive starting point for many terms, and is when the body is stood
upright with the arms by the side and the palms facing forward.

Structures throughout the body are often described by their position in relation to the centre midline (an
imaginary line running from the head to between the feet) of the body, as follows:

• anterior in front of the midline

• posterior behind the midline

• lateral away from the midline

• medial towards the midline

• superior upper aspect of a structure

• inferior lower aspect of a structure

• sub underneath

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Types of joint movement

In order to develop a thorough understanding of the effects of exercise it is important to understand the
effect that muscles have on the various joints of the body. This requires an understanding of joint movement
terminology. Movement must be referred to a joint and related to the anatomical position e.g. elbow flexion,
knee extension or hip abduction.

Movement terminology
Normal terms (general) Description
Flexion Where the angle of the joint decreases or the return from extension
Extension The angle of the joint increases or the return from flexion
Rotation A bone rotating on its own long axis - may be medial (internal) or
lateral (external)
Abduction Away from the midline of the body
Adduction Towards the midline of the body
Specific terms (regional) Description
Horizontal flexion Arm towards the midline of the body in the horizontal plane
Horizontal extension Arm away from the midline of the body in the horizontal plane
Lateral flexion Bending to the side
Circumduction A circular or cone-shaped movement available at ball and socket joints
Elevation Upward movement of the shoulder girdle
Depression Downward movement of the shoulder girdle
Protraction Forward movement of the shoulder girdle
Retraction Backward movement of the shoulder girdle (squeezing the shoulder
blades together)
Pronation Palm of the hand facing downward
Supination Palm of the hand facing upward
Dorsiflexion Foot moves toward the shin
Plantarflexion Foot moves away from the shin (tip-toe action)
Inversion Sole of the foot faces the midline
Eversion Sole of the foot faces away from the midline

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Types of Joint Movement

Shoulder movements

Flexion Extension Medial rotation Lateral rotation

Adduction Abduction Horizontal extension Horizontal flexion

Spinal movements

Flexion Extension Lateral flexion Rotation

Shoulder girdle movements

Elevation Depression Protraction Retraction

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Elbow movements

Flexion Extension Pronation Supination

Hip movements

Extension Flexion Abduction Adduction

Lateral rotation Medial rotation Circumduction Flexion

Knee movements Ankle movements

Flexion Extension Eversion Inversion Dorsiflexion Plantarflexion

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The respiratory system

The main functions of the respiratory system are the intake of oxygen (O2) into the body, and the removal of
carbon dioxide (CO2) from the body.

Anatomy of the respiratory system

Air enters the body through the following structures:
• nose/mouth
• pharynx
• larynx
• trachea
• primary bronchi
• bronchioles
• alveoli
Pharynx Mouth


Bronchus or
bronchi (plural)

Passage of air

Anatomy of the lungs




Anatomy of the lungs

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• inspiration/inhalation – drawing air into the lungs
• expiration/exhalation – expelling air out of the lungs
• external respiration – exchange of gases between the lungs and blood, O2 from the lungs into the
blood and CO2 from the blood into the lungs
• internal respiration – exchange of gases between the cells and blood, O2 from the blood into the
cells and CO2 from the cells into blood

Mechanics of breathing
During inspiration, contraction of the diaphragm muscle will cause the normal ‘dome-shape’ to flatten,
increasing the chest cavity volume. This increase in volume creates a negative pressure, between the air
in the lungs and that in the atmosphere. This is very much like a ‘vacuum’ effect, and the negative
pressure, literally ‘sucks’ air into the lungs, until the two pressures are balanced.

During expiration the diaphragm muscle relaxes, returning upwards to its dome-shape, decreasing the
chest cavity volume. This creates a positive pressure, which ‘pushes’ some of the air out of the lungs.

Inhalation Exhalation
Movement of the diaphragm

Costal breathing is a shallow pattern of breathing through the chest and involves the contraction of the
external intercostal muscles (Tortora and Grabowski, 2003). Diaphragmatic breathing is a deeper method
of breathing, through the outward distension of the abdomen and involving the contraction and lowering
of the diaphragm (Tortora and Grabowski, 2003). Diaphragmatic breathing is promoted to aid relaxation
in activities like yoga, and is linked with improved health (Yeufang, 1996).

Expansion of the rib cage provides an additional increase in chest cavity size. This should only be required
during times of laboured breathing, such as moderate or high intensity aerobic exercise.

The exchange of gases

O2 is pulled down the bronchi and bronchioles into the alveoli, by
negative pressure, as described above, but also because it flows
down a concentration gradient. Diffusion is the movement of a
gas, from an area of high concentration, to an area of low
concentration. The concentration of O2 decreases between the
mouth and the lungs, thus the gas flows in this direction. CO2
flows in the opposite direction for the same reason. Once the O2
gets into the alveoli (the air sacs), it will continue to follow this
concentration gradient and will diffuse into the bloodstream. The Capillaries
alveoli have minute capillaries running over and around them.
Both the alveolar walls and the capillary walls are so thin that they
allow gases to pass through them. O2 passes into the blood and at
the same time, CO2 passes back into the lungs to be exhaled.

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The O2 binds to the haemoglobin (Hb - the protein that carries O2, CO2 and carbon monoxide in the blood)
in the red blood cells (RBCs). At the same time CO2 dissociates from the haemoglobin and diffuses from
the blood into the lungs. The red blood cells are then pumped within the blood, via the pulmonary vein,
towards the heart. This constant flow of blood past the alveoli allows the high concentration gradient to be

Composition of air

Gas Inhaled air Exhaled air Difference

Nitrogen N2 79% 79% No change
Oxygen O2 21% 17% 4% decrease
Carbon dioxide CO2 < 1% 4% 4% increase
Trace gases < 0.001% < 0.001% No change

Breathing stimulus

There are two different mechanisms to trigger the human body to breathe:

• rising levels of CO2 in the blood

• stretch receptors in the respiratory muscles become stretched

Lung volumes and definitions

The study of lung function is called spirometry, and there are a number of different measurements, each
of which may be affected by age, gender, size and stature:

• tidal volume (TV) – the amount of air inhaled/exhaled in one breath

• minute ventilation (MV) – the amount of air inhaled/exhaled in 1 minute
• breathing rate (BR) – the number of breaths taken in 1 minute

See the example below:

MV (ml/min) = BR (per min) x TV (ml)

= 12 x 500 ml
= 6000ml/min or (6 l/min)

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The circulatory system

The circulatory system is divided into three parts:

• the blood
• the heart
• the blood vessels


Blood is the transport medium by which nourishment and oxygen (O2) are carried to all structures of the
body and waste products, and carbon dioxide (CO2) are removed. Blood is composed of a number of cells
suspended in a liquid medium called plasma. Blood consists of the following four components:

• red blood cells

• white blood cells
• platelets
• plasma

Red blood cells (erythrocytes)

The body contains approximately 240-270 million red blood cells (RBCs) in every drop of blood (Tortora and
Grabowski, 2000). These cells are produced in the soft red bone marrow. RBCs contain a protein called
haemoglobin (Hb), which binds to oxygen, and allows the RBC to carry O2 in the blood and to a lesser extent
CO2. Hb is the pigment that gives RBCs, and therefore blood, its red colour. Blood volume usually consists of
about 40% RBCs.

White blood cells (leukocytes)

White blood cells (WBCs) are transparent and, unlike RBCs, do not contain Hb. They are fewer in number
than RBCs (700 times less) and are also produced in red bone marrow. White blood cells (WBCs) come in
many shapes and forms, but are generally the cells of the immune system that fight infection. They destroy
bacteria and other harmful living organisms, thus protecting the body by removing diseased or injured tissue.

Platelets (thrombocytes)

Unlike RBCs and WBCs, which are whole cells, platelets are actually cell fragments. Platelets will assist in
preventing blood loss from a damaged blood vessel by forming a platelet plug (Tortora and Grabowski,
2000). They will also release chemicals which will help to promote blood clotting. This is the initial stage
of repair to damaged tissues.


Plasma is the straw-coloured liquid portion of the blood. It consists predominantly of water (91.5%) and
solutes (8.5%) such as proteins, electrolytes, nutrients, gases, hormones, enzymes, vitamins and waste

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The heart
The heart is in essence a muscular pump, which pushes the
oxygen and nutrients around the body to the tissues. It is about
the size of a man’s clenched fist and lies behind the sternum,
just left of centre.

The heart is made up of thick muscular walls (or myocardium),

and is divided into separate left and right halves. The right half
pumps blood to the lungs, while the left side pumps blood to
the rest of the body. Each side of the heart is hollow and is
further broken down into two smaller connected chambers.
There are four chambers in total, two upper chambers (or atria)
and two lower chambers (or ventricles). Atrium (pleural atria)
is the Latin for ‘hall’, or ‘entranceway’ and is the chamber
which blood flows into first, when entering either side of the Location of the heart
heart. The atria receive blood via the veins from different parts
of the body, and pump the blood down into the ventricles. The atria are smaller than the ventricles and do
not really have to contract particularly hard. Even if the atria fail to contract properly, most of the blood in
the atria will flow into the ventricles passively.

The ventricles supply the force to push the blood to its various destinations. In a cardiogram, it would be
easily seen that the left ventricle has larger muscular walls than the right ventricle. This is because the left
side pumps its contents to the furthest parts of the body, whereas the right side only has to pump its
contents to the adjacent lungs.

Heart valves

There are a number of different valves around the heart, all performing slightly different tasks. There are a
set of atrioventricular (AV) valves that separate the atria and ventricles, and prevent the flow of blood back
into the atria during ventricular contraction. The semilunar valves prevent the flow of blood back into the
right (pulmonary valve) and left ventricles (aortic valve) during ventricular relaxation. Ventricular contraction
is called systole and ventricular relaxation is called diastole.

Open and closed valves

Heart valves

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Heart circulation

The right hand side of the heart is responsible for receiving blood from the upper and lower body via the
veins (venous return). The blood enters the right atrium via either the inferior or superior vena cava. The
blood is saturated with CO2, and is referred to as deoxygenated blood. It is ejected to the lungs (pulmonary
circulation) via the pulmonary artery.

Aorta - Oxygen rich

blood to the body Pulmonary Artery -
Oxygen poor blood
to the lungs

Pulmonary Vein -
Oxygen rich blood
from the lungs

Vena Cavae - Left Atrium

Oxygen poor blood
from the body

Left Ventricle

Right Atrium

Right Ventricle

The heart circulation

Deoxygenated blood is dark red in colour, but may appear bluish when viewed through blood vessel walls.
It is normally coloured in blue when drawn in pictures of the heart. In the pulmonary capillaries, the CO2
diffuses into the lungs to be expired while O2 enters the blood. This oxygenated blood (bright red in colour)
enters the left atrium of the heart via the pulmonary vein. The left ventricle then ejects the blood, and O2,
via the aorta, to the tissues of the body (systemic circulation). It is important to note that arteries always
carry blood away from the heart and veins always carry blood to the heart.

Heart conduction

The heart is stimulated to contract by a complex series of integrated systems. The heart’s pacemaker, the
sinoatrial (SA) node, initiates the cardiac muscle contraction. The SA node is located in the wall of the right
atrium. The myocardium (heart muscle) is stimulated to contract, about 72 times per minute, by the SA node
as part of the autonomic nervous system.

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Blood vessels
Blood vessels are the transport system for the blood, from the heart to the rest of the body and back again.
Although blood vessels are divided into different categories because of their shape and function, it is important
to remember that they are all linked in a continuous loop. One type of blood vessel will gradually be split, or
linked, to form another type of blood vessel.

There are broadly three types of vessels that differ in construction and size, according to their function and
position in the body. These are the arteries, capillaries and veins. There are two additional sub-types called
arterioles and venules. These blood vessels are responsible for transporting the blood to and from the heart,
and thereby delivering nutrients to and from the tissues.


Arteries are muscular tubes with thick walls, which can contract (like all muscle) to squeeze blood along the
passageways away from the heart. The large artery that leaves the left ventricle of the heart is called the
aorta. This divides and subdivides gradually becoming arterioles.

The smooth muscle tissue that surrounds the artery and arteriole walls is thicker and more powerful than that
surrounding the walls of veins. As blood is ejected powerfully from the heart, the arterial walls are required
to stretch passively to receive the blood under high pressure and then immediately contract as in a recoil
action to assist in propelling the blood further on down the line to the body. This action is called peristalsis.

There are no valves in the arteries other than those at the exit points of the ventricles to prevent backflow.
Arteries and arterioles predominantly carry oxygenated blood around the body. The exception to this rule is
the pulmonary arteries and arterioles, which carry deoxygenated blood to the lungs to be re-oxygenated.


The arteries branch off into smaller arterioles and these become smaller and thinner until they are described
as capillaries. These capillaries have extremely thin walls (approximately one cell thick) and spread to all
parts of the body, even the smallest area of tissue. Since the walls of these blood vessels are so thin, they
allow the diffusion of nutrients and gases through their walls and into the tissue cells. Food and oxygen
passes through the walls, from the blood, and into individual tissue cells to be used. Likewise the waste
products, such as CO2 and lactic acid, pass back into the blood to be carried away and excreted. Blood flows
through the capillary beds slowly to allow for this exchange. There are a greater number of capillaries than of
any other blood vessel type.


Once the capillaries have passed by the tissue, be it muscle or alveoli, they gradually link together to form
progressively larger blood vessels called venules. These venules then eventually become larger veins. Veins
are thinner walled tubes compared to arteries, with little muscular contractility, which carries blood from
the tissues back towards the heart.

The smooth muscle in the walls contracts automatically in a peristaltic, or wave-like, action to assist the
returning blood flow. Veins and venules predominantly carry de-oxygenated blood, which is therefore,
high in CO2. The exception to this rule is the pulmonary veins and venules, which are carrying oxygenated
blood from the lungs back to the heart.

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The flow of blood back to the heart is called venous return. Unlike arteries, veins carry blood under low
pressure, which makes its return back up the body to the heart more difficult. All veins therefore, have a
series of one-way valves that work against gravity to prevent backflow of the blood as it passes back
towards the heart. This will help to prevent reversed blood flow or pooling of blood.

Capillary / alveoli

Pulmonary Pulmonary Circulation

Vena cavae

Systemic Circulation

/ tissue

Overview of circulation

Venous return

This is the return of blood back to the heart, via the veins. The contributing factors that assist venous return are:

• gravity - this will assist in the return of blood from anywhere above the heart, such as the head and
• non-return valves in the veins prevent the back flow of blood and are one of the biggest factors
assisting venous return
• the diaphragm is the large dome-shaped muscle of respiration in the chest cavity, which produces
a suction effect on the veins below the heart
• the right atrium also helps to ‘suck’ the blood back. As the blood within this chamber empties into
the ventricle below, the empty chamber creates a small vacuum assisting in drawing in blood from
the vena cava
• smooth muscle contraction (peristalsis) - there is a pumping action of the smooth muscle tissue, this
peristaltic action takes place continually
• skeletal muscle contraction - veins are assisted by the squeezing action of the nearby skeletal

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The blood circulation is a closed system in which the pressure varies constantly. It rises to a peak, at the
height of the contraction of each heartbeat as the heart pumps blood out. It then falls to a lower level,
which it reaches just before each heartbeat.

This variance of pressure is necessary for a healthy circulatory system however, “if the pressure is
consistently higher than normal at rest, this is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.” (BUPA,

Venous return is an important mechanism to help the return flow of blood to the heart and to prevent blood
pooling. Long periods of inactivity can slow the blood flow from the lower legs, which can result in blood
pooling. A blood clot or DVT may then form, blocking the blood vessel. Pressure, caused for example by
an airline seat pressing on the veins in the back of the knee, can contribute to reduced blood flow. A pulse
lowerer as part of a cool down is thought to reduce blood pooling in the lower extremities at the end of an
exercise session.

Control of circulatory blood flow

The blood vessels are able to narrow (vasoconstrict) or widen (vasodilate) because of the smooth muscle
found in their walls. As a result, more, or less blood will flow through them. This enables the body to direct
the flow of blood to different tissues, depending on what state the body is in and where the oxygen and
nutrients are required. This also plays a part in the regulation of blood pressure. If food has just been
eaten, then the blood vessels that feed the digestive system are vasodilated and blood flow is increased,
whilst blood vessels feeding muscles are vasoconstricted, reducing the blood flow. During exercise the
opposite happens and more blood will be routed to the muscles and less will be available to the organs
and digestive tracts. Eating a large meal too close to a training session or match, will allow insufficient time
for the food to be digested in the stomach, causing cramp and sometimes vomiting.

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The nervous system

Role of the nervous system

Due to the symbiotic nature of the nervous and muscular systems, the two combined are often referred to
as the neuromuscular system. At its simplest level the nervous system is a communication network,
which has three basic elements; sensation, analysis and response (Tortora and Grabowski, 1996):

• sensation - a vast array of sensors spread throughout the body which continually gather information about,
both the internal environment (e.g. blood CO2 levels) and the external environment (e.g. air temperature)
• analysis - sensory input represents massive amounts of information , thus the second role of the
nervous system is to analyse and interpret the information being received and ‘decide’ on an appropriate
response (many of these ‘decisions’ are automated – there is no voluntary control over them)

• response - the appropriate response must be initiated (e.g. muscular contraction or glandular secretion)

The nervous system consists of two primary divisions:

• the central nervous system (CNS)

• the peripheral nervous system (PNS)

Central nervous system

This consists of the following:

• brain
• spinal cord

The correct application of force in a relatively complex

movement depends on a series of co-ordinated neuromuscular
patterns. Such movements are regulated by neural control
mechanisms linked together by pathways within the central
nervous system.

The brain is made up of two main hemispheres, the cerebrum

and to the rear the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the smaller
of the two and acts as a memory bank for all learnt skills. It
is the cerebellum that is mainly responsible for controlling PNS
the group action of muscles, though it communicates and
works harmoniously with the cerebrum.

The spinal cord is composed of cervical, thoracic, lumbar

and sacral segments, named according to the portion of the
vertebral column through which it passes. It is the
communication link between the brain and the PNS inferior
to the head. It integrates incoming information and produces
responses via reflex mechanisms (reflex arc). Central nervous system and
peripheral nervous system

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Peripheral nervous system

The PNS consists of all the branches of nerves that lie outside the spinal cord. The peripheral nerves
primarily responsible for muscular action are the spinal nerves.

Spinal nerves are divided into motor and sensory neurons. Sensory neurons arrive on the posterior side of
the spinal cord from a variety of sensory receptors spread throughout the body. Sensory receptors in the
muscles, tendons and joints relay information concerning muscle dynamics and limb movements to the
CNS, giving important feedback on the position of those limbs at any time.

The motor neurons exit on the anterior side of the spinal cord. These neurons transmit impulses from the
CNS to organs, muscles and glands. These impulses will cause muscles to contract and glands to secrete.

Motor units and muscle fibre recruitment

A motor unit consists of a single motor neuron and all the muscle fibres it innervates (or supplies). One
motor neuron may innervate between 10 and 1000 muscle fibres, depending on its location and function.
When an impulse is sent down a neuron, all the muscle fibres within that motor unit will be innervated.
The fact that either all the muscle fibres within a motor unit are activated, or none of them are, is referred
to as the ‘all or none law’ (Fleck and Kraemer, 1997).

If the stimulation of a neuron is at or above a set threshold, then an impulse will be sent down the neuron
causing activation of the muscle fibres. The ‘all or none law’ applies to individual motor units, and not the
entire muscle.

A motor unit is typically made up of one type of muscle fibre (Type I, Type IIa or Type IIx) spread throughout
the muscle.

A whole muscle is constructed from many motor units meaning that in a muscle there will be a mixture of
all of these fibre types. It is the relative amounts of each fibre type in a muscle that defines the properties
of that muscle.

The more motor units that are recruited for a task, the greater the force that will be developed. This is an
adaptation to training over time. A beginner will only be able to recruit a certain number of motor units,
in order to protect the muscle from developing too much force and damaging the muscle or the connective
tissue. With training they are gradually able to recruit more motor units, and produce more force. Exercise
can enhance neuromuscular connections, which in turn will help improve motor fitness.

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The endocrine system
The endocrine system affects bodily activities by releasing chemical messages, called hormones, into the
bloodstream from exocrine and endocrine glands. The function of hormones is to:

• Control the internal environment by regulating its chemical composition and volume
• Respond to environmental changes to help the body cope with emergencies - infection, stress etc
• Help regulate organic metabolism and energy balance
• Contribute to the management of growth and development

Hormones are chemicals that cause certain changes in particular parts of the body. Their effects are
slower and more general than nerve action. They can control long-term changes such as rate of growth,
rate of activity and sexual maturity.

The endocrine or ductless glands secrete their hormones directly into the blood stream. The hormones are
circulated all over the body and reach their target organ via the blood stream. When hormones pass
through the liver, they are converted by the kidneys. Tests on such hormonal products in urine can be used
to detect pregnancy.

The endocrine system consists of a series of glands that secrete hormones; they are found throughout the
body and include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, thymus, supra-renal or adrenal glands, part of the
pancreas and parts of the ovaries and testes. Although these glands are separate, it is certain that they
are functionally closely related because the health of the body is dependent upon the correctly balanced
output from the various glands that form this system.

The pituitary gland

This gland has been described as the leader of the endocrine orchestra. It consists of two lobes, anterior
and posterior. The anterior lobe secretes many hormones, including the growth-promoting somatotropic
hormone which controls the bones and muscles and in this way determines the overall size of the individual.
The anterior lobe also produces gonadotropic hormones for both male and female gonad activity.

The posterior lobe produces two hormones - oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin causes the uterine
muscles to contract; it also causes the ducts of the mammary glands to contract and, in this way, helps to
express the milk that the gland has secreted into the ducts. Vasopressin is an anti-diuretic hormone that
has a direct effect on the kidneys and increases the amount of fluid they absorb so that less urine is
excreted. It also contracts blood vessels in the heart and lungs and so raises the blood pressure.

The thyroid gland

The right and left lobes of this gland lie on either side of the trachea united by the isthmus. The secretion
of this gland is thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine. Thyroxine controls the general metabolism. Under secretion
in adults results in a low metabolic rate. Over secretion in adults gives rise to exophthalmic goitre and the
metabolic rate is higher than usual. Such persons may eat well but burn up so much fuel that they remain
thin. This is usually accompanied by a rapid pulse rate. This gland, therefore, has a profound influence
on both mental and physical activity.

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The parathyroid glands

There are four of these glands, two on either side lying behind the thyroid. Their secretion is parathormone
- the function of which is to raise the blood calcium as well as maintain the balance of calcium and
phosphorus in both the blood and bone structures. Under secretion gives rise to a condition known as tetany
in which the muscles go into spasm, and over secretion causes calcium to be lost to the blood from the bones
giving rise to softened bones, raised blood calcium and a marked depression of the nervous system.

The thymus gland

This gland lies in the lower part of the neck and attains a maximum length of about 6cm. After puberty,
the thymus begins to atrophy so that in the adult only fibrous remnants are found. Its secretion is thought
to act as a brake on the development of sex organs so that as the thymus atrophies, the sex organs
develop. Recent research into the activity of this gland reveals that it plays an important part in the body’s
immune system by producing T-lymphocy (the T stands for thymus derived).

The suprarenal or adrenal glands

These are two adrenal glands. They lay one over each kidney. They are divided like the kidney into two
parts -the cortex and the medulla. The cortex is the outer part of the gland and produces a number of
hormones called cortico-steroids. Their function is to control sodium and potassium balance, stimulate
the storage of glucose and affect or supplement the production of sex hormones. The medulla or inner
layer produces adrenaline, a powerful vasoconstrictor. Adrenaline raises the blood sugar by increasing the
output of sugar from the liver. The amount of adrenaline secreted is increased considerably by excitement,
fear, or anger, which has caused the adrenals sometimes to be referred to as the glands of fight-or-flight

The gonads or sex glands

These glands are naturally different in men and women because they serve different functions. In the
female the gonads are the ovaries and in the male the testes. Female sex hormones are oestrogen and
progesterone. The male sex hormone is testosterone, though each sex produces a small quantity of the
opposite hormone. The female hormones are responsible for developing the rounded, feminine figure,
breast growth, pubic and axillary hair and all the normal manifestations of femininity and reproduction.
Male hormone is responsible for voice changes, increased muscle mass, development of hair on the body
and face and the usual development of manliness.

The pancreas

The endocrine part of the pancreas consists of clumps of cells called islets of Langerhans that secrete
insulin. Insulin regulates the sugar level in the blood and the conversion of sugar into heat and energy.
Too little insulin results in diabetes mellitus. It is known that some half million people in the United
Kingdom suffer from it sufficiently badly to need treatment but it has been estimated that there are many
more people in whom the disease exists at a sub-treatment level.

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Hormones are chemicals derived from lipids or proteins. Different hormones have different chemical
shapes which determine the effect the hormone will have. Each hormone will have a target cell or cells
that have specific receptors in their membranes which will only be triggered by the ‘right’ hormone (i.e. in
the same way that locks can only be opened with the right key).

The pancreas - Insulin, glucagon and the control of blood glucose

The principal fuel for vigorous activity is carbohydrate (specifically glucose). It is also worth noting that
glucose is the principal fuel for the brain. Large fluctuations in blood glucose levels can be extremely
damaging, too little will certainly inhibit performance but could eventually be fatal, whereas too much can
damage the vascular system. Control of blood glucose levels is primarily directed by the pancreas, which
occupies an area posterior to and just below the stomach. As a gland it has multiple functions, but the
ones of interest here relate to the production of two hormones; insulin and glucagon.

Insulin: after consuming a meal, glucose enters the blood at the small intestine causing a rise in blood
glucose levels. As this blood is circulated through the pancreas the elevated levels of glucose trigger the
release of insulin. The circulating insulin binds with the receptors of its target cells (in this case skeletal
muscle or liver cells) and the cell membrane becomes more permeable to glucose. Glucose then diffuses
out of the bloodstream and into the cell which results in a drop in blood glucose levels. At this point insulin
encourages the synthesis (manufacture) of both protein and fat within the body. The extent to which this
occurs is determined by the nature of the meal consumed and the existing nutritional status of the individual
(McArdle et al. 2001, Tortora and Grabowski, 1996).

Glucagon: in contrast to insulin, glucagon serves to maintain blood glucose levels by triggering the release
of glycogen from the liver (glycogen is the stored form of glucose). In the hours following the last meal, a
combination of normal metabolic processes and physical activity will begin to lower blood glucose levels
(assuming nothing has been eaten in the meantime). The drop in circulating blood glucose levels triggers
the release of glucagon from the pancreas. In contrast to insulin, glucagon has a much more specific affect
in stimulating the liver to convert some or all of its glycogen stores back into glucose which is then released
in to the bloodstream.

Adrenal glands - Adrenalin (epinephrine)

Adrenalin is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are situated on top of each kidney. It is
one of a category of hormones known as catecholamines. Essentially, these hormones help prepare the
body for activity, more specifically they are part of the stress response. In preparation for activity, the
hypothalamus (part of the brain) triggers the adrenal glands to secrete more adrenalin. This will have a
number of specific physiological effects that will help sustain any physical activity:

• increases heart rate and stroke volume

• elevates blood glucose levels
• redistributes blood to working tissues
• opens up the airways (Tortora and Grabowski, 1996; Wilmore and Costill, 2004)

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The sex glands - Testosterone and oestrogen

Testosterone is produced in the testes of the male and in small amounts in the ovaries and adrenals of the
female. Males produce up to ten times more testosterone than females (McArdle et al, 2001) and this is
primarily responsible for the development of the male secondary sexual characteristics, such as facial and
body hair and greater muscle mass. Oestrogen is produced primarily in the ovaries in the female with small
amounts produced in the adrenals in males. Women of reproductive age have significantly higher levels
of oestrogen than males which gives rise to female secondary sexual characteristics such as breast
development and regulation of the menstrual cycle. For both males and females however, testosterone
pays a fundamental role in the growth and repair of tissue. Oestrogen has many functions, but in particular
has an influence on fat deposition around the hips, buttocks and thighs.


In contrast to testosterone, cortisol is typically referred to as a catabolic hormone (associated with tissue
breakdown). Under times of stress, such as exercise, cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and serves to
maintain energy supply through the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and protein. High levels of cortisol
brought about through overtraining, excessive stress, poor sleep and inadequate nutrition can lead to significant
breakdown of muscle tissue, along with other potentially harmful side effects (McArdle et al, 2001).

Growth hormone

The name of this hormone has particular reference to its primary functions. Growth hormone is released
from the pituitary gland in the brain and is regulated by the nearby hypothalamus. Growth hormone is
stimulated by several factors including oestrogen, testosterone, deep sleep and vigorous exercise. Growth
hormone is primarily an anabolic hormone that is responsible for most of the growth and development
during childhood up until puberty when the primary sex hormones take over that control. Growth hormone
also increases the development of bone, muscle tissue and protein synthesis, increases fat burning and
strengthens the immune system.

Thyroid hormones

The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck just below the thyroid cartilage, sometimes called the
Adam’s apple. This gland releases vital hormones that are primarily responsible for human metabolism.
The release of thyroid hormones is regulated by the master gland, the pituitary. Thyroid hormones have
been shown to be responsible for carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, basal metabolic rate, protein
synthesis, sensitivity to adrenalin, heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature. Low thyroid function
has become a well recognised disorder leading to low metabolism, fatigue, depression, sensitivity to cold
and weight gain.

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The effect of yoga on the different body systems
Regular yoga practice benefits every system of the body including the skeletal system, muscular system,
respiratory system, circulatory system, nervous system and endocrine system and the digestive system.
The following section outlines these benefits.

Yoga and the skeletal system

There are numerous benefits of yoga to the physical body and many of these have been discussed in unit
1. When discussing the effects of yoga on the skeletal system it is necessary to consider:

• short term – while the individual is participating in a yoga session

• long term – after a sustained period of appropriate yoga training

Short term effects

Synovial fluid is the liquid that fills in the gaps in most of the joints of the body. Practising yoga helps
encourage the circulation of synovial fluid to keep joints well lubricated and pain free. Synovial fluid helps
the bones in the joints glide over one another with no friction. In response to increased movement synovial
joints will increase production of synovial fluid. This fluid acts as a lubricant to protect the joint from excess
wear and tear (much like the oil in a car engine).

Long term effects

There are a number of important long term effects of yoga on the skeletal system that include the following:

• Stronger ligaments - when yoga is practised regularly all structures of the body are used (muscles,
bones, tendons and ligaments) and this will result in stronger, more effective ligaments.
• Increased bone density - weight-bearing exercise is valuable for the health of bones, by stimulating
them to retain calcium and gain mass. Unlike an exercise such as running, which only works the
lower limbs, the multiple poses and postures of yoga can increase bone density over the entire body.
The type of yoga will dictate the benefits on bone density as the yoga practised needs to have a
weight-bearing effect, such as Ashtanga, or sun salutation with jump backs. The yoga needs to be
dynamic to have these effects on bone density.
• Improves joint stability - practising yoga postures regularly can help create and maintain stability in
joints. Hips, ankles and knees can benefit from various standing postures, and shoulder stability
can be increased through poses such as the Downward dog.
• Improved posture - the skeletal system works in tandem with the muscular system. Muscles maintain
posture and allow the body to move. Yoga helps to maintain muscle strength as well as develop
coordination and balance. Balance is essential to help prevent falls, which are the primary cause of
broken bones in people of all ages (Ehow, 2011).
• Improvement in lower back pain - many people suffer with lower back pain. The main attributable
factor is considered to be poor posture, for example, working at a computer, driving a car, too much
sitting etc. Yoga can prove to be an excellent approach for reducing the effects of back pain if carried
out regularly. The gentle twisting motion of many yoga postures helps restore the natural range of
motion of the spine, improving flexibility and reducing any pain. A flexible, elongated spine is
associated with good health and vitality and will help participants perform daily tasks with ease.

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Yoga and the muscular system

There are a number of changes that occur within the muscular system as a result of yoga:

Short term responses

Vasodilation of blood vessels in muscles causes a diversion of blood to the working muscles, and away
from the non-essential organs.

Long term responses

The properties of a muscle are changed depending on the regularity, duration and intensity with which a
muscle is used. Participating in yoga regularly can increase the diameter of muscle (hypertrophy) as well
as cause an increase in their capacity to produce energy.

Long term aerobic adaptations

Low intensity, long duration types of yoga can bring about the following changes on Type I fibres:

• An increase in the number and size of mitochondria in the muscle fibres

• An increase in the number of capillaries surrounding these fibres
• An increase in the number of aerobic enzymes, stored glycogen and triglycerides in the muscle fibres

Long term strength adaptations

Short duration, high intensity types of yoga can affect mainly Type II fibres, bringing about the following changes:

• A decrease in nervous inhibition

• An increase in the diameter of the recruited fibres (hypertrophy) due to an increase in the myofilaments
within the fibres
• An increase in the glycolytic activity of the muscle allowing more work to be performed under
anaerobic conditions or high stress conditions

Yoga and strength

The physical benefits of yoga are myriad. Yoga keeps the body strong, as it involves all the muscles to hold
and balance the yoga postures. The various yoga postures strengthen the feet, legs, hands, abdominals,
lower back, legs, and shoulders (Yoga Wiz, 2012).

It is important to incorporate strength training into yoga sessions or to do separate training for strength to
ensure the body has balance. A body that is not strong but overly flexible may be susceptible to injuries.
Strength training is any exercise that uses resistance to strengthen and condition the musculoskeletal
system, improving muscle tone and endurance. People of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from
resistance training.

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Many yoga poses require participants to support the weight of their own body in new ways, including
balancing on one leg (such as in Tree pose) or supporting the weight of their body with their arms (such
as in Downward facing dog). Some exercises require moving slowly in and out of poses, which also
increases strength. Below are some reasons to include strength training within yoga sessions:

• Weight control - muscle is gained through strength training and this enables the body to burn fat
more efficiently. This is because muscle tissues require more energy to sustain than fat, so muscle
burns more calories. Also, after strength training, the body continues to burn calories as it recovers.
Strength training can increase the metabolic rate by up to 15 percent, which can be enormously
helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control. Regular strength training is just as important as
cardio exercise for losing fat and getting fit.
• Help to prevent heart disease - strength training improves the condition and resilience of the heart
muscle, protecting it from stress by keeping it strong.
• Increased bone strength - after the age of around thirty, bone mass starts to decrease at a rate of one
percent per year (higher for post-menopausal women). Adding strength training to yoga sessions is
the best way to increase bone mass density. This can help reduce or even manage osteoporosis and
arthritis. Regular strength training can increase bone mineral density, bone density and reduces the
risk for fractures among women aged 50-70.
• Muscle tone - as a by-product of getting stronger, participants can expect to see increased muscle
tone. Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles.
• Fewer injuries - well-balanced muscles reduce the risk of injuries that result when a muscle is
weaker than its opposing muscle group. With a more muscular body, stronger bones, tendons and
ligaments, the body has a considerably reduced chance of sustaining injury.
• Greater flexibility - poor balance and flexibility contribute to falls and broken bones as people age.
By performing postures that move joints through their full range of motion, participants can
significantly improve strength and flexibility. Strength training can reduce risk of falling by as much
as 40 percent in older people.
• Improved posture - due to extra musculature, greater bone, tendon and ligament strength and the
introduction of proper stretching, posture will be much improved. The stronger the muscles are the
straighter participants will stand and sit.
• On a more basic level, it is important to understand that including strength training into every yoga
session will help participants to look better, feel better, and function better in life. (Life Mojo, 2012).

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Yoga postures for strength

The following yoga postures from Unit 3 (Appendix 1) are excellent for strength or can be adapted for
additional strength training.

Asana Alternative name Variation for strength

1 Surya Namaskara Sun salutations Concentrate on jumping back into plank and working
on lowering the body down slowly utilising triceps
2 Vrkasana Tree pose Strength increased in standing leg
3 Natarajasana Dancer As above
4 Garudhasana Eagle pose Squatting down on the supporting leg increases leg
5 Uttanasana Standing forward Hinging upwards with a straight back rather than ‘rag
bend dolling’ up utilise back strength
6 Utkatasana Fierce pose This posture can be held or lowered to increase thigh
7 Virabhadrasana 1 Warrior 1 Strong strength posture for legs and back
8 Virabhadrasana 2 Warrior 2 Strong strength posture for legs
9 Virabhadrasana 3 Warrior 3 Strong strength posture for legs
10 Trikonasana Triangle pose Strong strength posture for legs
11 Parivrtta Trikonasana Reverse triangle As above
12 Purvottanasana Inclined plane Strong posture for arm strength
13 Navasana Boat Seated balance for core strength
14 Adho Mukha Downward dog / Strength for arms and legs
Svanasana Inverted V pose
15 Dwi Pada Pitham Two foot support / Back and leg strength
16 Bhujangasana Cobra pose Back strength
17 Dhanurasana Bow pose All over strength
18 Ustrasana Camel pose Leg and back strength

Benefits of yogic breathing

Breathing is a vital part of everyone’s lives. Quite naturally, breathing is an involuntary action. It is an
autonomic body function that is done even in sleep, without having any conscious thought about it.

Yoga breathing was covered in unit 1 but some of the ways that yoga can benefit the respiratory system are
summarised below:

• A lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the
respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness.
• Yoga breathing shows participants the correct way to breathe. Many people became accustomed to
breathing thoracically, using only a portion of their lungs, not realising that this harmful and abnormal
way of inhaling could set in motion a series of problems. Through Yoga breathing, participants can
increase the capacity of their lungs. This brings additional oxygen supply to the blood and makes it
function better. Yoga breathing shows participants how to breathe slowly and deeply – the correct way.
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• Yoga breathing helps gets rid of toxins and wastes from the system. It can stop the participant from
contracting sickness and illnesses.
• Yoga breathing helps digestion. Through proper breathing the metabolism and therefore health can
begin to improve.
• Yoga breathing improves the participants’ concentration and focus. It combats stress and helps relax
the body. By controlling the breathing participants can also develop serenity and peace of mind.
• Yoga breathing bestows better self-control upon the participant. Through enhanced powers of
concentration, the participant is in a position to better handle his / her temper and reactions. The
mind is also able to function better helping participants steer clear of disputes and arguments and
jumping to wrong conclusions / decisions. This is because of the clarity of mind Yoga breathing
bestows. Besides other things, self-control also has to do with control over the physical body.
• Yoga breathing sets in motion a participant’s spiritual journey through a relaxed body and a tranquil
mind (Yoga Wiz 2012).
• Yoga helps relax the respiratory tract, helping diseases and disorders of the respiratory system. The
breathing and meditation routines in yoga have proven very effective in controlling chronic diseases
like asthma. Along with treating the respiratory system, it is also possible to increase the immunity
of the body so that allergies and minor infections do not cause harm to the throat.

The full yogic breath is the basic building block of all powerful yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama).
The tangible benefits of the full yogic breath include the following:

• Releases acute and chronic muscular tensions around the heart and digestive organs
• Helps sufferers of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and emphysema to overcome the fear of
shortness of breath. It actually increases lung capacity
• Encourages proper nervous stimulus to the cardiovascular system
• Dramatically reduces emotional and nervous anxiety
• Improves detoxification through increased exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen
• Amplifies the auto immune system by increased distribution of energy to the endocrine system
• Calms the mind and integrates the mental/physical balance

Yoga and the cardiovascular system

Yoga has tremendous health benefits for the cardiovascular system, including the following:

• Complete detoxification – by gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various
organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in the flushing
out of toxins which leads to benefits such as delayed ageing, energy and a remarkable zest for life
• The lowering of resting heart rate due to the stress control techniques and calming effects offered by yoga.
• The gentler forms of yoga lowers blood pressure because the asanas / postures keep blood flowing
evenly throughout the body while focus is on the breath
• Participants suffering from hypertension can benefit tremendously, as hatha yoga can lower the
heart rate and blood pressure
• Many practitioners claim that yoga has also lowered their cholesterol.
• Power yoga is an excellent form of cardio conditioning, which strengthens core muscles while it
keeps blood and oxygen circulating throughout the body (Yoga Wiz 2012)
• A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body results in higher
cardiovascular endurance
• Yoga improves blood circulation - by transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, yoga
practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain

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Effects of yoga on blood pressure

Short term effects

There is a linear increase in systolic blood pressure with increasing levels of exertion (Franklin 1998). In
contrast, during exertion diastolic blood pressure may decrease slightly, due to vasodilation, or will remain
unchanged (Franklin, 1998), except in hypertensive individuals where it may rise as a result of an impaired
vasodilatory response (Gordon, 1997). Postures that are held for long periods of time will significantly
increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. When performing such postures, it is important to
concentrate on breathing correctly.

Long term effects

Yoga postures which use large muscle groups help to reduce blood pressure over time. This can elicit an
average decrease of 10 mmHg in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in mild and moderate
hypertensive individuals (Durstine and Moore, 2003).

Yoga and the nervous system

The nervous system is the network of nerves that control all the organs and illicit responses from the body.
It is the nerves that allow the senses to work and the brain to coordinate the mechanisms of the entire
body. With so many functions, it is easy for the nerves to get fatigued or diseased and if there is an injury
or trauma to the nerves, it can really damage the functioning of the body in many ways. The slightest of
nervous system problems may cease the functioning of vital organs. For example, trauma to the spinal cord
can cause a person to be paralysed, or lose the ability to walk.

Today, owing to changes in lifestyle, nerves have to undergo a lot of pressures and stress just to keep the
body functional. There are times though when the amount of stress becomes so much that the nerves
begin to malfunction. It is therefore necessary to maintain the health of the nerves and to ensure that
people distress regularly so that the body machinery keeps functioning without a glitch. Some disorders of
the nervous system are outlined below:

• Alzheimer’s disease
• Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
• Bell’s Palsy
• Brain Cancers
• Brain Tumours
• Epilepsy
• Guillain-Barré Syndrome
• Headache
• Meningitis
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Muscular Dystrophy
• Parkinson’s disease
• Stroke

The nervous system is a delicate network of neurons and therefore it is important to keep it protected from
jerks or traumas. If people work in the same posture for a long time, the nervous system can get stressed.
The treatment of the nervous system basically focuses on the slowing of the degeneration of the nerves.
The nerves, once damaged, cannot be regenerated.

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The effect of yoga on the nervous system

In the early stages of a yoga training regimen the majority of physical improvements are likely to be the
result of changes in the way the central nervous system controls and coordinates movement. This appears
to be particularly so for strength training (Earle and Baechle, 2004). When a yoga asana is performed the
senses provide constant feedback regarding limb position, force generation and the performance outcome
(i.e. was the movement successful?). Unsuccessful or poor performances can be cross-referenced with
other sensory input and a new movement strategy can be tried (Schmidt and Wrisberg, 2000). Regular
yoga training and practice cause adaptations in the central nervous system allowing greater control of
movements. Thus movements become smoother and more accurate and performance improves.

Yoga for stress

Yoga has proved to be effective in mitigating the harmful effects of stress. Not only does yoga help in
relieving stress, it also helps in keeping the mind calm and sharp, delaying the onset of diseases like
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, yoga is one of the few forms of exercise that has a direct
beneficial effect on the autonomic nervous system.

Yoga incorporates many different breathing exercises and mediation techniques. The deep breathing
practised during yoga helps to calm the nerves. The process of meditation helps to drown out all extraneous
worries and allows a participant to calm and centre thoughts. This goes a long way in providing relief from
nervous disorders. Even the yogic postures incorporate steady and deep breathing and help to reduce
anxiety and calm the nerves (Yoga health benefits 2012).

Yoga works as an antidote to the body’s stress response. When humans perceive a looming danger,
whether it’s a blood-thirsty tiger, a deadline, or a traffic jam, the sympathetic nervous system is activated,
triggering what is often called the fight-or-flight response. The heart rate and blood pressure increase,
digestion is reduced, adrenaline production is stimulated, and the pupils dilate, preparing the person to
deal with the danger of whatever it was that triggered the stress response. When the perceived danger is
over the body activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Heat rate and blood pressure decrease,
digestive activity returns to normal, endorphins are produced, and the pupils constrict, restoring a resting
condition in the body. The problem with modern life, however, is that often the parasympathetic nervous
system gets challenged by chronic stressors, and people are never able to fully relax.

Taking time out for yoga practice and allowing ‘me’ time is in itself de-stressing. But this isn’t the only
reason yoga is good. Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system directly, working to counteract
the effects of stress. The following practice helps to alleviate the stress response:

• Focus on deep, slow breathing that fully activates the diaphragm.

• Include postures that target sections of the spine linked to the parasympathetic nervous system
(thoracic and lumbar area).
• Postures that access the neck or the hips can be very calming (Chai and Yoga, 2011).

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Postures that benefit the nervous system

Inverted postures

• Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall pose) – this is a wonderful relaxing yoga posture. Yoga stresses
the importance of balancing active poses (yang) with passive poses (yin). The ‘legs up the wall
posture’ is a gentle inversion that helps to relieve the effects of stress by soothing the nervous
system, increasing circulation and allowing the mind to calm. It is especially great for people who
spend too much time sitting and standing since it relieves swelling and fatigue in the legs and feet
by reversing the effects of gravity.
• Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand with legs up the wall) - use a cushion or bolster under the buttocks
for additional comfort. The shoulder stand stimulates and rejuvenates the entire body. In this
posture, tension in well-known stress areas like the neck and the lower back is relaxed. The
muscles of the lower back get stronger, the chest and shoulders can move more freely and the back
gets straighter.
• Plough posture (Halasana) - the Sanskrit word Hala means plough, as in a traditional plough that is
drawn by a horse or oxen. When performing this posture the body resembles a plough. This pose
is often one of the first inversions to be practised after Adho Mukha Svanasana (the downward
facing dog pose) and Prasarita Padottanasana (the wide-legged standing forward bend). Inversions
bring fresh blood and oxygen to the brain which is revitalising and refreshing.

Stress relieving postures

• Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog posture) - this posture is named as such as it
resembles the shape of a dog stretching itself out. This pose helps to strengthen, stretch and reduce
stiffness in the legs while strengthening and shaping the upper body. Holding this pose for a minute
or longer will stimulate and restore energy levels if participants are tired. Regular practice of this
pose rejuvenates the entire body and gently stimulates the nervous system.
• Supta Virasana (Reclining hero posture) - the reclining hero pose is a great way to improve and
enhance flexibility. Vira means hero, warrior or champion; Supta is to lie down. This is a deep
stretch for the front of the thighs, lower legs and feet. It also stretches the abdominal muscles, the
spine and the shoulders.
• Salabhasana (Locust posture) - the focal points of concentration in this posture is the legs. Lift the
legs only as much as you can. Feel the pull exerted along the muscles in the back and in the legs.
Be aware of the body movements and stretching. The muscles will release and relax after stretching
for a specific time period in a tense position. Mentally, this posture helps to gather attention and
help to develop a peaceful state of mind.
• Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining big toe posture).
• Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining bound angle posture with or without props) – lying down on
back with soles together).
• Navasana (Boat pose) - this posture stimulates the muscular, digestive, circulatory, nervous and
hormonal systems. This asana also tones up all the organs and removes lethargy and restrains
nervous tension and brings up deep relaxation.
• Balasana (Child’s pose).

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Relaxation postures

• Savasana (Corpse Pose) - no yoga session is complete without the final pose of Savasana. The body
needs this time to understand the new information it has received through practising yoga.
• Padmasana (Lotus pose).
• Sukhasana (Easy pose).

Breathing practices to reduce stress

• Alternate nostril breathing.

• Kapalbhati (Skull cooling breath).
• Ujjayi (Ocean Breath) (Yoga Wiz 2011, Indian Mirror 2011).

Yoga and the endocrine system

Certain health conditions are caused as a result of the inability of glands to secrete or produce hormones.
The regular practice of yoga actually helps prevent the incidence of, as well as in dealing with, a number
of ailments or health problems resulting from hormonal disharmony or dysfunction.

Research has indicated that testosterone and growth hormone levels increase following strength training
and moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise. It is also noted that a similar pattern seems to emerge for
cortisol (McArdle et al, 2001). The presence of cortisol in the bloodstream is often taken to be indicative
of overtraining. This is perhaps a little simplistic as cortisol is a necessary part of maintaining energy levels
during normal exercise activity and may even facilitate recovery and repair during the post-exercise period
(McArdle et al, 2001). Problems may arise however, as a result of extremely intense or prolonged bouts
of endurance training, which have been found to lower testosterone levels whilst raising cortisol levels.
Under these circumstances, catabolism (breakdown) is likely to outstrip anabolism (build up) and give rise
to symptoms of overtraining (Wilmore and Costill, 2004; McArdle et al. 2001).

Yoga arbitrates the close, most cherished relationship between the mind and body – emotions like fear or
anger, love or hate, all suggest hormonal activity as well as, in many instances, disharmony. Needless to
say, they all strongly influence health.

Hormones are involved in growth and development, tissue function, metabolism (affecting weight regulation
and hunger), and in your mood. They play a role in the experiencing of relaxation or stress, pleasure or
frustration, and fear or joy. Hormonal imbalances affect mood, and thus decision-making processes
therefore yoga’s beneficial effect on the endocrine system is of paramount importance.

The body ‘chakras’ or energy centres (see unit 1) keep close relation with internal glands that constitute
the endocrine system. When the pineal gland and the pituitary gland receive sufficient energy, they will
channel impulses from the other endocrine glands in synchronicity to optimise rhythms for good health.
The pineal gland corresponds to the ‘third eye’ and is linked to developing wisdom. Yoga meditation
techniques powerfully stimulate this gland. The pituitary gland, at the base of your brain, relates to
inspiration and intuition. The Pituitary Gland is the master gland of the body that regulates the secretion
of hormones in all the other glands. It is under the direct control of the brain. Sirshasana (headstand) is
the most beneficial posture for this area. The posture increases blood flow to the brain, which is used for
controlling the entire body. This posture is said to prevent various diseases of the nose, eye and ear.
Frequently practising this posture increases mind concentration and provides sharpness. Pituitary glands
and pineal glands are also activated because of this sirsasana, causing an increase in memory.

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The thyroid gland is responsible for the basic metabolic rate of the body, its growth as well as cell
processes. On the other hand, the parathyroid gland controls the production and secretion of phosphate
calcium. Both these glands are stimulated by the shoulder Stand.

The thyroid gland, found below the larynx, or below the Adam’s apple in men, is responsible for the body’s
energy burning rate, and for the body’s sensitivity to other hormones. It produces the thyroid hormones
Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine, involved in regulating metabolism. It is controlled by the hypothalamus
and pituitary gland. In yoga, it is connected to the chakra Visshudda, which relates to communication
skills. The thyroid’s functions are directly linked to mood. When this gland becomes overactive
(hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) undesirable effects are experienced. Excessive thyroid
hormonal secretion produces nervousness, irritability, excessive hunger, palpitations, laboured breathing
and an abnormally fast digestion. An underactive thyroid results in apathy and tiredness. The Headstand
greatly enhances the functioning of the thyroid gland by bringing an increased amount of blood to the
throat area, which is helpful in pranayama.

The thymus gland located under the breastbone, has a central role in keeping a strong immune system.
In Yoga, it is connected to the Anahata chakra, relating to the capacity for loving and opening up to others.
The adrenal glands, sitting above the kidneys, release hormones in conjunction to stress due to fear or
frustration, and also when hypoglycaemia occurs. This results in the hyperactive state of ‘fight or flight’.
If this isn’t responded to, a state of stress is felt. These glands are connected to the Manipura chakra
relating to power-seeking, perseverance and will-power. The camel yoga posture (Ustrasana) enhances
blood flow through this area.

The secretions of the pancreatic and adrenal glands are vital to life. They strongly affect physical, mental
and emotional well-being. The pancreas, for instance, secretes insulin that helps regulate the levels of
sugar in the blood. When it dysfunctions the body suffers from what is called Diabetes and when it ceases
to function altogether insulin injections are needed. However it can be helped, greatly by Mayurasana
(peacock pose), which helps massage the spleen and the pancreas.

The effects of yoga on glucagon and insulin: Understanding the effects of an activity such as yoga is helpful
because it helps to explain the interrelationship between insulin and glucagon. As activity levels increase,
glucose uptake by the body’s cells also increases. This is the result of an increased sensitivity of the cells
to insulin, thus insulin levels will drop during physical activity (Wilmore and Costill, 2004). At the same
time glucagon secretion by the pancreas increases, thus helping maintain a steady supply of blood glucose.
Sex hormones - The gonads secrete sex hormones and affect vitality. They connect with Svadisthana
chakra in relation to pleasure, creativity and joy of life. Yoga postures and meditation are helpful for
changes in hormonal levels due to ageing. Women dealing with the peri-menopause or menopause find
relief from stress, and production of stress hormones is reduced. Inverted postures, as downward facing
dog, direct blood towards the pineal, pituitary, thyroid and hypothalamus glands. This can help stabilise
severe hormonal fluctuations. It is important here to note contraindications to yoga’s inverted postures for
people with high blood pressure, hyperactive thyroid, Graves disease, glaucoma, and detached retina.
Regular yoga practice, particularly relaxation postures, helps to maintain a healthy balance in the male and
female glands and hormones (Yoga Wiz, 2012).

The invaluable benefits to be experienced by engaging in yoga practice are not to be dismissed by anyone
who wishes to enhance their well-being. This holds regardless of any present condition. Participants will
undoubtedly enrich their lives through simple yoga techniques, be it to elevate wellness to an even higher
level, or to mark the start of a stage that promotes healing and comfort. Whatever the situation, yoga will
lead the way to unprecedented well-being (Lucas, 2012).

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The benefits of yoga on the digestive system

According to yogic thinking, efficient digestion is one of the routes to good health. Yoga has an extremely
positive effect on the digestive system. The way we sit and stand has a huge impact on our internal organs.
Yoga postures help realign the body and improve posture. When we slouch, we restrict our organs of
digestion - blood cannot flow freely around the body, the stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen and intestines
all become squashed and therefore we are not able to process food efficiently. Waste can quite literally get
left behind inside those organs. The ancient Indian life science of Ayurverda also pays close attention to
the process of digestion - recommending small, regular meals; plenty of vegetables and lentils; and slow,
mindful eating.


Yoga encourages new postural habits, which in turn will allow organs of digestion to function more
efficiently. When practicing seated postures it is useful to ask participants to focus on the torso and the
organs inside. Ask them to imagine what happens to these organs when they slouch. They will usually sit
up straighter and grows at least an inch in height.

There are many specific yoga postures that will stimulate the digestive system, apanasana (wind release),
spinal twists, paschimotanasana (seated forward bend), dhanurasana (the bow), setu bhandhasana (half
bridge) chakarasana (the wheel), balasana (child’s pose) and many more. Surya namaskara (sun
salutations) will also work wonders for the digestive system. Quite simply any posture that twists, folds or
stretches the torso will aid digestion.

Timing meals

It is important to remind participants not to eat a heavy meal before a yoga practice. A light snack two
hours prior is fine. It is also recommended that both bladder and bowel are emptied before practicing yoga
so that the digestive system is relatively empty and energy is not being used to digest food. Practicing yoga
without too much waste in the system will give greater benefits and help cleanse and tone the internal
organs. The great thing is that participants do not need to be an advanced to benefit from the positive
impact that yoga has on the digestive system. By bringing awareness to alignment and working simply to
maintain a straight spine the digestive system can be improved. As well as regular yoga practice, encourage
participants to drink plenty of water and ideally follow a healthy vegetarian diet that includes plenty of fresh
uncooked fruit and vegetables (Fuller S. 2012).

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1. Brian Mac (2012). The Endocrine System Available at (accessed on 1/2/12)
2. Chai and yoga (2011) Yoga, stress and the nervous system Available at (accessed
3. Durstine, J.L. and Moore, G.E. (2003) ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic
Diseases and Disabilities 2nd Edition Human Kinetics
4. Earle, R.W. and Baechle, T.R. (2004). NSCA’s: Essentials of Personal Training. Human Kinetics
5. EHow (2011). What are the benefits of exercise on the skeletal system Available at ?
(accessed on 27/1/12)
6. Fleck S.J. and Kraemer W.J. (1997). Designing Resistance Training Programmes 2nd Edition,
Human Kinetics
7. Franklin B.A. (1998). Normal cardiorespiratory responses to acute aerobic exercise - In ACSM’s
Resource Manual for Guidelines for Testing and Prescription (Roitman J.L. ed) pp. 137-145 3rd
Edition Williams and Wilkins
8. Franklin B.A. (2000). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription 6th Edition Williams
and Wilkins
9. Fuller S. (2012) Pathway to good health - Yoga for digestion Available at
(accessed 19.3.12)
10. Gordon N.F. (1997). Hypertension - In ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic
Diseases and Disabilities (J. L. Durstine, Ed.) pp. 59-63 Human Kinetics
11. Indian Mirror (2011). Yoga for the nervous system Available at accessed
12. Life Mojo (2012). Benefits of strength training Available at (accessed on 27/1/12)
13. Livestrong (2012). The effects of yoga on the skeletal system Available at
(article/292190) (accessed 27/1/12)
14. Lucas H. (2012). The endocrine system Available at (accessed on 31/1/12)
15. Marieb, E.N (1995). Human Anatomy and Physiology 6th Edition Benjamin-Cummings publishing
16. McArdle, W., Katch, F. and Katch, V. (2001). Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition & Human
Performance (5th Edition) Baltimore, Lipincott, Williams & Wilkins
17. McGill S. (2002). Low Back Disorders Human Kinetics
18. Schmidt R.A. and Wrisberg, C.A. (2000). Motor Learning and Performance 2nd Edition Champaign
IL Human Kinetics
19. Seeley R., Stephens, T. and Tate, P. (2000). Anatomy and Physiology 5th Edition, McGraw Hill
20. Thompson C.W. and Floyd R.T. (2001). Manual of structural kinesiology, McGraw-Hill
21. Tortora G.J. and Grabowski S.R. (1996). Principles of Anatomy and Physiology 8th Edition New
York, Haper-Collins
22. Tortora G.J. and Grabowski S.R. (2003). Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 10th Edition John
Wiley and Sons
23. Wilmore J.H. and Costill D.L. (2004). Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, Ill., Human Kinetics
24. Yoga health benefits (2012). Yoga for nervous system problems Available at yoga health benefits. (accessed on 20/1/12)
25. Yoga Wiz (2012). Benefits of yogic breathing Available at (accessed on 26/1/12)
26. Yoga Wiz (2012). Yoga for the endocrine system Article by Patricia (No 12th 2008) Available at (accessed on 31/12/12)
27. Yoga Wiz (2012). Yoga poses for the nervous system Available at (accessed on
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Appendix 1
The table below provides further guidance on the bones, joints and muscles which must be covered within
this unit.

Bones Joints Muscles

Axial Skeleton: Immovable Pectoralis Major

• Cranium Slightly Movable Biceps
• Cervical Vertebrae Rectus Abdominis
• Thoracic Vertebrae Freely movable/Synovial Obliques
• Lumbar Vertebrae • Gliding Transverse Abdominis
• Sacral Vertebrae • Pivot Trapezius
• Sternum • Ball and Socket Rhomboids
• Ribs • Hinge Triceps
• Coccyx Latissimus Dorsi
Erector Spinae
Appendicular Skeleton: Hip Flexors
• Scapula Adductors
• Clavicle Anterior Tibialis
• Humerus Gluteals
• Ulna Abductors
• Radius Hamstrings
• Carpals Gastrocnemius
• Metacarpals Soleus
• Phalanges Diaphragm
• Ilium Intercostals
• Ischium
• Pubis
• Femur
• Patella
• Tibia
• Fibula
• Tarsals
• Metatarsals

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97 Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual
Unit 3 Planning a series of yoga sessions

Aim: the aim of this unit is to provide learners with the underpinning knowledge and practical elements
needed to plan a yoga session and a series of yoga sessions. The unit covers the elements of basic
breathing techniques, pranayama, relaxation, concentration and meditation within sessions. It also covers
the use of teaching aids to modify and adapt asana, plus information on how to set up a yoga class.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will:

• understand breath awareness

• understand pranayama
• understand relaxation techniques
• understand concentration and meditation
• understand how to plan a yoga session
• understand how to incorporate teaching aids within a yoga session
• be able to plan a series of progressive yoga sessions
• understand how to set up a private yoga class

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There are many aspects to consider when planning and setting up yoga sessions. The sessions need to
have a purpose and be safe and effective. There are no absolute rules for planning a session, but this
unit explores the essential components needed to ensure a balanced and holistic approach to planning.
Once these aspects have been practised and taught to participants, sessions can be changed to fit the
individuals’ needs. Teachers must ensure that they are very familiar with the practices they teach before
attempting to share them with their participants.

Understanding breath awareness

The morning wind spreads its fresh smell,
We must get up and take that in,
That wind that lets us live,
Breathe before it’s gone.
(Appleton, 2004)

Breathing is an autonomic body function that requires no voluntary input, and as such, often remains
outside of conscious awareness. Control and awareness of the breath is considered an important part of
any yoga session; yoga can help to bring the focus back on the breath. Below is a summary of the benefits
of yoga breathing:

• Increases the oxygen going to all cells

• Helps the body’s natural ability to get rid of toxins and wastes
• Helps digestion and aids metabolism
• Improves concentration and focus.
• Helps participants to better handle stress
• Helps relax the body
• Leads to feelings of serenity and peace of mind
• Helps participants to improve control of diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing habits can often become poor with age, resulting in shallow breathing patterns that do not use
the full capacity of the lungs. Observations of babies and small children reveal deep belly (diaphragmatic)
breathing patterns, as opposed to the shallow chest (thoracic) patterns commonly seen in adults.

Rhythmic, deep and slow breathing stimulates and produces a calm, contented state of mind. Irregular
breathing may disrupt key body rhythms leading to physical, emotional and mental blocks. Using yoga,
these patterns and awareness of breathing can be rebuilt. Yoga breathing shows the correct way to breathe,
and increases the ability to use the full capacity of the lungs. Breathing correctly is not just about getting
oxygen into the body; it also influences the flow of Prana (life force) in the energy channels of the body
(Swami Satyananda Saraswati, 1996).

In yoga, the breath is the energy of life. A proper inhalation brings in oxygen, energy, inspiration and light
from the universe. A proper exhalation gets rid of negativity and stress, and allows you to clear out any waste.

Using the breath to enter and leave a posture

Benefits of asana cannot be achieved without the use of the breath. Every movement is led by the breath
and this is the basis of asana practice. Via the breath, a participant can observe the unfolding of an asana.
Rather than struggling with the body in an asana, the asana can be monitored using the number of breaths
that is appropriate. It is vitally important to utilise the breath as participants enter and leave a posture, as
well as when staying in a posture. The breath is used to focus the mind as the asana is performed.

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A teacher can ask the participants to imagine the breath as energy and participants can imagine they
are sending it to different parts of the body, depending on the posture. As a general rule, as the body
closes up an exhalation is performed, and as the body opens up an inhalation is performed. For example,
in Uttanasana (standing forward bend), an inhale is performed as the arms are stretched up, the body
bends forward on the exhale, and then the body is held in position for a number of breaths. Generally,
an exhalation is performed on exertion and an inhalation is performed on relaxation. There are however
exceptions to this rule with some asana. Another way to utilise the breath is to hold postures for a certain
number of breaths.

The breath should feel natural as a posture is entered and left. The primary focus should be on the breath;
movement of the body is secondary.

The basic breath

The basic breath is an important element of yoga practice as it establishes habits that can enable the yoga
participant to develop a deeper relationship with the capabilities of the breath.

Some basic breathing practices are:

• simple breath awareness – this can be done seated or in savasana (corpse)

• nostril breathing – seated or kneeling
• linking breath to movement - initially can be practised with arm extensions in savasana or seated
• lengthening the in and out breath – seated or kneeling
• deepening the breath

Basic breathing does not contain ratios, retention or restrictions. Basic breathing is the foundation of
pranayama practice.

The complete yoga breath (three part breath)

This contains three phases:

• diaphragmatic phase (abdominal breathing)

• intercostal phase (rib cage breathing)
• clavicle phase (upper chest / collarbone breathing)

These phases need to be experienced independently and then combined together to form the complete
yoga breath. It is crucial that the breath isn’t separated into parts and that the breath is smooth.

In Savasana, be aware of the abdomen rising. Place hands over the abdomen for emphasis. One hand can
be placed on the chest and one on the abdomen to regulate control.

• Place hands on lower ribs to experience the breath in this area.

• Place hands on upper chest to experience the breath in this area.
• Practise the above in a seated position as well

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Breathing practice examples
There are many practices that can be carried out; here are some examples:

Counted breath

Begin to count the breaths from number 27 backwards to zero. Mentally repeat, “I am breathing in 27, I
am breathing out 27, I am breathing in 26, I am breathing out 26” and so on, back to zero. If the mind
wanders and the next number is forgotten, bring it back to the counting and start again at 27. If the mind
can be kept on the breath, the body will relax.

The easy breath (Sukha purvaka)

This breath is designed to quickly calm the mind and aid stress. It is useful prior to meditation or before sleep.
Sit in a comfortable position with hands in the lap. The breath should be observed entering and leaving the
body. The right nostril is closed off with the right thumb. Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril.
Repeat twelve times and the swap to the other side. Mental clarity will be improved after this practice.

Abdominal breathing

This practice is done lying down. This is similar to the basic breath and can be used when teaching yoga
breathing with new participants. Lying in Savasana, place linked hands on the abdomen just below the
belly button. Take a slow, deep breath filling the lower part of the abdomen. Upon inhalation, feel the
abdomen rising and pushing the hands apart. On exhalation feel the abdomen falling away from the
hands. This can be continued for 2-3 minutes.

Standing breath

This practice is a simple way to start the participant thinking about the link between the breath and
movement. With hands on the hips and a straight spine, a deep breath is taken through the nose. As the
breath comes in, the participant leans backwards for the length of the breath. As the breath is released
stand straight again. This position is held for two breaths and then repeated up to five times.

Push the mountain

This practice links further movement with a breath cycle. The participant begins in a standing position
with hands loosely by the sides. Eyes should be closed, if possible. A deep breath is taken through the
nose and held in the abdomen for ten counts. This is then released through the nose. Another breath is
taken in slowly and the participant steps forward with the left leg. While still inhaling, the hands are raised,
palms to the sides of the chest. The breath is held for a count of ten. On the exhale the palms are pushed
forwards powerfully to shoulder height, while visualising a mountain in front that has to be pushed away.
This position is held for ten counts. Another breath is taken in and the participant steps the right foot in
front of the left and brings palms back to chest position. This is held for ten counts, followed by an exhale,
and pushing the mountain. Finally hold for 10 counts. This can be performed up to ten times.

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Introducing breathing practices to participants
The yoga teacher should start with the most basic breathing techniques to enable the class participants
to become aware of their own breathing patterns. The following questions should be considered when
exploring breathing:

• Are participants inhaling through their nose or mouth? If the breath is inhaled through the mouth, it
is not getting filtered by the nose hairs; therefore pollutants can enter the lungs.
• Does the chest and stomach expand or contract during inhalation? If the stomach and chest contract
the breath is considered unnatural, hindering the flow of prana into the body. This kind of breathing
is quite common and should be addressed sensitively.
• Does the in-breath travel deep into the abdomen or does it stop at the chest? If the breath is only
shallow and stops at the chest, the prana cannot enter and invigorate the whole body, causing low
energy and listlessness

It is vital from the first session of yoga, that participants understand the importance of the breath within
their yoga practice. Once the class understands how their everyday breath should be, they can observe it
several times a day to take check. This observance of breath can help with stress in everyday life.

The next step is to engage the participants in breathing correctly and deeply using the three part breath
practice. Any of the other basic breathing techniques can be introduced along with the awareness of the
breath within each posture. Time should be spent encouraging the participants to get to know the breath
and the benefits that can be found with breathing correctly. It is prudent to plan the basic breathing
techniques that are to be covered in each session.

Example breathing plan

• Session one – introduction to the breath and the three part breath
• Session two – linking breath to movement
• Session three – lengthening the in and out breath – adding the extension of the out-breath

From a teacher’s perspective, to be able to enhance the breathing of a class participant is something that
can make a significant and immediate difference to a participant’s health and wellbeing.

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Understanding pranayama
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states:

‘All the Gods including Lord Brahma became devoted to the practice of Pranayama because they were
afraid of death. We, the mortals should follow the same path and control the breath’

(Swami Muktibodhana, 1993)

Pranayama is the fourth limb of the eight limbs of yoga, described in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali
defies pranayama as the gap between inhalation and exhalation. Pranayama has been carried out for
thousands of years and its practices have been preserved and passed to others.

Pranayama is defined as ‘breath control’. The word pranayama is comprised of two words: ‘prana’ and
‘ayama’. Prana means ‘life force’ or ‘vital force’. ‘Yama’ means control but ‘ayama’ means extension or
expansion. Pranayama is different to normal breathing practices as it utilises the breath to influence the
flow of prana in the nadis (energy channels) of the pranayama kosha (energy body). The true definition
therefore of pranayama is extension or expansion of the dimension of prana. It is ultimately related to the
biochemical and psycho-spiritual functions of activity, mood and thought, the way individuals think, feel
and act. Pranayama also enables individuals to attain harmony and balance of prana, and ultimately,
stillness of mind; it is a unique, deep and influential practice.

Many warnings are given by commentators on yoga against engaging in practices without guidance and
preparation. Reckless practice may lead to damage of the prana flow and therefore the state of mind. There
should be a good foundation in yoga asana practice and basic breath before pranayama is introduced.
However the basic exploratory techniques in this manual can be taught at any time.

General benefits of pranayama include the following:

• Establishes regular, healthy breathing patterns

• Regulates pranic flow leading to vitality, happiness and stillness of mind
• Encourages a light and easy mood
• Combats fatigue
• Reduces stress and anxiety
• Stimulates oxygenation of blood
• Enhances the health of the lungs
• Promotes intestinal circulation
• Helps asthma
• Helps to manage hypertension
• Eliminates impurities from the body

Aspects of pranayama
There are four aspects of pranayama:

1. Pooraka – inhalation
2. Rechaka – exhalation
3. Antar kumbhaka – internal breath retention
4. Bahir kumbhaka – external breath retention

The different practices of pranayama will include aspects of all of the above. The most important part is the
retention of breath. The practice of the inhalation and exhalation will need to be carried out first in basic
breathing practice, and then in different pranayama practices; once the individual is competent, breath
retention can be carried out.

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Breath retention (Kumbhaka)
Breath retention can be practised in many ways; it can be practised alone or within a structured pranayama.
Retention allows a longer period for assimilation of prana, just as it allows more time for the exchange of gases
in the cells, i.e. oxygen and carbon dioxide. Patanjali also states that retention of the breath after expiration
removes the obstacles to yoga and stops fluctuations of the mind (Swami Muktibodhananda, 1993).

Any pranayama with breath retention should be practised in cycles. Retention of more than six or seven
seconds requires the application of bandhas, particularly Jalandhara bandha. Table 1 shows an example
of a practice using kumbhaka. Each should be repeated four times.

Inhale – number of Hold breath – number Exhale – number of Hold – number of

counts of counts counts counts
6 0 6 0
6 0 12 0
6 0 12 3
6 3 12 3
6 0 12 3
6 0 12 3
6 0 6 0

Table 1 Khumbaka practice

Pranayama is not a first practice in yoga because there are certain skills that need to be acquired first.
These include:

• the capacity to relax the body

• the capacity to relax the mind
• the capacity to sit still
• some degree of suppleness and body control
• an awareness of breath
• an ability to control the length and pace of the breath
• an ability to expand the chest
• an ability to exercise control over the abdominal muscles

Development in pranayama is an individual undertaking, and the choice of technique will depend on the
participants. The following is a simple guideline as to what order pranayama practices can be introduced:

1. Basic breathing
2. Deergham swasam - three part breath
3. Nadi shodhana – alternate nostril breathing
4. Kaphalabhati – skull shining breath (this is technically termed a kriya)
5. Bhastrika - bellows breath
6. Bhramari - humming breath

While other progressions are possible, the above would offer development in pranayama practice.

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Advice and precautions

• Wait for at least four hours after meals before practice

• Practise pranayama after asana, and before meditation
• Throughout the practice the body should be relaxed and the spine, head and neck should be erect
and centred
• There should be no strain. The breath should not be held longer than comfortable
• Practise in a clean, well-ventilated environment
• A comfortable seated or kneeling position should be used for practice
• The use of hand mudras will help to keep the attention and maintain a circuit of prana
• Make the practice regular and progressive
• A yoga teacher should be aware of the benefits of pranayama practice but should not prescribe pranayama
to cure agitations in participants. The advantages will come gradually to all those that practice
• Retention of the breath should not be practised if the participant has high blood pressure, blocked
nostrils, a cold, or heart problems.


Deergham swasam – deep breathing

This is the same as the three part breath mentioned in the basic breathing section. This is a controlled
combination of abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, chest or thoracic breathing and clavicle breathing.

Nadi shodhana – alternate nostril breathing

This practice alternatively passes the breath through one nostril and then the other. The right nostril is the
fiery or heating nostril and the left nostril is the cooling nostril. Breathing through the right nostril creates
more heat in the system and breathing through the left helps to cool you.

People do not breath through their nostrils equally all the time, One or the other will be favoured. The left
nostril is the path of the Nadi called Ida and the right is Pingala. The nose is directly linked to the brain
and the nervous system. The Indian yogis believe that many diseases can be linked to disturbed nasal
breathing. Breathing in only through the left nostril, will access the right ‘feeling’ hemisphere of the brain,
and breathing in, only through the right nostril, will access the left ‘thinking’ hemisphere of the brain.
Alternating the breath between nostrils will activate and balance both areas of the brain.

Benefits: unblocks and balances the flow of vital energy in the body, calms the nervous system, induces
tranquillity, clarity of thought and concentration, lowers stress and anxiety levels

Precautions: epilepsy, headaches, congestion or tiredness (with inability to concentrate)

• Sit in a suitable upright seated posture and breathe normally. Hold the fingers of the right hand in
front of the face in Nasikara mudra and rest the middle and index fingers on the forehead – so that
the thumb is above the right nostril and the ring finger is above the left nostril.
• Use the thumb and the ring finger to alternately close each of the nostrils by gently pressing the side
of each nostril so as to stop the flow of breath through that nostril. Ensure the elbow is tucked in to
avoid an aching arm during practice, or support it with the opposite hand. Moola bandha can be
practised with Nadi shodhana.
• The left hand can be placed in Jnana mudra or another mudra.
• Inhale through the left nostril and then close the left nostril
• Exhale out of the right nostril
• Inhale into the right nostril and then close the right nostril

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• Exhale out of the left nostril – this is one round
• Practise with an equal length of inhalation and exhalation. For example, a count of two or count of
four. There should be no strain and the breaths should be smooth
• Practise five rounds
• The first in breath is always through the left nostril and the last out breath is also always out through
the left nostril
• Kumbhaka and extension of the exhalation can also be introduced once comfortable

Kaphalabhati – skull shining breath

Technically a cleansing practice (kriya) as it cleanses the nasal passages. It is an invigorating practice that
activates the prana (this is why it sits well as a pranayama practice) .

Benefits: exhilaration producing vitality and stillness, stimulates metabolism, increases oxygenation, good
for asthma and mild bronchitis and mucous disorders

Precautions: dizziness, vertigo, high blood pressure, pregnancy, weak pelvic floor after pregnancy

Technique: this technique requires practice and is not the easiest for a beginner to pick up. Other practices
should be mastered first.

• Sit in a suitable upright seated posture. Bring the attention to the abdominal area. Place hands on
the upper stomach. Feel the stomach expand and contract (like laughing out loud, when contracted).
Turn this into a ‘ha’ out breath on the next contraction and then change the breath to a nostril out
breath (like blowing a feather away from under the nose). It is a very strong tight contraction. The
body stays upright and does not move. Breathe in and the stomach expands.
• Relax into normal breathing after the practice.
• The speed of the practice should be slow at first, and then can speed up once the technique is
mastered, so that it becomes ‘snappy’.
• Initially practise a round of ten, and then progress to three rounds of ten.

Bhastrika – bellows breath

This pranayama technique is said to fan the internal fire by heating the physical and subtle bodies.

Benefits: creates a refreshing, exhilarated and expanded sensation; induces peace and tranquillity of
mind; removes phlegm; aids digestion; good for asthma

Precautions: dizziness, vertigo, high blood pressure, pregnancy, weak pelvic floor after pregnancy

• Sit in a suitable upright seated posture. Hold the spine upright and close the eyes. Focus on the
• Rhythmically contract and expand the abdomen to produce even breathing. The abdomen contracts
on the in breath and expands on the out breath. This is relaxed and light.
• Do between ten to thirty cycles.
• On completion, draw in and hold breath (kumbhaka) applying Moola and Jalandhara bandha as you
are able. This is one round. The inhalation and exhalation are the same length.

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Bhramari – bee or humming breath

Bhramari is the name of the humming sound made by the black bee. This is a subtle and tranquilising
pranayama with a meditative purpose.

Benefits: good for removing anger and anxiety; encourages one pointedness of mind.

Precautions: ear infections, heart problems. Introverted or depressed people should not substitute a
mantra for the humming sound

• Sit in a suitable upright seated position
• Seal the ears with thumbs (or index/middle fingers) and place the fingers on top of the head
• Breath in, exhale making a humming sound or OM sound (the sound can also be replaced with a
suitable mantra sound). The lips should remain closed with the teeth slightly apart.
• Be aware of the reverberation and sound in the centre of the head
• Practice five to ten rounds for a beginner or general class
• For personal practice, explore longer periods

There are many other practices to explore such as Sitali and Sitkari (cooling breaths) and Ujjai breathing;
these can be explored during personal practice.

Pranayama is a beautiful and profound practice which is often overlooked in yoga classes. It is effective
in stilling the mind, and in preparing for meditation. Pranayama should be practised regularly as a central
component to any yoga practice.

Introducing pranayama practices to participants

Once participants have got used to basic breathing practices, some pranayama can be introduced. After
about six weeks practice of basic techniques, including extending the out breath, some simple pranayama
can be introduced. Following this, kumbhaka (retention) practices can be introduced, and this could be
practised for several weeks using different ratios. Working from the point that the out breath had been
extended to, retention can be added. As an example, this could be in the ratio of 6:3:8:0, working towards
6:3:12:0. After a few weeks the retention can be introduced after the exhale.

The key is to encourage pranayama as a personal journey, and to support practice at home. Once the
participants are comfortable with retention, other practices can be introduced. When introducing nadi
shodhana, for example, time can be spent getting used to breathing in through one nostril whilst closing
off the other. The practice can be built up in stages as follows:

Nadi shodhana progression

1. Close off the right nostril and breathe in and out of the left nostril 10 times.
2. Repeat on the right side.
3. Using counts of 4 continue with nadi shodhana for 10 rounds.
4. The next stage can be changing the ratios and this can be continues for a number of weeks before
introducing other techniques.

The key to successful pranayama practice is not to hurry. A good yoga teacher may only have a repertoire
of basic breathing practices (and one or two pranayama practices), and this is sufficient for most class
participants. The teacher can explore other pranayama practices as part of their own yoga discovery.
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Understanding relaxation techniques
By letting go it all gets done
(Tao Te Ching)

The art of relaxation is central to yoga. The postures in yoga create energy and the relaxation seals this
energy (Appleton, 2004).

Relaxation is a method of reducing anxiety and tension to bring about mental and physical ease. This
can only happen if the breath is slowed down and the body is softened; in addition, the mind needs to
be quietened and calmed. Stress is a major concern for many in the modern world and yoga can bring a
welcome relief to this problem. In a stressed person this will not happen automatically but with practice it
will become easier for them to ‘let go’. Often participants are unable to relax on their own and so attending
a yoga class can be beneficial.

The relaxation phase will usually take place at the end of the class due to the body’s natural need to
relax after exertion or stimulation. An initial relaxation can be offered at the start of the class to shut off
the external world and to set the scene for the class. Relaxation can also be offered in between postures
especially if they have been challenging.

The relaxation part of a class is the ideal time to allow silence and time for participants to explore their
inner environment. The teacher can facilitate the process of relaxation by allowing the space and silence.

The yoga teacher should act as a guide during a relaxation practice. The teacher gives direction and has a
responsibility towards the wellbeing of the participants as follows:

1. To ensure the practice is pre planned and prepared

2. To ensure the practice is explained clearly to the participants
3. To ensure the physical environment is appropriate. The room and the participants need to be warm
(warm clothes, socks, blankets). Lighting should be turned down or off. Use music if appropriate
4. To adjust the voice to a softer and quieter tone
5. If using imagery ensure that the class are comfortable with the subject matter
6. Be observant and alert to individual responses – it is common for participants to get upset in this
section of the class
7. Be alert for participants that fall asleep
8. Lead the participants out of relaxation sensitively and definitely, giving clear instructions on recovery
9. Be prepared to adapt the session
10. Ensure everyone is fine to leave the class – especially if they are driving home

Positions for relaxation

Ideally the participants should be in savasana with straight legs, or knees bent up and falling towards each
other. Alternatively, participants can lie on their backs with legs up a wall, lie on their sides or fronts or sit
against a wall or in a chair. Some participants may prefer to sit or kneel. The body needs to be relaxed to
create an environment for the mind to relax - so participants need to find a position that is best for them.

Techniques for relaxation

The following are some suggested techniques for relaxation practice:

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Autogenic relaxation

This involves tightening and loosening, and is usually performed in savasana but can be done seated on
a chair. Eyes should be closed, and there is an emphasis on releasing tension.

1. Tighten and release the feet and toes
2. Tighten and release the legs and thighs
3. Tighten and release the buttocks
4. Tighten and release the abdomen
5. Tighten and release the hands
6. Tighten and release the shoulders and back
7. Tighten and release the face
8. Tighten and release the whole body

Full relaxation

This can be short or long, shallow or deep, depending on the approach. Usually performed in savasana
but can be done seated on a chair. Eyes should be closed.

1. Bring attention to the toes and relax this area; let go of tension so that the area is soft and empty
2. Work through the body and change the types of words used for letting go of tension, e.g. softening,
releasing, loosening, freeing etc.
3. After the whole body has been relaxed, a period of silence should be facilitated (so the teacher is not talking).

Yoga nidra – yoga sleep

This technique works through each side of the body separately and can be as detailed as required. Yoga nidra
induces a deep state of relaxation and can promote inner peace. It should take about twenty minutes to practice.

1. While lying in savasana (corpse pose), become aware of the right thumb, second finger, third finger,
fourth finger, little finger, palm of the hand, back of the hand, wrist, lower arm, elbow, upper arm,
armpit, shoulder, shoulder blade, right side, right side of waist, right buttock, right hip, right thigh,
right knee, calf, shin, ankle, heel, sole of foot, top of foot, big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe,
little toe - and relax them one by one.
2. Repeat this process on the left side of the body and all parts of the head and trunk. The head can be
broken down as follows: top of head, forehead, right eyebrow, left eyebrow, between the eyebrows,
right eyelid, left eyelid, right eye, left eye, nose, right nostril , left nostril, tip of the nose, right ear,
left ear, right cheek, left cheek, upper lip, lower lip, chin, throat.
3. Adaptations and extensions of the sequence are possible. Make sure each part of the body is relaxed
and feel each part merging into the floor.

The main elements of yoga nidra include:

• body relaxation
• awareness and rotation of consciousness – the consciousness is rotated through different parts of
the body to reduce the mind’s attention to external stimuli
• Pratyhara – withdrawal of senses. The mind is considered to be naturally rebellious, and generally
does the opposite of what is required. In yoga nidra, there is deliberate attention on external things,
and as a result, the mind loses interest, naturally withdraws and goes within.

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• Breath awareness – there is no attempt to force or change the breath
• Awareness of feeling or emotion - often deep rooted feeling and emotions are brought to the surface
and released in yoga nidra.
• Affirmation – having released any negative feelings or emotions it is important to implant positive
affirmation. During deep relaxation the unconscious mind is often impressionable to positive
suggestions. Participants should be encouraged to use positive affirmations during this time.

Guided imagery

The yoga teacher can take the participants on a guided journey. Examples of guided imagery may include
walking through a forest full of flowers, a sunny day on a picnic, or by the seaside. Be careful to ensure
that imagery does not play on any fears, such as fear of water, darkness etc. If a participant was afraid of
water, it would not be pleasant to be taken on an underwater journey in a tropical paradise exploring the
reefs. Another example would be asking the participants to remember their childhood or their past; for
some, this may not have been a happy time, and if using this style of relaxation, the teacher should ensure
the journey is one that all participants will be comfortable with.

There are many other types of relaxation that can be utilised, and a teacher should have a selection that
can be used on a regular basis with the class participants.

After the relaxation, it is vital to have a way to bring the participants back in to a seated, and then, standing
position. The following expressions may serve as a guide:

1. Focus back on my voice

2. Focus on where you are, the time of day, the temperature of the room, the weather outside, the
noises around you
3. Deepen the breath and return it to a normal breathing rate
4. Make small movements to fingers and toes
5. Stretch through the body as required
6. Roll onto your side into recovery position and hold until ready to sit up
7. Sit up and close eyes. Rub the hands vigorously together and once warm place palms over the eyes.
Keeping the hands over the eyes, open the eyes and slowly let the light appear between the fingers.
Release hands and fully open eyes.
8. Place hands in Namaste

It is important not to underestimate the power of relaxation. A teacher should encourage participants to
stay for this aspect of the class. Often participants may leave early, but it is essential that they stay for the
relaxation and the final parts of the class, as they will be able to observe and reflect on what the class has
delivered. Relaxation can last from five to fifteen minutes (or longer) and this time should be spent just
breathing and relaxing. Often after this section of the class, participants do not want to leave as they are
in a really good state of mind and want to retain the feeling.

Introducing relaxation practices to participants

Relaxation should be introduced from the first session, and should always form part of the class plan.
Initially, a simple short practice can be introduced, and this can be lengthened over a period of time. The
type of relaxation method will be at the discretion of the teacher, and feedback should be sought from the
group as to which practice they prefer. Keeping relaxation simple is usually the best approach.

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Understanding concentration and meditation
True meditation is a state of deep peace, where the mind is absolutely calm and silent, yet completely
alert – a state of being also known as ‘thoughtless awareness’.

Throughout history, mystics, saints and prophets have spoken of this experience. They removed themselves
from society, sought ways to cleanse themselves of human troubles and devoted themselves to spiritual
ascent. Their aim was to achieve ‘self-realisation’ – a state of being where the human spirit becomes one
with the Divine, where fear and anger are replaced with joy, contentment, inner balance and peace.

The Bhagavad Gita compares the mind to a flame. It states that the nature of the mind is restless, constantly
wandering, trying to fulfil its desires. It flickers wildly like a flame in a storm. Through meditation the mind
can become steady, like a flame can become upright and still (Easwarren, 2003).

The term meditation often conjures up a lot of different perceptions within a group of participants. Initially
it is vital to keep meditation and concentration techniques and explanations simple. Traditionally, the
asana are done only to prepare the body and mind to sit for long periods of time to meditate.

Meditation (dhyana) cannot happen without concentration (dharana). The key to meditation is giving the
mind a single point of focus to still the mind. To enable quietening and stillness of the mind, it is necessary
to withdraw the senses and detach the mind from its constant ‘chatter’ (pratyahara). Meditation works
with attention to harmonise and still the mind. It is not possible to ‘empty the mind’ completely; however,
the mind can be given a focus.

Concentration is vital to many tasks that are performed daily, and so enhancing this ability can serve to
enrich the experience of everyday life. Meditation culminates in the state of Samadhi (absorption).

To achieve the flow of pratyahara, dharana and dhyana, the following conditions must be considered:

• Seated posture needs to be comfortable (meditation can be performed anywhere and the body does
not necessarily need to be still, e.g. walking meditation). For the purpose of teaching a class session
and especially for beginners, the seated position has been used. Easy pose (Sukhasana) is the
simplest and most comfortable position for beginners. Once participants are comfortable with this,
other positions can be practised such as half lotus.
• The environment needs to be appropriate

The separate aspects of yoga that are being practised already (postures, control of the breath, pranayama
and relaxation) will enable the participant to be prepared for the meditation practice.

Teachers should be aware that meditation can lead to personal transformation, and if teachers are giving
instruction on meditation they should be able to support participants during the journey of personal
growth. It is a big responsibility and not be taken lightly by the teacher.

Benefits of meditation
There are a number of physiological, psychological and spiritual benefits of meditation including the
following (Frederic, 2011):

Physiological benefits
• Lowers oxygen consumption
• Decreases respiratory rate
• Increases blood flow and slows the heart rate
• Increases exercise tolerance

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• Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation
• Enhances the immune system
• Enhances energy, strength and vigour

Psychological benefits
• Builds self-confidence
• Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behaviour
• Helps control own thoughts
• Helps with focus and concentration
• Increases emotional stability
• Increases perceptual ability and motor performance

Spiritual benefits
• Helps keep things in perspective
• Provides peace of mind, happiness
• Increased self-actualisation
• Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
• Deeper level of spiritual relaxation
• Greater inner-directedness
• Helps living in the present moment

There are a number of meditation and concentration techniques to choose from but a mindful teacher
will utilise methods that they have practised themselves, and know well. This will ensure that the teacher
can teach the meditation well, and the benefits can be described. Ideally the participant should be able to
practise the meditation themselves at home.

The techniques can be split into the following categories:

1. Breathing practices
2. Sight practices – looking at an object (candle, crystal, mandala etc)
3. Internal practices – visualisation
4. Sound practices – using mantra or concentrating on a sound

Meditation is safe for most people. However, there are some reports that discourage its use for participants with
psychotic disorders, major depression or severe personality disorders. It is also difficult for people who dislike
giving up control, such as those with obsessive compulsive disorders (Encyclopaedia of Mind Disorders, 2007).

Breathing practice (meditation on breath)

Initially, this may be sufficient to give meditative benefits. Adding silent counting to the breath aids the
concentration aspect of this type of simple meditation.

Sight practice (concentration on an object)

This practice is a preparation for meditation and classed as a Kriya. The participants focus on an object
such as a lit candle flame (trataka), a stone, a crystal or other object. The object is placed in front of the
participant who is seated in a comfortable kneeling or cross-legged position (with blocks and cushions if
needed). The focus is directly on the object. Exploration of the object should be encouraged, looking at
colours, shapes and outlines. After a short while, participants should close their eyes and try to imagine
the object reforming in their minds. This type of meditation can be repeated two or three times initially.
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Internal practice (visualisation)

The following is an example of a visualisation practice:

“Visualise a golden thread in the space between the eyes. See its shape, texture and length
and see the thread clearly. On inhalation, imagine the thread drawn into the nostrils, as
it begins to spread its golden colour throughout the body, mind and soul, filling it with
bright light and warming the entire being. On exhalation, visualise the release of the thread
through the nostrils, swirling like a corkscrew far away into the distance until it disappears
on the horizon.”

Each in and out breath follows the same visual imagery. This can be continued for the length of the
meditation session with the teacher reminding the participants what should be seen to ensure minds do
not start wandering.

Sound practice (mantra)

A simple repetition of the word OM (aum) is often sufficient for new participants. The following outlines
how the chant can be progressed using the sounds of the letters A, U and M:

• A – inhale deeply and make the sound A as in ‘aaahhh’ on the exhale. The vibration should be felt
in the abdomen. This can be repeated two or three times before moving on to the next letter
• U – as before, inhale deeply and make the sound U as in ’ooouuu’ on the exhale. The sound should
be felt in the upper chest. Repeat two or three times.
• M – inhale deeply and make the sound M as in ‘mmmmm’ on the exhale. This should be felt in a
powerful way in the throat. Repeat two or three times.

After several deep breaths, inhale and allow the three letters to become joined to form the syllable OM.
This can be repeated twelve or more times with the eyes closed, and the length of the in and out breath
chosen by each participant, rather than the group sticking together. Encourage the participants to make
their own sound and to feel free to experiment. After the practice, the participants can reflect on how the
mind and body are feeling and be aware of any changes (Appleton, 2004). Mantras can be whispered or
just repeated silently.

Introducing meditation practices to participants

Meditation is always performed after asana work towards the end of the class. It is vital that the participants
are comfortable with breathing practices before attempting meditation. Prior to the meditation, it is useful
to perform some basic breath work. During this time, participants should notice their own breath and to
not adjust it in any way. They should then proceed to lengthen the in and out breath.

A good time to introduce meditation is about six to eight weeks into a progressive regular yoga class. This
will ensure that the participants are used to the basic breath and relaxation techniques, and have also
been introduced to pranayama. The greatest challenge for beginners to meditation will be to prevent the
mind wandering; this is often more difficult than the posture work.

It is essential that participants realise that the effects of meditation practice may take time to appear.
Participants should be encouraged to be patient, and to form realistic expectations. Simple techniques
should be practised regularly and while the changes may be subtle, they will often manifest in a variety
of ways during daily life, such as feelings of deep peace, spaciousness and relaxation. These effects may
become apparent at different times, and will be different for each individual.

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Understanding how to plan a yoga session
The components of a yoga session
There are differing opinions regarding how a yoga session should be constructed and what it should
contain. However, session content will be influenced by tradition, style of approach and what is being
achieved. It also depends on the abilities and backgrounds of the participants in the sessions.
Generally, a yoga session should include the following components:

1. Initial relaxation
2. Mobilisation – loosen and prepare
3. Asana with counter poses
4. Basic breathing practice
5. Pranayama – optional
6. Meditation – optional
7. Final relaxation

Initial relaxation

The purpose of an initial relaxation is to set the mood for the class. It is used to welcome the participants,
get them down on to the floor and into the first posture which is usually savasana or a seated or kneeling
posture. This part of the class is used to bring the participants’ awareness to their body and mind, and
enable them to shut out the outside word for the duration of the class. Once the participants are settled, a
basic breathing practice can be introduced to calm and settle the body and mind.


After a period of initial relaxation the body needs to be gently prepared for the session to follow. Some
general mobilisation should be carried out to mobilise, warm and prepare all joints for the planned asana.
There are no absolute rules as to what mobilisation exercises should be used and this decision is at the
discretion of the yoga teacher.

An example of a simple mobilisation routine is outlined below:

1. From savasana, bring knees in to chest and perform Apanasana.

2. Perform arm reaches over the head using the breath
3. Extend the legs up into the air using the breath
4. Perform leg extensions and arm reaches together
5. Bend knees into chest and let them fall over to one side, turning the head to the other (arms can be
outstretched shoulder height) – repeat other side
6. Perform leg stretches with a strap (supta padang ustasana)
7. Move into an all fours position and perform cat stretches
8. Alternate arm and leg lifts from all fours position
9. Child pose into Adho mukha svanasana
10. Up into standing

There may be additional mobilisation exercises that can be performed before each asana to prepare the
body. This will depend on the asana and how strenuous it is.

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Yoga asana (postures)

Asana is the third limb of the eight limbs of yoga described in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. Asana involves the
learning and practice of postures for physical and mental development. The definition of asana is ‘posture’.
The word is derived from the Sanskrit word which means ‘to sit’. The Yoga sutras describe asana as having
two important qualities: sthira which means steadiness and alertness, and sukha which means the ability
to remain comfortable in a posture. Both qualities should be present when practising in any posture. The
principle of yoga is only achieved when a particular asana has been practised for a long time.

The main purpose of asana is to prepare the body to sit still for long periods of time in meditation. Benefits
of asana include:

• increased flexibility
• increased strength
• improved posture
• relief from stiff, aching joints
• ease in performing daily tasks
• improved concentration
• reduced stress and anxiety
• feelings of being balanced
• increased ability to relax and meditate
• more effective digestion

Note: all of the asana for this qualification can be found in Appendix 1.

Counter poses

Yoga teaches that every action has two effects, one positive and one negative. Yoga uses a variety of
postures to balance the possible negative effects of certain strenuous asana. These neutralising postures
are called counter poses or pratikriyasana (Desikachar, 1999).

The purpose of the counter poses is to return the body back to a neutral place in order to restore balance. For
any one asana there may be a variety of counter poses that can be used, depending on where tension may
be felt. Listening to the body is important when planning counter poses as this process can inform exactly
where/when a counter pose is needed. This will ensure no tension is taken into the next posture.

Generally if a posture requires the body to move in one direction, the counter pose will need to be in the
opposite direction. For example, a back bend will require a forward bend as a counter pose. It may be that the
posture was strenuous and requires a counter pose as well as a period of relaxation to recover. Uttanasana,
child’s pose and Apanasana are good examples of general counter poses that can be used for many asana.

The number of postures available for a yoga teacher to share with their yoga participants is vast, and it is
beyond the scope of this manual to cover any more than those required for this qualification. In the yogic
scriptures it is said that there were originally 8,400,000 asana, representing the 8,400,000 incarnations
that each individual must pass before attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Saraswati,
1996). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika lists only 16 postures and most of these are seated. An experienced yoga
teacher should have a tool box of a minimal number of postures that they understand and can teach well.
It is more useful to teach a minimum number of postures well, than to teach a large repertoire badly. Yoga
is not about constant variety; repetition of a set number of postures regularly will benefit the participants
greatly, and new postures do not have to be introduced at every session. This is often a learning point for
new yoga teachers; many postures will engage different parts of the body and one of the aims of a yoga
class is to ensure that it is balanced.

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When planning classes ensure that the plan includes postures that move the body in all directions (in
practice, some participants may not be able to do all of the planned postures due to physical limitations).
Ensure that all movements are synchronised with the breath. New teachers may need to add the breathing
patterns for each asana to their plans

Note: the yoga postures illustrated in Appendix 1 are the minimum postures required to understand and
perform in order to achieve competence within this unit, and unit 5.

Types of asana

The asana in yoga fall into the following general groups:

• Standing
• Seated
• Lying

Most of the following can be performed in the above positions:

• Balancing
• Lateral flexion
• Forward bends
• Extension - backward bends
• Inversions
• Twists and rotations


Creating an order of postures is called Vinyasa, and this is the flow of postures from one to the next. A
sequence cannot be given definitively, and there are many ways to plan a session. It depends on the
abilities of the teacher and the needs of the participants. A simple guide is to design a format which
applies the range of possible asana movement. For example:

• Standing – Tadasana
• Forward bend - uttanasana
• Lateral flexion – trikonasana
• Balancing - vrkasana
• Inversion – adho mukha svanasana
• Flexion – janu sirsasana
• Extension – bhujangasana
• Twist/rotation – ardha matsyendrasana

In between the asana, any preparation postures and counter poses will also need to be considered, along
with modifications, adaptations and relaxation where needed.

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Stages of asana

When practising asana the following format should be followed:

Static asana
1. Preparation – this involves physical manoeuvre, breathing focus and psychological awareness
2. Breath control – focus and attention on the breath
3. Entry – the breath, mind and body take the participant into the asana with coordinated grace and
4. Holding – the participant needs to experience the asana with strength, grace and control with even
and conscious breathing throughout. The yoga teacher can choose a number of breaths to stay in
a posture, but the participant needs to be encouraged to hold for only as long as is comfortable for
5. Exit – the breath, body and mind take the participant out of the posture
6. Recovery – use of the breath, stillness and counter pose stimulates balance and poise

Dynamic asana (flowing from one posture to another without holding)

1. Preparation – as above
2. Breath control - as above
3. Entry with the breath – a smooth and combined process with the body and breath in synchronisation
4. Exit with the breath – no holding – the body responds to the breath
5. Repeat points 3 and 4
6. Recovery – as above

Quality in asana

Proper asana practice initially focuses on body awareness, body control and the establishment of alignment.
Through practice, participants will break down resistance and develop further physical knowledge and
skill. Participants are looking to achieve steadiness (sthira) and comfort (sukham). This can also be
phrased as ‘kind effort’. Asana is indivisible from the breath, and therefore all practice must be pursued
with breath awareness and breathing ease.

Quality is as much a question of attitude and approach, as it is physical technique. Discipline and focus needs
to be present but the mind needs to be centred and calm (mental ease). The attention needs to avoid pride
and ego drive gain, while maintaining effort and control. While being focused and committed, the participant
needs to avoid becoming over serious and over concentrated. Yoga teachers and participants should look for
development and progress, but only in the presence of Shanti (quiet, peaceful, effervescent joy).

Safety in asana

Safe teaching is built on knowledge, skills, respect, sensitivity, integrity, and ego free motives. Yoga teachers
need to develop knowledge of the demands of the Asanas and skill in their formation via:

• continuous development and exposure to on-going study

• dedicated and exploratory personal practice

Each participant will experience the asana differently. The yoga teacher needs to expect these individual
differences, and expect to individualise practice for them. Teachers need to be aware of any prohibitions
and precautions, and adhere to these. Postures will often require modification, and limitations will need to
be accepted. The yoga teacher needs to promote non-competitiveness and sensitive practice with patient
development. It is important for the yoga teacher to teach the ability to breathe into a posture, in order to
relax and soften.

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A yoga teacher should be respectful and approachable at all times; to break through some of the body’s
restrictions will take confidence and persistence from the participants.

Basic breathing and pranayama practice

Breathing practices can be performed at the start of the class (before or after initial relaxation) or after the
asana part of the class before relaxation and meditation.

Meditation and relaxation

Meditation and relaxation is always carried out at the end of the class.

Other aspects of a yoga session

The yoga environment

The environment in which a yoga session takes place is vital to the success of the entire experience for the
participants. Yogi practitioners deem their yoga environment as sacred; therefore, a certain amount of consideration
should be taken into account when it comes to deciding on the ideal environment for a yoga session.

Yoga always begins with relaxation and awareness of the breath before moving onto the actual performance
of yoga postures. This will enable the participants to reach the required mind-set to engage in the yoga
practice, and help them to gain a deeper level of meditation experience. The chosen area must facilitate
this spiritual and meditative experience.

The factors that should be considered in a yoga environment include the following:

• It must provide the least possible distraction

• It must facilitate meditation
• It must be physically convenient and comfortable
• It must not set any form of physical limitation to the performance of yoga postures

Types of flooring

A substantial amount of yoga postures are done lying or sitting on the floor, which is why the type of
flooring is a vital aspect to consider.

• Wooden or laminate floor - most sessions will be performed on a wooden style floor, either a purpose
build studio floor, or maybe a village hall. Experts believe that the practice of yoga on a wooden floor
is fine provided that there is enough cushioning using a yoga mat to support weight and absorb the
impact of the body against the floor. The floor needs to be clean and free from grease, water or any
substances that may cause participants to slip
• Carpet - carpeted flooring is a more ideal type of flooring for yoga but many studios will not have a
carpeted studio

Outdoor space or garden

Some teachers may get the opportunity to teach sessions outside. Yoga performed on a grass area can be
both revitalising and therapeutic. Yoga retreats usually have the yoga sessions outside, with scenic views of
nature that provide an ideal environment for soothing the mind for meditation. Check that any Insurance
policies cover practice of yoga sessions outdoors.

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The temperature needs to be reasonably warm for yoga participants. Ideally the temperature of a studio
should be turned up in ample time prior to the start of a yoga session. This is often not possible in busy
health and fitness clubs therefore encourage participants to bring extra clothing, and ensure they have
socks and blankets for relaxation and meditation practices at the end.


Where possible avoid any artificial lighting. Keep lighting as low as possible and ask the participants their
thoughts on the lighting of the environment. It is easier in the summer months to do without artificial
lighting but not so easy in winter. The lights for an aerobics class will not be suitable for yoga. The lighting
needs to create a calming atmosphere.

Noise levels

Yoga sessions should be practised in a quiet environment and, where possible, distractions should be
minimised. Generally, a yoga teacher will not use music, but if there is a continual external noise, music
can help to eliminate this. If music is used, the volume should be kept low.

Aims and objectives for session planning and teaching

Each session or series of sessions should have a purpose, meaning and a rationale, and should fit in with
a pre-prepared strategy. This strategy is set via the session aims and objectives.

The statement of aims and objectives will help teachers design the session – to include content, methods,
and required resources, as well as provide a basis for session evaluation. When planning a series of
sessions, the key question to ask is: “How will the aim and objective for the individual sessions help
achieve the overall aim and objectives of the series of sessions?”

Planning a session should always consider the participants health, age and goals.

Aims should be clear and specific; objectives should be observable and measurable to show that the aim is
being achieved.

These are brief statements setting out the overall intention of the individual session or series of sessions. The
aims are the initial building blocks (the purpose) from which the objectives and lesson plans then follow.

These are intended learning outcomes that hold specific statements. These statements describe the specific
mechanisms for how something is to be attained. It is intended the participant will have learnt or will be
able to do something as a result of achieving a learning outcome.

Objectives should be phrased in terms of what participants will know and can do, rather than what teachers
intend. The following are useful terms to use: “understand”, “become aware of”, “appreciate”, “and comprehend”.

Example of session aims and objectives

My aim in teaching this session is to create mental peace and physical well-being in my participants.

Objectives - by the end of the series of sessions the participants will be able to:

1. move the body gracefully into a range of postures

2. demonstrate even and deep breathing
3. lie still for ten minutes in quiet relaxation

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Incorporating teaching aids with a yoga session
Modifications and adaptations
Modification and adaptation are ways of making an asana more accessible for participants. A modification
is a small alteration or adjustment; an adaptation is something that is changed so an asana becomes more
suitable to a participant. Alternative postures can be offered for those that cannot be achieved. Teaching
aids can be used to modify and adapt a posture to help participants feel comfortable and engaged.

All participants should be asked to communicate any problems they are having with any of the taught
asanas. If there is an area causing a problem for a participant when performing an asana, the teacher will
need to think of a way to firstly make the asana more comfortable for the participant; secondly, they will
need to think of how to develop the area further, either through strength or flexibility practice. The most
important modification is for the participant to ‘regress’ to an easier or more comfortable version of the
posture, i.e. stopping at a point where they will feel ‘kind effort’.

Yoga should never be a ‘one-approach-suits-all’ way of working. It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure
that asanas are taught with the needs of the individual. If alternative poses, or ways of doing poses, are
not presented, there is a real risk of deterring beginners, who may become frustrated or discouraged by
their seeming inability to ‘perfect’ the asanas. Even worse, inappropriate, or unmodified poses, can often
lead to strain or injury over time - especially in the forward bends.

For example, Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) is often approached with a ‘grasping’ mentality.
Most participants do not have highly flexible hamstrings, and when not discouraged from doing so, will
reach to grab the feet, regardless of whether or not this compromises the essence of the asana.

Ask participants to sit on at least one block and use a block placed under the knees, to ease the pressure
on the hamstrings and lower back. With this simple modification, the posture is instantly transformed,
becoming far more comfortable and accessible.

It is beyond the scope of this text to give guidance for all modifications and adaptations for all asana.
However, the following guidance can be applied to the general asana groups of standing, seated and lying.
The best way to learn what works with participants is through direct teaching experience. Yoga workshops
can also provide extensive knowledge and an insight into different modifications and adaptations.

A good teacher will always have some teaching aids at hand to assist them with the modification process.
The following aids can be utilised to support participants and make them more comfortable:

• Foam blocks
• Bricks
• Straps
• Blankets
• Bolsters
• Chairs
• Walls

Modifications to standing postures

Standing postures require good general posture and strong knees and ankles. When teaching any balancing
postures, chairs and walls can be used to support a participant and align their body. A wall is also useful to
encourage good posture in asanas such as Tadasana (mountain pose) and Vrkasana (tree pose). Postures
such as Trikonasana (triangle) and Virabhadrasana (warrior) also work well against a wall.

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Modifications to seated postures

There are many seated postures that range from simple sitting to those that involve forward bending and
rotation. All seated postures require a great deal of hip flexibility and require a reasonable amount of
looseness in the quadriceps, and knee and ankle joints. Participants with hip and knee issues will always
require some sort of modification or adaptation to seated postures. For participants with limited flexibility
it can help to sit on a folded blanket or block. This gives slightly better flexion of the knee and reduces
tension in the hamstrings. The natural lowering of the knees to below hip level encourages a better attitude
in the pelvis/lumbar area.

Postures that involve kneeling or full flexion of the knee joint, such as Vajrasana (hero pose), may need modifying
by placing a blanket or block behind the knee joint to decrease the severity of the angle behind the knee.

For postures that involve straight legs, the knees can be bent slightly and straps can be introduced to
preserve the straightness of the back in postures such as Janu Sirsasana (forward bend with one foot
against the thigh) and the previous example, Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend).

Participants performing Seated twists can use a blanket or block to place under one buttock to allow the
spine to remain upright.

Modifications to lying postures

In prone lying back bends that involve the hands, such as Bhujangasana (cobra), and Salabhasana
(locust), participants with wrist problems should be advised only to hold the postures for a short period of
time. This will also apply to Adhomukha Svanasana (downward dog) which can also be adapted by the
participant performing on fists or forearms.

In postures where the hands need to hold on to the feet, such as Dhanurasana (bow), a strap can be used
to reduce the distance the participant needs to stretch.

Most postures are entered using a stage by stage approach. It is vital that the participant stops at a stage
where they feel comfortable. Shoulder stand is an excellent example of this approach: beginners need only
place their legs up the wall, and then this will progress to hips raised and then eventually a free standing
shoulder stand. Even then, there are adaptations for the hands and leg positions.

Using teaching aids to support participants

Yoga teaching aids such as straps and blocks should be used mindfully and with purpose. Typically these
aids help participants stretch deeper into a pose to make it more accessible, or support them in a pose so
it produces a more relaxing experience. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, teaching aids can help participants
reach perfection in each pose. Teachers should be open to using straps and blocks in creative ways to help
participants practise yoga.

The following information provides general guidelines on using straps and blocks in seated and standing postures.

Using straps in seated postures

The central spot of the strap should be wrapped around the bottom of one foot, or both feet, for seated
poses such as seated forward bend or boat posture. By holding the ends of the strap and pulling gently,
the stretch is deepened and the postures are more accessible. Ensure that participants avoid locking the
knees, in poses where one or both legs are straight.

For any bound postures, one end of the strap should be held in each hand so the fingers do not have to
clasp together. For example, in bound side angle with the right knee bent, the right hand reaches under
the right thigh with one end of the strap in the right hand. The left arm reaches behind the back, grabbing
the other end, and then the chest and shoulder is pulled back to align with the lower body.

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Using straps in standing postures
Standing balance postures can be made easier with a strap. For extended hand-to-big-toe posture, the
centre of the strap is wrapped around the bottom of one foot. The ends of the strap are held and the leg
is raised up. Participants can be challenged by having them wind the strap around their hands until they
can eventually do the pose without it.

Using blocks for standing postures

A block can be used as a floor raise for standing poses such as side angle, triangle, revolved triangle or
balanced half-moon. Instead of trying to bring the hand all the way to the floor, the block helps the floor
come nearer. Two blocks should be used in warrior three pose, if participants don’t want to float arms
above the floor - a block is placed under each hand.

Whilst participants isolate muscles and keep knees parallel in chair posture, supine twist, or bridge, a
block can be placed between the thighs and squeezed to engage the inner thigh muscles. The contraction
is maintained while the posture is held.

Blocks can be used to raise the hips up during floor poses. Participants can sit on a block during easy
seated posture and meditation. Also, the block can be placed under the hips during ‘child’ or hero pose.
This modification is helpful for tight hip, back and leg muscles (Cummins, 2011).

Teaching aids versus minimalist approach

It is interesting to note that the original yogis didn’t practise with foam blocks, straps, or mats. But as yoga
evolved, many practitioners discovered that certain aids could help deepen their explorations.

Among modern yogis, attitudes toward props range from the Zen-like minimalism of those who shun all but a
yoga mat, to the abundance of those who travel with an extra suitcase filled with yoga accessories. Regardless
of personal views of teaching aids, a few guidelines can help make informed decisions about their use:

Be clear about their purpose

Mindlessly using a block and straps to support participants will do little to deepen the teaching practice. Teachers
should ask themselves what purpose the extra support is serving and let that answer guide its subsequent use.
Are the blocks allowing participants to move into a posture because they aren’t yet supple enough to manage
on their own? If so, the teacher should consider ways to lessen their reliance on that aid over time.

Be your own teacher

Use body’s signals to devise new and effective ways of using props to enhance practice. For example,
if a certain part of the body requires extra support in a resting pose, the teacher can wedge a towel or
shirt beneath that area and observe what happens. Or if a participant is challenged with a new pose, the
teacher should ascertain whether any props might help.

Explore new territory

If a rolled-up blanket is supporting a participant’s back during a restorative pose, explore how varying the
size and position of it alters the experience. Or if straps are being used to help participants understand a
particular action or direction in a posture, the teacher may choose to repeat that same pose without props
from time to time to explore the differences.

Be creative
A teaching aid can be considered to be any aid that helps access a posture more fully. Therefore walls,
tables, balls, books, wooden bricks, cushions, bolsters, socks, neckties, and even the guiding hands of
another participant can all be used to deepen exploration.

Practice non-attachment
Ideally, yoga leads participants toward greater flexibility and adaptability. Teachers should not become too attached
to using teaching aids to the extent that participants can’t practice without them. If aids are used regularly,
participants should be challenged periodically to practise without their use. On the other hand, yoga minimalists
can incorporate a few aids into their classes occasionally, simply to explore how they might be helpful.

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Planning a series of progressive yoga sessions
There are many ways to create a yoga class teaching plan, however, all sessions should have a balanced
mix of familiar asanas and new work, to make each session productive and invigorating.

Some teachers like to build sessions around particular themes, such as hip opening asanas or Ayurvedic
principles. Each session or week will have detailed sequences and some structures may have set
components each time. For many teachers, having a plan to follow may allow more time for one-on-
one guidance and additional education between postures; invariably, any plan will allow participants to
evaluate their personal progress.

While planning is encouraged for new yoga teachers, experienced teachers may prefer to rely on the dynamics
and mood of the class at that moment, as well as using other intuitive means by which to direct the session.

There are a number of ways to develop a yoga class teaching plan. However, many of the components are
similar. A common structure will include the following:

1. An opening and initial relaxation that focuses on getting the class through the door and on to their
mat. The class should be encouraged to focus on the practice ahead, and the use of a visualisation
or breathing exercise may be useful in this respect.
2. A warm-up series, which often sets the intention of asana practice by awakening the parts of the
body involved in the core sequence. This may include an initial mobilisation.
3. Core sequence, during which time participants will move through a series of standing and sitting
postures that reflect the session objectives. Attention should also be paid to the energy of the
members along with counter poses.
4. Breathing practices, including Pranayama
5. Meditation
6. Relaxation, often using savasana, or corpse pose; some guided meditation may also be useful.

The length of each component will depend on the session time. Typically, in an hour-long class, the
following timings can be adopted:

• Opening – 5 minutes
• Warm-up – 10 minutes
• Core programme – 40 minutes
• Closing – 5 minutes

If the class is 90 minutes, teachers may wish to maintain the core programme between 40-50 minutes
(depending on the intensity), but then factor in extra time in the open and close for deeper breathing exercises.

Yoga session ideas

Around the time of day

In the morning, classes can be developed around energy-boosting poses, such as the sun salutation
sequence and the warrior series. In the evening, relaxing and restorative sessions may be beneficial that
include postures which release tension, such as pigeon pose, forward bends, and spinal twists.

Focusing on a particular body part

Popular segments might include a hip-opening series, building back strength, and opening the chest.

Involving a theme
Sessions can be created around different themes including balancing postures, expanding or improving a
chakra, new postures, or different breathing techniques.

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Expanding personal options
For a beginners’ class, participants should be supported when moving on to the next level by demonstrating
the intermediate stages of each common posture. This will help them practise collectively and maintain a
sense of comfort while still advancing their individual practice.

Also, it is important to directly ask participants what they’re interested in learning. Such feedback can
inspire teachers to review their teachings and explore something different (Kelly, 2011).

Using sequences
A sequence cannot be given definitively, and will depend on the teacher’s abilities and the needs of the
participants. A guide is to design a format that applies a range of possible asana movements. For example:

• Upright standing – Tadasana

• Inversion – Sarvangasana
• Flexion – Janu Sirsasana
• Lateral flexion – Trikonasana
• Extension – Bhujangasana
• Rotation – Maricyasana
• Prone – Savasana

Once the postures have been decided, they can be placed in an order of flow. The movements should flow
(Vinyasa) so that standing postures are grouped together, seated postures are grouped together and lying
postures are grouped together. This avoids the participant having to sit down and stand up in-between
postures. Within the Vinyasa the teacher will need to include preparation postures, modification, counter
pose and recovery postures.

It is preferable to establish a personal repertoire of techniques and then draw from these without the need
to continuously change the classes and include something new. Participants generally enjoy classes that
are repetitive and include postures which they can practise and progress.

Class planning
A good class plan will be incorporated into a long term class plan of usually ten or twelve weeks (or longer).
Again, this will depend on the participants and what the goals of the class are. Classes can be themed,
for example core strength, leg strength, yoga for stress, yoga for runners etc. A plan should include the
following aspects:

• Aims and objectives

• Brief overview
• Asana with illustrations
• Benefits of the asana
• Modifications/adaptations/alternatives
• Prohibition and precaution
• Breathing practice/pranayama techniques
• Meditation techniques
• Relaxation techniques
• Teaching points
• Resources/teaching aids
• Health and safety aspects
• Hand-outs/evaluation and review

Note: Appendix 2 contains examples of individual lesson plans for two yoga sessions (week two and
week nine of a ten week series), and a plan for a series of yoga sessions (a ten week plan).

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Setting up a private yoga class
Teaching yoga can be extremely gratifying. In addition to helping people build strength, gain flexibility, stay
healthy and experience an inner peace, yoga teachers can also benefit from paid work within a low-stress
environment. As well as yoga classes, there is potential to progress into yoga therapy, meditation classes,
pre- and post-natal yoga, children’s yoga, corporate yoga, and fitness.

Regardless of the pathway that a yoga teacher may take, there are two important factors to consider when
setting up a private yoga class – venue and marketing.

There are two main ways to start teaching classes. The first is to rent space in a studio or local hall, or to
become employed by a fitness centre. Since yoga studios vary by size, location, type, staff, and classes
offered, start-up costs vary widely as well.

When looking for a suitable space or venue to teach yoga, it’s important to keep the customers in mind
- what is most convenient for them? Ideally, being close to other businesses that are already attracting
that type of customer would be beneficial – therefore it’s important to notice competitor locations and also
parking for customers.

When choosing a location, it’s also useful to allow scope for retail income opportunities. Participants will look
to teachers for expert advice on yoga mats, bags, blocks, clothing, etc. Such items can be made available
on-site or at point of sale, and company logos can even be printed on them to promote the business.

As an alternative to looking for a venue or hiring a space, teachers may want to consider being employed
by one of the following:

• Yoga Studios
• Leisure centres
• Health Clubs
• Corporate businesses
• Educational institutions (universities, colleges, and adult education)

When approaching the above to seek work yoga teachers should consider the following:

• Prepare an effective CV and cover letter

• Find out where job openings for yoga teachers are advertised and how to find unadvertised jobs
• Dress appropriately, and prepare and plan for any expected questions in an interview for a yoga
teaching job
• Decide on the best way to demonstrate your skills to employers
• Break into yoga teacher jobs through substitute teaching (cover other people’s classes)
• Find out what the typical pay rates are

The Business Centre (2011) also recommends the following when setting up a business:

• Who is your target market?

• Create a business plan
• Consider any legal matters and insurance
• Choose a location:
o pros and cons of teaching from home
o inexpensive options for renting space for a few yoga classes per week
o leasing a full-time space
o designing your space

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• Start-up costs for:
o a home studio
o part-time studio rental
o full-time rental of a studio
• Setting your prices for classes, drop-ins, monthly fees, term fees, course fees and private sessions
• Inexpensive ways to market your classes to attract students
• How to ensure you get paid

Marketing is a key part of a successful yoga class. Teachers will need to decide which customers to target,
as well as determining how they will reach and win new customers. At the same time, it’s important to
keep existing customers happy, through regular service reviews and improvements. These processes are
part of the marketing plan, which sets out clear objectives and explains how they will be achieved..

Marketing objectives

Marketing objectives should be based on understanding strengths and weaknesses in the environment that
the business is operating. Objectives should always be SMART:

• Specific - for example, setting an objective of getting ten participants to the first class
• Measurable - whatever the objective is, it’s important to know when it has been reached
• Achievable – resources must be in place to achieve the objective.
• Realistic – targets should be set that are achievable and not over-ambitious
• Time-bound – deadlines should be set for achieving the objective. For example, aiming to get ten
regular participants within the next 12 months.

The marketing mix

The marketing mix offers a simple approach to directing marketing efforts for any business, and is often
referred to as the ‘4 Ps’.

• Product
• Price
• Place
• Promotion

To meet customers’ needs, a yoga teacher must develop services to satisfy them, charge the right price,
offer them in the right place, and make the existence of the services known through promotion (Table 2).


Services Class price Location Publicity
Optional services Discounts Frequency of service Sales promotion
Expertise Credit terms Personal selling
Specialism Cancellation policy

Table 2 The marketing mix

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SWOT analysis

A yoga teacher needs to be able to assess their market competition. A common tool used for this is a SWOT
analysis. This tool gives a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the business, together with the
opportunities and threats it may face.

S – Strengths
W – Weaknesses
O – Opportunities
T – Threats

An example SWOT analysis for a home-based yoga teacher is shown in Table 3.

S- strengths Private training facility

Flexible working pattern
No commission or rent to pay
W- weaknesses Range of equipment available
No cover for illness
Clients not available on tap
No holiday pay
O- opportunities Other professional links
Sports teams
Mothers/fathers at school gate
Local businesses
T- threats Illness
Other Yoga teachers
Health clubs

Table 3 Example SWOT analysis

Marketing styles and formats

There are many different ways that Yoga teachers can market their services. These may include:

• posters and banners

• flyers, leaflets and postcards
• business cards
• direct mail
• adverts (paper and local magazines)
• editorials
• work site promotion
• supermarket and shopping centre promotion
• stands at relevant events and shows
• web site
• word of mouth

The yoga teacher’s task is to take these styles and mix them effectively to produce useful leads. In order
to do this, the teacher will need to have a strong message running through all of these mediums. This
message should reflect the product, teaching style and personality – this is known as branding.

Effective leaflets and adverts

1. Use an attention grabbing headline that contains a reason to look

2. Explain how the features of the product produce the benefits to increase the reader’s interest (for
example “yoga techniques will help to reduce stress”)
3. Increase the customers’ desire for the product by showing actual results and listing testimonials
4. Explain in detail exactly the action that the reader has to take in order to attend classes (e.g. call or
come to first class)

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1. Appleton, K (2004). Yoga in Practice. Macmillan Press
2. Business Centre (2011). How to start a yoga business. Available at: http://www.homebusinesscenter.
com/how_to_start/yoga_business.html (Accessed on 14/11/11).
3. Cummins, C (2011). Using blocks and straps for yoga. Available at
article/337540-instructions-on-using-blocks-straps-for-yoga. (Accessed 14/11/11).
4. Desikachar, TKV (1999). The Heart of Yoga. Inner Traditions International, Vermot.
5. Easwaran, E (2003). The Bhagavad Gita. Nilgiri Press, California.
6. Encyclopaedia of Mind Disorders (2007). Definition of meditation. Available at
(Assessed on 6/1/2011).
7. Frederic, P (2008). 100 Benefits of Meditation. Available at
blog/2008/05/100-benefits-of-meditation/ (Accessed 8/11/11).
8. Kelly, T (2011). Planning a yoga class. Available at
Plan (Accessed 29/11/11)
9. Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1996). Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Yoga Publications Trust,
10. Swami Muktibodhananda (1993). Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Light on Hatha Yoga. Yoga Publications
Trust, India
11. Thorne, D (1996). Safety in asana: Class hand-out. British Wheel of Yoga Teacher Training

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Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual
Appendix 1
The yoga postures illustrated within this appendix are the minimum postures required to study, understand
and perform, in order to achieve competence in this qualification. The number of postures available for a
yoga teacher to share with their yoga participants is vast and considered beyond the scope of this text. A
good teacher will have a tool box of a minimal number of postures that they understand and can teach

Many postures will engage different parts of the body, and one of the aims of a yoga class is to ensure that
it contains a balance of different movements that work each area of the body, allowing for movement in all
directions. A class plan should include postures that cover the positions from the list below.

• Standing
• Seated
• Lying
• Balancing
• Lateral flexion
• Forward bends
• Backward bends
• Inversions
• Twisting

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Yoga Asana

Asana Alternative name Body position

1 Savasana Corpse pose Supine lying
2 Balasana Childs pose Kneeling
3 Surya Namaskara Sun salutations Varied
4 Tadasana Mountain pose Standing
5 Vrkasana Tree pose Standing balance
6 Natarajasana Dancer Standing balance
7 Garudhasana Eagle pose Standing balance
8 Uttanasana Standing forward bend Standing
9 Utkatasana Fierce pose Standing
10 Virabhadrasana 1 Warrior 1 Standing
11 Virabhadrasana 2 Warrior 2 Standing
12 Virabhadrasana 3 Warrior 3 Standing
13 Trikonasana Triangle pose Standing
14 Parivrtta Trikonasana Reverse triangle Standing
15 Sukhasana Easy pose Seated
16 Vajrasana Thunderbolt pose Seated
17 Padmasana Full lotus Seated
18 Dandasana Staff pose Seated
19 Paschimottanasana Seated forward bend Seated
20 Purvottanasana Inclined plane pose Seated
21 Gomukhasana Cow’s head pose Seated
22 Ardha Matsyendrasana Seated spinal twist Seated
23 Navasana Boat Seated balance
24 Adho Mukha Svanasana Downward dog / Inverted V pose Inversion
25 Bidalasana Cat pose Back bend
26 Dwi Pada Pitham Two foot support / Bridge Back bend
27 Bhujangasana Cobra pose Back bend
28 Dhanurasana Bow pose Back bend
29 Matsyasana Fish pose Back bend
30 Ustrasana Camel pose Back bend
31 Apanasana Wind relieving pose – spine Counter pose for backward
neutralising pose bends, warm up pose

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1. Savasana – Corpse pose

Body position/posture type - Supine lying

Technique - Lie flat on back with arms by sides but

not touching the body. Palms facing upwards and
fingers curl up slightly. Feet are slightly apart. The
head and spine should be in a straight line with the
chin tucked down slightly. Close the eyes.

Benefits - Relaxes the whole body; can be used to

start or finish a yoga session or to recover in between
asana; a good asana for yoga nidra practice

Prohibition/precaution - None

Adaptations - A pillow may be placed under the head for comfort. For anyone with a bad back who finds lying
with straight legs uncomfortable, the knees can be bent up and touching each other with soles flat on the floor.

This will relieve the pressure on the lower back.

2. Balasana - Childs pose

Body position/posture type - Kneeling

Technique - Begin by sitting on the heels. Slowly take

forehead to the floor. Arms can be beside the body with
palms up or in any comfortable position with elbows and
shoulders relaxed. Close the eyes.

Benefits - Can be done at any time during practice to

recuperate and relax

Prohibition/precaution - None

Adaptations - A pillow can be placed under the head

3. Surya Namaskara - Sun salutations

There are versions of Surya Namaskara in most types of yoga. Some styles rely heavily on the sequences
as the basic platform for practice. A basic Surya Namaskara sequence includes eight separate postures
linked by the breath. Some of the poses are repeated during the sequence. The eight basic postures are:

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
4. Lunge
5. Plank Pose
6. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

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4. Tadasana - Mountain pose

Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique - Stand with feet together or a comfortable distance apart.

Weight should be evenly distributed. Arms should hang loosely by the
sides with hands relaxed. Chin should be slightly down. Chest should be
lifted and spine pulled up tall. Imagine a thread pulling the crown of the
head upwards. Thighs should be tightened gently so the knee caps lift,
but don’t lock them. Tail bone should tuck under.

Benefits - Develops physical and mental balance; encourages good

standing posture.

Prohibition/precaution - None

Adaptations – Vary the distance feet are placed apart

5. Vrkasana - Tree pose

Body position/posture type - Standing balance

Technique - The posture is about feeling as if you are a tree establishing roots in the earth. Find a point to
focus on. Shift all weight onto the left leg and lift the heel of the right foot. Ensure you are balanced before
proceeding. Ensure the left leg is active.

Bend the right leg and place the right heel on the side of the left calf or on inner thigh with toes pointing
downwards. The hands can be used to assist but traditionally the foot is placed without assistance from the
hands. Once balance is secure place the hands in front of the heart in prayer position, with palms together.
Arms can be overhead to advance the asana. Stay in the position for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.

Benefits - Tones and strengthens leg and buttock muscles; gives a sense of balance and poise; excellent
for concentration; equilibrium between the sides of the body is enhanced.

Prohibition/precaution - none

Adaptations – Place the raised leg lower on either the inside of the calf or against the ankle bone if
balancing is difficult. If balance is really difficult use the wall as a support. For a more advanced asana,
the right leg can be placed in half lotus position.

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6. Natarajasana – Dancer

Body position/posture type - Standing balance

Technique - Stand in Tadasana. Bring the right foot up behind right

buttock and hold with the right hand. Gently lean forward and maintain
balance. Encourage distance between the thigh and the calf. Try not to
lean too far forwards and keep chest lifted.

Benefits - Good for balance and concentration; strengthens legs and


Prohibition/precaution - none

Adaptations – Use a strap around the foot to hold on to; use the wall for
balance or a chair in front.

7. Garudhasana - Eagle pose

Body position/posture type - Standing balance

Technique - Find a spot to focus on. Move weight on to the left leg and bend left knee. Bend right leg over
the left thigh above the knee. Move the right foot behind the left calf and hook toes around the inner side.
Bend the elbows and raise arms to chest level. Rest the left elbow inside the right inner arm above the
elbow. Move the right arm to the right and the left arm to the left, and entwine the hands. Pull up through
the fingers and aim to have palms together. Try not to lean too far forward.

Sink the legs lower and the arms higher to advance the asana. Release back into Tadasana and repeat on
the other side

Benefits - Balance, concentration and co-ordination is improved; increased strength for ankles and legs;
improves circulation in legs; removes stiffness in the shoulders

Prohibition/precaution – be careful with any knee issues

Adaptations – do the leg posture or arm posture individually rather than together

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8. Uttanasana - Standing forward bend

Body position/posture type -


Technique - Start in Tadasana, feet

can be together or hip width apart.
Inhale and reach arms out to the
sides and then above the head.
Stretch up tall and then extend
forward by bending at the hips,
keeping a straight back (as in picture
above). Keep bending from the hips
and soften the back into a forward
bend. Relax the head and arms into
the required position. Remain in this
pose for some time and concentrate
on the breath and lengthening
through the spine.

Hands can be placed in many varied positions – palms on legs, palms flat on floor, palms up-turned under
the feet, backs of hands on the floor. The hands can hold alternate elbows or the body can just hang (if
hands do not reach the floor)

Benefits – The basis for all standing postures; intense stretch for the hamstrings and spine; improves
digestion and circulation; improves balance and flexibility.

Prohibition/precaution – none.

Adaptations – Soften the knees if it is too intense on the hamstrings; vary the hand positions; focus on
lengthening the back.

9. Utkatasana - Fierce pose/chair

Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique – stand in Tadasana, breathe in and lift arms (palms

inwards), exhale bending the knees and sit back as though sitting
into a chair, lean forwards. Breathe in, bringing the shoulders back
and up and look up. Tuck the tailbone in to soften the lower back.
Breathe out and return to start position.

Benefits – Invigorating posture; excellent for developing strength in the back

and legs; establishes confidence in body posture; strengthens upper and
lower spine; good for weak backs, upper backache and round shoulders.

Prohibition/precaution –Be careful with back or neck pain.

Adaptations - Soften and adapt for those with limited flexibility and
strength. Arms can stay at shoulder height or hands placed on lower
back. Use a block under the heels if the squat is difficult. For those
with knee issues adopt a wider stance. You can actually sit down into
a chair – good for older participants.

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10. Virabhadrasana 1 - Warrior 1
Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique – Spread the feet wide; turn the right foot out, left foot at an
angle. Breathe in and lift the chest, and bring arms to shoulder level.
Exhale, and rotate the chest around to the right. Breathing in, lift the
arms up. Exhaling, bend the right knee so the lower leg is upright.
Maintain stable posture and even breathing.

Benefits – Helps deep breathing; relieves stiff shoulders and back;

strengthens the legs, spine, arms and shoulders; stretches quads and
hip flexors; removes lethargy

Prohibition/precaution – knee problems; lower back pain

Adaptations – modify for beginners

11. Virabhadrasana 2 - Warrior 2

Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique – Spread the feet wide, turn out the right foot, left foot at an
angle, and lift the chest. Breathing in, lift the arms to shoulder height.
Exhale and bend the right leg and drop the base of the body down. Turn the
head to look along the right arm. Stable posture, even breath throughout.

Benefits – As for Virabhadrasana 1.

Prohibition/precaution – knee problems.

Adaptations – As for Virabhadrasana 1.

12. Virabhadrasana 3 - Warrior 3

Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique - From Tadasana lean the upper body forward while

raising one leg back and up. Beginners should take the hands
out sideways instead of straight in front as shown, especially
if balancing is difficult. Align the hips horizontally. The raised
leg has to be rotated inward to achieve a horizontal alignment.

Benefits – Increased leg strength; the hamstrings are

stretched in the supporting leg and strengthened in the
raised leg; the gluteal muscles are stretched on one leg and
strengthened on the other; shoulders are stretched and the
arms are strengthened.

Prohibition/precaution – Knee problems, inability to balance

Adaptations – Use a chair for balance

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13. Trikonasana - Triangle pose
Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique – Spread the feet wide. Right foot turns out, left foot angled
in. Lift the chest. Breathing in, raise the arms to shoulder height.
Exhaling, lead with the right hand and bend to the right. Place the
right hand low on the right leg or foot. Left arm reaches up. Turn the
head to look up at left hand. Stable breathing and stillness during the
posture. Imagine the body is in-between two sheets of glass

Benefits – Strengthens legs, shoulders, torso and pelvic floor;

relieves back and neck ache; improved flexibility in hips and waist

Prohibition/precaution – Knee and neck problems, lower back


Adaptations – Adapt the hand positions; place a block on the floor

14. Parivrtta Trikonasana - Reverse triangle

Body position/posture type - Standing

Technique - From Warrior II, straighten the right leg and square
the hips to the front. Bring the left hand to the outside of the right
foot and twist to the right. Bring the right arm up to the ceiling
and then gaze up to the right fingertips. Keep the hips level and
parallel to the floor. Repeat on the left side.

Benefits - Strengthens the legs, hamstrings, hips; opens the chest

and shoulders; cleanses the internal organs.

Prohibition/precaution - Knee and neck problems, lower back


Adaptations - Bring the left hand on to a block or inside the right foot, instead of outside.

15. Sukhasana - Easy pose

Body position/posture type – Seated

Technique - Sit with the legs straight in front of the body. Bend the
right leg and place the foot under the left thigh. Bend the left leg
and place foot under the right thigh. Place the hands on the knees
in chin or Jnana mudra. Arms should be relaxed and not straight.
Keep head, neck and back upright but without strain.

Benefits - Sukhasana is an easy position for meditation and can

be achieved by most people. It facilitates mental and physical
balance without causing strain.

Prohibition/precaution - Participants with problem knees will need to use a less flexed knee position

Adaptations - Ideally the knees should be close to the ground. If needed blocks may be placed underneath
the knees. Alternatively a strap can be used around the lower back and knees.
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16. Vajrasana - Thunderbolt pose
Body position/posture type – Seated

Technique – From kneeling bring the big toes together and

separate the heels. Lower the buttocks onto the inside surface of
the feet with the heels touching the sides of the hips. Place the
hands on the knees, palms down. The back and head should be
straight but not tense.

Benefits - An important meditation posture; calms the mind

Prohibition/precaution - Knee problems due to the flexion in the knee joint

Adaptations - If there is pain in the thighs the knees can be separated slightly; a block (or as many as is needed)
can be placed lengthwise between the thighs to sit on; alternatively a folded blanket or cushion could be used.

17. Padmasana - Full lotus

Body position/posture type – Seated

Technique - Sit with legs straight in front of body. Bend one leg
and place foot on top of opposite thigh. The sole should face
upward and the heel should be close to the pubic bone. Bend
the other leg and place the foot on top of the opposite thigh.
Both knees should ideally touch the ground. The head and spine
should be straight and the shoulders relaxed. Place hands on the
knees in chin or Jnana mudra with arms relaxed.

Benefits - The asana steadies the body; this posture also applies pressure
to the lower spine which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system.

Prohibition/precaution - This asana should only be practised when flexibility of the knee has been developed.
Participants with knee problems should not practise this asana

Adaptations - Half lotus or any cross-legged position

18. Dandasana - Staff pose

Body position/posture type – Seated

Technique – Sit on the floor with legs outstretched and spine straight.
Have the knees, ankles and feet together. Place the palms on the
floor, alongside the hips, fingers facing forwards. Extend the back of
the legs out through the heels bringing the toes up and keeping the
feet parallel. Gently press the thighs, knees and calves towards the
floor. Pressing the hands into the floor, and starting at the sacrum,
lift the back and sides. Lift the abdomen and the rib cage. Rotate
the upper arms outward, bringing the shoulders back and down.
Breathe evenly and fully.

Benefits – This posture forms the basis of all sitting postures and spinal twists; excellent for posture and back ache.

Prohibition/precaution – Back problems

Adaptations – If the lower back rounds, sit on a pillow, blanket or block; for tight hamstrings, place a
cushion under the knees or bend them.
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19. Paschimottanasana - Seated forward bend

Body position/posture type - Seated

Technique – Sit in Dandasana. Place the hands on top of the thighs. Inhale and on the exhalation, slide
the hands down the leg and bring the chest and stomach down into a full forward bend.

Benefits – Good for digestion; increases vitality; eases spinal compression; stretches the spine and hamstrings.

Prohibition/precaution – Take care with back problems.

Adaptations – Bend the knees slightly or place pillow under the knees; sit on a pillow or block.

20. Purvottanasana - Inclined plane pose

Body position/posture type - Seated

Technique - From Dandasana with the arms behind hips, and

fingers pointed either towards or away from your body, lean back
into the palms. Inhale and press down into the palms to lift the
hips up toward the ceiling. As the hips lift, engage the legs by
pulling up the knee caps and squeezing the thighs. Press the
soles of the feet flat down into the floor and gently squeeze the
buttocks. Draw the shoulder blades together to lift up through
the sternum. Align the body from the toes to the shoulders in
one straight line. There is an option to drop the head back.
Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths. To release: slowly exhale the hips back to the floor.

Benefits - Tones and strengthens the whole body (especially core body strength) and opens the chest

Prohibition/precaution – Do not perform with recent or chronic injury to the legs, hips, neck, arms or

Adaptations - Start on the edge of a secure chair using the chair to support the arms as you lift into the
pose; perform with one leg bent.

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21. Gomukhasana - Cow’s head pose
Body position/posture type - Seated

Technique – Sit in Dandasana. Bend the

left leg and place the heel beside the
right buttock. Bend the right leg over the
top of the left so the right heel is beside
the left buttock. Place the left arm behind
the back and the right arm over the right
shoulder. Joint the fingers or hands and
breathe evenly.

Benefits – Aids backache and stiff neck

and shoulders; stimulates the kidneys;
mobilises the shoulders; stretches hips
and outer thighs; strengthens upper back.

Prohibition/precaution – Caution with stiff hips, knee injuries and shoulder problems.

Adaptations - Use a strap between the two hands if they don’t meet. Sit on a block.

22. Ardha Matsyendrasana - Seated spinal twist

Body position/posture type - Seated

Technique – Sit in Dandasana. Bend the right leg, knee on floor, sole of foot on left inner thigh. Bend left
leg, lift foot and take up and over the bent right knee. Place left hand on the floor behind using the pressure
of the arm to lift the chest and torso up. Take the right arm in front of the left bent knee, and drop the hand
down to the right knee. Using appropriate leverage, twist the chest around to the left.

Benefits – Spine flexibility and mobility; stretches outer thighs and hips.

Prohibition/precaution – Acute knee problems or abdominal problems.

Adaptations – Use alternative hand positions; place block under one buttock to ensure alignment. Sit on a block

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23. Navasana – Boat
Body position/posture type - Seated balance

Technique – Sit in Dandasana. Press hands on the floor a little

behind the hips, fingers pointing toward the feet; strengthen
the arms. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back
slightly, keeping the back straight. Sit on the two sitting bones
and tailbone. Exhale and bend the knees and lift feet off the
floor. If possible, slowly straighten the knees, raising the tips of
the toes slightly above the level of the eyes. Stretch the arms
alongside the legs, parallel to each other and the floor. Spread the
shoulder blades across the back and reach strongly out through
the fingers. Try to keep the lower belly relatively flat. Press the
heads of the thigh bones toward the floor to help anchor the pose
and lift the top sternum. Breathe easily.

Tip the chin slightly toward the sternum so the base of the skull lifts lightly away from the back of the neck.
At first, stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds. Gradually increase the time to 1 minute. Release the legs with
an exhalation and sit upright on an inhalation.

Benefits - Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine; helps relieve stress; improves digestion
Prohibition/precaution - Low blood pressure; neck problems.

Adaptations – Keep knees bent, lifting the shins parallel to the floor. Keep the hands on the floor beside
the hips or hold on to the backs of the thighs. Often it’s difficult to straighten the raised legs, so bend the
knees and loop a strap around the soles of the feet, gripping it firmly. Inhale, lean the torso back, then
exhale and lift and straighten the legs, adjusting the strap to keep it taut. Push the feet firmly against the
strap. For neck issues, sit with the back near a wall to perform this pose; as the torso is tilted back, rest
the back of the head on the wall.

24. Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward dog/Inverted V pose

Body position/posture type - Inversion

Technique – Stretch arms out in front as in Child’s pose.

Come on to all fours and tuck in the toes. Breathe in, exhale,
and straighten the legs while the hands remain in contact
with the floor. Lift the buttocks and hips and straighten the
spine, bringing the chest forward. Stretch into the pose and
breathe evenly.

Benefits – Exhilarates and revitalises; removes fatigue; aids

stiff shoulders; strengthens the arms and legs; improves
flexibility of the spine and hamstrings.

Prohibition/precaution – Low blood pressure, high blood pressure; stiff legs, shoulders and arms; back problems.

Adaptations – Soften elbows and knees

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25. Bidalasana - Cat pose

Body position/posture type - Back bend

Technique – Start on all fours, with feet hip distance apart and hands under the shoulders. Spread the
fingers with middle finger pointing forwards. Keep the back in a horizontal position with the head and
neck aligned. Eyes look to the ground between the hands. Inhale, hollow the back so that the navel lowers
towards the ground and the chest expands. Exhale and round the spine. Repeat hollowing and rounding
four to eight times.

Benefits - Flexes the spine and stretches the middle to upper back and shoulders; good for people who sit
in front of a computer for a long time; reduces tension from neck and shoulders and alleviates backache.
Prohibition/precaution – High blood pressure; heart problems.

Adaptations – Kneel on a folded blanket or mat.

26. Dwi Pada Pitham - Two foot support/Bridge

Body position/posture type - Back bend

Technique – Lie in Savasana. Bend the knees and place the

soles of the feet on the floor, heels placed close to the buttocks,
arms by the sides. Exhale, then inhale and push on the hands
and feet, raise the hips and pelvis up. Create an even backbend.
Aim to lift up on to the shoulders.

Benefits – Good for backache and rounded shoulders; stretches

the quadriceps and abdominals; enhances breathing.

Prohibition/precaution – Stiffness in the back, hips and

shoulders; back and neck pain; high blood pressure.

Adaptations – Use the hands under the back to lift the body.

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27. Bhujangasana - Cobra pose
Body position/posture type - Back bend

Technique – Lie on front. Palms close to the body in line with the
tops of the shoulders. Stretch out the toes. Inhale and lift up the
upper body. Lengthen the neck and reduce the space between
the shoulder blades. Relax legs and buttocks. Exhale and return
head to mat.

Benefits – Stimulates the nervous system; aids back flexibility and

strength; stretches the thorax; relief for abdominal problems.

Prohibition/precaution – Back and neck problems; pregnancy.

Adaptations – Move the hands forwards to reduce the range of movement of the spine.

28. Dhanurasana - Bow pose

Body position/posture type - Back bend

Technique – Lie face down. Bend the knees, bringing the heels
towards the buttocks. Reach back with the hands and grab hold
of the feet. Inhale and pull on the feet to raise the knees and chest
off the floor. Either, hold the posture briefly with breath held in,
or breathe normally in the pose and hold for longer. Ensure the
weight is not on the pelvis, it should be on the abdomen.

Benefits – Strengthens and flexes the spine, shoulders, quadriceps,

glutes, front of hips and pectorals.

Prohibition/precaution – Acute back, neck problems.

Adaptations – Use a strap around ankles if the hands cannot grip the feet (although this uses the arm
strength); lift the chest only or lift the thighs only.

29. Matsyasana - Fish pose

Body position/posture type - Back bend

Technique – Lie in Savasana. Select leg position (Vajrasana,

Padmasana or Dandasana). Place the hands beneath the back.
Lean backwards. Arch the back, tip the head back, placing the
back of the head on the floor.

Benefits – Good for chest problems (asthma, bronchitis); good for

rounded shoulders and sunken chest; strengthens the upper back.

Prohibition/precaution – Neck and lower back problems.

Adaptations – Different leg positions; arms can stay on thighs or on the floor alongside body

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30. Ustrasana - Camel pose
Body position/posture type - Back bend

Technique – From a kneeling position, lean backwards and stretch

the arms backwards towards the feet, keeping the arms straight.
Inhale and exhale, letting the hips come forward and the shoulders
drop back. Drop the head back and open the throat. To exit, sit
backwards onto the heels by bending the arms.

Benefits – Good for rounded backs and shoulders; opens the

chest; stretches the front of the thighs and hips; mobilises the
upper back.

Prohibition/precaution – Neck and back pain.

Adaptations – Place the hands onto the top of the buttocks; place the hands onto the back of the thighs;
place the hands onto a block placed on top of the calves; avoid dropping the head back.

31. Apanasana - Wind relieving pose/neutralising pose

Body position/posture type - Spine neutralising pose; counter pose
for backward bends; warm up pose

Technique - Lie on the floor on the back. Bring knees to chest and
clasp them with hands

Benefits - Releases tension in the lower back; may provide relief

for sciatic nerve pain; stimulates peristalsis which helps to relieve
constipation; helps back spasms; often recommended for irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS).

Prohibition/precaution - None

Adaptations – Can be performed one leg at a time for balance.

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Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual
Appendix 2a
Sample lesson plans
Week number: Two
A 90 minute beginners level class

Aim: To teach a selection of standing postures emphasising the breath and to lead a basic breathing practice and relaxation.

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• Participants will be able to perform standing postures with ease and comfort and have the ability to link the posture and breath
• Participants will know how to link movement and breath and how to hold a posture and utilise the breath
• Participants will leave the class feeling energised, balanced, calm and refreshed
Health and safety checks to be carried out:
Verbal screening of the class, checking for recent injury and illness
Check environment – dust free floor, equipment in good condition, correct temperature, low noise levels

Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
10 mins Welcome – class to Mats, blocks,
settle in a comfortable straps, pillows,
seated position either blankets,
kneeling or cross-legged chairs,
– introduce class theme handouts
• Place feet securely hip width apart
Tadasana Mountain • Attention to the weight being balanced
pose Teaches balance (top and throughout the whole foot (rock forward, Those with low blood
bottom, side to side, back and backward and side to side) pressure should come out
front) • Focus on pulling the body upright of the posture if they feel
as though having a thread pulling up light headed Mats
Awareness of good posture • Toes spread, ankles pull up Chairs
• Knees softened Can be performed against
Warms up the shoulder joints • Chest lifted a wall
• Tailbone under
Links breath and movement • Shoulders back and down Can adopt a wider stance
• Arms and hands hang loose
Aids concentration • Head forward, chin slightly down Can use a chair for
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
15mins Tadasana with linking Warming through the hip, • Inhale, slowly lift arms to the sides and up As before Mats
of breath and arm knee and ankle joints overhead Chairs
movements • Exhale, slowly lower arms
• Repeat x 4
• Inhale, lift arms overhead into prayer

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• Exhale, keeping prayer position, lower

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hands in front of body to chest
• Inhale, lift arms back above head
• Exhale, release to sides and back to start
• Repeat x 4
• In tadasana, lift up the right leg and circle
through the hip joint
• Repeat x 4 each way on each leg
(inwards and outwards)
• Lift up the right leg and hug the knee into
the chest, open and close the knee joint
and circle through the ankle both ways
• Repeat on the left

23 mins Uttanasana Forward Warms through the spine • Stand in tadasana Use a chair Mats
Bend • Inhale and raise the arms out to the sides Chairs
Warms through the back of and swan dive forwards Wider stance Blocks
the legs • Keeping the knees bent, tip forwards from
the hips and take the head towards the Use blocks on the floor
Calms the mind
• Hold onto the shins or cradle the elbows
in the hands
Promotes brightness • To come out, inhale and rag doll upwards
• Keeping the knees bent roll the spine
gently up
• Reach arms out to the sides and sweep
into Namaste and then release arms to the
• Repeat x 2
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
30 mins Utkatasana Invigorating • Stand in tadasana, tuck in the tail bone to• Stand in tadasana, Mats
Fierce / Chair pose soften the lower back tuck in the tail bone
Develops strength in upper • Inhale, lifting the arms out in front, palms
to soften the lower Blocks
and lower back and legs inwards in line with the ears back
•Exhale and bend the knees leaning slightly • Inhale, lifting the Chairs
Establishes confidence in forward as though you are sitting in a chair arms out in front,

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Counter pose body posture • Inhale, lift the arms further up and look palms inwards in line

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Stand straight and upwards with the ears
gentle forward bend Good for weak backs, upper • Keep knees tracking over the ankles • Exhale and bend
backache, rounded shoulders the knees leaning
slightly forward as
though you are sitting
in a chair
•Inhale, lift the arms
further up and look
• Keep knees tracking
over the ankles
40 mins Trikonasana Triangle Trikonasana Triangle (side • Spread the feet wide Give options for Mats
(side bend) bend) • Right foot turned out and left foot angled in different hand
• Lift the chest positions on the leg Blocks
• Inhale, lift arms to shoulder height
Counterpose Counterpose • Exhale, lead with the right hand and lean Can use blocks to rest
Rag doll forward Rag doll forward to the right the hand on
• Place the hand low on the right leg
• Turn head to look at left raised hand Perform against a wall
• Keep space between the ribs and the pelvis
• Imagine you are in-between 2 sheets of glass
• Take 3 breaths in the posture
• Bend the knee to come out (keeping a
straight leg puts too much load through the
• Repeat on the other side
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
50 mins Virabhadrasana 2 Strengthens the legs (quads, • Spread the feet wide Can be performed Mats
Warrior 2 glutes, hips) • Turn out the right foot, left at an angle against a wall
• Lift the chest
Stretches adductors (inner • Inhale, lift the arms out to the side to Vary the stance
thigh area) and hip flexors shoulder height
• Exhale, bend the right leg and drop the Soften the posture

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Tones abdominal organs base of the body down

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• Check correct alignment of knee over
Aids deep breathing ankle Keep hands at
• Turn head to look along right arm and at shoulder height rather
Strengthens arms and middle finger than holding overhead
shoulders • Stable the posture

Relieves stiff shoulders and • Stay for 3 breaths

• Repeat on other side

Benefits as above • As above but the body twists over the

lunging leg and the arms go overhead with
the gaze towards the fingertips
All the above apply
plus avoid over
extension of lunging
Virabhadrasana 1 knee and back bend
Warrior 1
Keep hands at
shoulder height or on
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
65 mins Vrkasana Strengthens ankles • Stand upright in tadasana Do not take hands Mats
Tree • Bend one knee, bringing the sole of the above chest height
Opens up inner thigh foot to rest on the inner thigh of the opposite Chairs
muscles, tones leg muscles, leg The foot position
strengthens knee joint • Bring the hands together in Namaste can be modified in
muscles • When balance is good, raise the hands to different positions

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together overhead from the inner ankle,

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Aids concentration, focus, • Even breathing, stable posture inner calf etc
balance and poise • Focus on one spot in front
• Repeat on the other leg A chair can be used
for balance

75 mins Sukhasana Aids concentration • Seated posture Use blocks to support Mats
Easy pose • Simple cross-legged pose knees
Calms the mind
Sit against a wall

Sit on blocks or
80 mins The easy breath (Sukha This breath is designed to • Sit in a comfortable position with hands in Use any of the above Mats
purvaka) quickly calm the mind and the lap alternatives
aid stress • The breath should be observed entering
and leaving the body Use a blanket if cold
Mental clarity will be • The right nostril is closed off with the right
improved after this practice thumb
• Inhale slowly and deeply through the left
It is useful prior to meditation nostril
or before sleep • Repeat twelve times and then swap to the
other side
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
90 mins Savasana Quietens the mind • Lying on the back Use a block or pillow / Mats
Corpse pose • Legs straight and slightly apart blanket under the head Blocks
Reduces fatigue • Arms away from the body Pillows /
• Chin tucked down Blanket over the body blankets
Relaxes muscles • Eyes closed if cold Chair
• Focus on the body on the floor, which parts

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Allows energy to flow freely touch? Which parts have spaces beneath? Bend knees up and

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• Follow and notice the breath widen stance so
knees fall together
• Eyes should be closed
Autogenic Relaxation • Emphasise the releasing Sit in a chair if lying
Tightening and Seals the energy created in • Tighten and release the feet and toes down is not relaxing
loosening the asanas • Tighten and release the legs and thighs
• Tighten and release the buttocks
Reduces anxiety and tension • Tighten and release the abdomen
• Tighten and release the hands
Brings about mental ease • Tighten and release the shoulders and back
• Tighten and release the face
Recovery Eases stress • Tighten and release the whole body

Give out handouts

Encourage feedback
and questions
Final session plan: Week number: Nine
Aims and objectives:

A 90 minute improvers level class with the theme ‘Liberation’

Aims: to teach a selection of postures involving shoulder movements emphasising the use of the breath and to lead a basic breathing practice and relaxation

• Participants will be able to perform postures involving shoulder movements with ease and comfort and have the ability to link the posture and breath

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

• Participants will gain insight into how the theme of ‘liberation’ can be applied on and off the mat

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• Participants will leave the class feeling energised, balanced, calm and relaxed
Health and safety checks to be carried out:
Verbal screening of the class, checking for recent injury and illness
Check environment – dust free floor, equipment in good condition, correct temperature, low noise levels
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
10 mins Introduction of class Mats
theme Blocks
Pillows /
Chair, straps

Savasana Quietens the mind • Lying on the back Block

Corpse pose • Legs straight and slightly apart Use a block or pillow Pillow / blanket
Reduces fatigue • Arms away from the body / blanket under the
• Chin tucked down head Chair
Relaxes muscles • Eyes closed
• Focus on the body on the floor, which parts Blanket over the body
Allows energy to flow freely touch? Which parts have spaces beneath? if cold
• Follow and notice the breath
Bend knees up and
widen stance so
knees fall together

Sit in a chair if lying

down is not relaxing
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
15 mins Adho Mukha Strengthens and stretches • Start on all fours Modify for stiff Mats
Svanasana the legs • Tuck in toes, inhale, exhale, straighten legs shoulders , legs a
Inversion • Keep knees soft, not locked arms – soften
Aids fatigue • Lift buttocks and hips, bring chest forwards
• Remain in posture for 3 breaths Perform on fists or
Invigorates the brain • Inhale and return to all fours forearms for wrist

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• Repeat x 2 issues

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Rests the heart

Relieves stiffness in the


Eases spinal compression

20 mins Sukhasana Aids concentration • Single cross-legged pose to prepare for Sit against the wall Mats
Easy pose shoulder movements Blocks
Calms mind • Lengthen through the back Sit on blocks or Blankets
• Don’t cross legs too tightly and avoid strain blankets

Gomukhasana Gomukhasana • Place left arm behind the back and the right Use a strap in- Mats
Cows head pose (arms Cows head pose (arms only) arm over the right shoulder between the hands if
only) • Join the fingers or hands hands / fingers do not Straps
• Hold for 3 breaths or as long as is meet
• Repeat on the other side
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching aids
30 mins Tadasana Teaches balance (top and • Come up into standing Those with low blood Mats
Mountain pose bottom, side to side, back pressure should
and front) • Place feet securely hip width apart come out of the Chairs
• Attention to the weight being balanced posture if they feel
Awareness of good posture throughout the whole foot (rock forward, light headed
backward and side to side)

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Warms up the shoulder joints • Focus on pulling the body upright as though Can be performed

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having a thread pulling up against a wall
Links breath and movement • Toes spread, ankles pull up
• Knees softened Can adopt a wider
Aids concentration • Chest lifted stance
• Tailbone under
• Shoulders back and down Can use a chair for
• Arms and hands hang loose balance
• Head forward, chin slightly down

• Inhale, slowly lift arms to the sides and up

• Exhale, slowly lower arms
• Repeat x 4
• Inhale, lift arms overhead into prayer
• Exhale, keeping prayer position, lower hands
in front of body to chest
• Inhale, lift arms back above head
• Exhale, release to sides and back to start
• Repeat x 4
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / Teaching points Modifications Resources
practice Adaptations Teaching aids
40 mins Garudhasana Opens up the shoulders • From Tadasana, bend the left elbow and If palms don’t come Mat
Eagle and back bring it up in front of the chest with the together, try to get fingers
forearm up, hand is open with thumb towards to palms or grasp the Chair
Opens up the hips, the face fingers with the thumb of
thighs and ankles • Cross the right arm under the left, bring the upright hand
the right hand up and intertwine the arms,

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Aids concentration bringing the palm of the right hand back and If balance is difficult use

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fit it into the palm of the left hand a chair for support and
• Raise the elbows to shoulder level, point do the arm posture in
the forearms and fingers upwards, spread the tadasana or have the
shoulder blades binding toes on the floor
• Raise the right leg, balance on the left, bend
the left knee and swing the right leg over the
left thigh so the right thigh is lying on top of
the left thigh
• Bring the right foot back and wrap it round
the left calf
Counterpose • Repeat on the other side

Rag doll forward

50 mins Virabhadrasana 1 Strengthens the legs • Spread the feet wide Can be performed with Mat
• Turn out the right foot, left at an angle the back against the wall
Stretches adductors and • Lift the chest to help understand the
hip flexors • Inhale, lift the arms out to the side to alignment of the posture
shoulder height
Tones the abdomen • Exhale, bend the right leg and drop the base Vary the stance
of the body down
Aids deep breathing • Check correct alignment of knee over ankle Perform Virabhadrasana
• Turn head to look along right arm at middle 2 as an alternative
Strengthens arms and finger
shoulders • Inhale and turn the torso over the lunging Keep hands at shoulder
leg and raise the arms overhead, look up to height or on hips if the
Relieves stiff shoulders fingertips other arm positions are
and back too challenging
Timings Component / Content Benefits of asana / Teaching points Modifications Resources
practice Adaptations Teaching aids
60 mins Vrkasana Strengthens the ankles • Stand upright in tadasana Keep hands at chest level Mat
• Bend one knee, bringing the sole of rather than overhead
Tree Opens up the inner the foot to rest on the inner thigh of the Chair
thigh muscles opposite leg The foot position can be
Balance • Bring the hands together in Namaste modified into different
Strengthens knee joints • When balance is good, raise the hands positions from the inner ankle,

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together overhead inner calf etc.

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Aids concentration, • Repeat on the other leg
balance and poise A chair can be used for
balance and stability
Counter pose – shake
out the legs and prepare
to sit on the floor
65 mins Navasana Builds balance and • Sit with knees bent, heels towards the An alternative start is to start Mat
stamina buttocks lying on the back and lift
Boat pose • With hands holding back of thighs, trunk and legs simultaneously Straps
Strengthens back and lower the torso backwards and slowly
leg muscles raise the feet and establish balance A block can be used behind Blocks
• Inhale, let go of the legs, when ready the buttocks to give more
Builds abdominal and straighten them, stretching the arms confidence
core strength alongside the knees
• Exhale, work towards straightening the If it is difficult to straighten
Stimulates internal spine, lift lower back forward and lift the the legs, loop a strap around
organs chest the soles of the feet. Inhale,
• Breath x 3 and release (repeat) lean back. Exhale, lift and
Improves digestion straighten legs, adjusting the
strap to keep it taut. Push the
Helps relieve stress feet firmly against the strap

Bend the knees if necessary,

bringing calves parallel to the
floor. This is half boat pose
Counter pose - knees
bent up and flop upper
body over the knees
Timings Component / Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Content Adaptations Teaching aids
75 mins Dwi Pada Aids backache and Aids backache and rounded shoulders Lift as far as is comfortable Mat
Pitham rounded shoulders
Stretches the abdominal area
Bridge Pose Stretches the abdominal
area Aids breathing

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Aids breathing Stretches quads, back and glutes

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Stretches quads, back
and glutes

90 mins Sukhasana Aids mental • Simple cross-legged pose

concentration • Emphasise the lengthening of the spine
Easy pose • Avoid crossing the legs too tightly
Calms the mind
Timings Component / Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Content Adaptations Teaching aids
90 mins Pranayama Unblocks and balances • Breathe normally Precautions: epilepsy, Mat
practice the flow of vital energy in
• Hold the fingers of the right hand in front of the headaches, congestion or
the body face in nasikara mudra and rest the middle and tiredness (with inability to Chair
Nadi index fingers on the forehead – so that the thumb concentrate)
shodhana Calms the nervous is above the right nostril and the ring finger is Blocks
– alternate system above the left nostril

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nostril • Use the thumb and the ring finger to alternately Alternative seating positions Blankets

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breathing Induces tranquillity, close each of the nostrils by gently pressing the as above
clarity of thought side of each nostril so as to stop the flow of breath
through that nostril
Improves concentration, • Ensure the elbow is tucked in to avoid an aching
arm during practice or support it with the opposite
Lowers stress and anxiety hand
levels • Moola bandha can be practised with Nadi
• The left hand can be placed in jnana mudra or
another mudra
• Inhale through the left nostril and then close the
left nostril
• Exhale out of the right nostril
• Inhale into the right nostril and then close the
right nostril
• Exhale out of the left nostril – this is one round
• Practise with an equal length of inhalation and
exhalation, for example, a count of two or count of
• There should be no strain and the breaths
should be smooth
• Practise five rounds
• The first in breath is always through the left
nostril and the last out breath is also always out
through the left nostril
• Kumbhaka and extension of the exhalation can
also be introduced once comfortable
Timings Component / Benefits of asana / practice Teaching points Modifications Resources
Content Adaptations Teaching aids
Meditation All the benefits of • Arrange participants in a circle and place the Alternative seating positions Mat
practice meditation candle in the centre as Sukhasana
• participants will need to focus on the lit candle Chair
Concentration flame (trataka)
on an object • The focus is directly on the object trying to avoid Blocks

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• Encourage the exploration of the candle in full Blankets

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Recovery looking at colours, shapes and outlines
• After about one minute the participants are
Give out encouraged to close their eyes and to imagine the
handouts candle reforming in their minds eye
• Keep the eyes closed for about a minute
Encourage • Can be repeated two or three times
feedback and
Appendix 2b
Sample 10-week plan
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
1 Aims: Savasana – Corpse pose Restful, calming Bend knees up Mats
To Introduce participants to yoga

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Savasana with leg and arm lifts Introduces linking breath to movement, warms Straps

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To introduce participants to basic up arms and leg joints
asana Keep knees soft if too strong Blocks
Suta-padang-ustasana - hamstring Stretches hamstrings
To introduce participants to the basic stretch with straps Use pads under knees
breath Keep knees soft if too strong
Cat – Cow Warms up back
To introduce the linking of movement
and breath Adho mukha svanasana – Downward Lengthens back and hamstrings Give different hand positions
To lead participants in relaxation Good posture, balance, poise

Tadasana – Mountain pose Lengthens back and hamstrings

Lower hands on to hips
Uttanasana – standing forward bend

Leg strength and back flexibility

Objectives: Virabhadrasana 2 – Warrior 2
Participants will be able to perform the Use strap to reach legs
selected asana Trikonasana – Triangle pose

Participants will be able to follow a Use alternative hand positions

basic breath practice Bhujangasana – Cobra pose

Participants will participate in a Dhanura-asana – Bow pose Back flexibility

relaxation session Sit on a block or against a wall

Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose

Seated posture – Basic breath practice

Calming and restorative

Relaxation / Recovery
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
2 Aim: Sukhasana – Easy seated pose Connect with the here and now Teach against a wall Mats
To teach a selection of standing
postures emphasising the breath Tadasana – Mountain pose Balance, poise, good posture Straps
Tadasana with arm movements Warm up main joints
To lead a basic breathing practice Tadasana with hip circles Blocks

To lead a relaxation Blankets

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Uttanasana – standing forward bend Warms through spine, back of legs Wider stance, alternative

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Objectives: Calms mind hand positions, blocks o the Chairs
participants will be able to perform Promotes brightness floor
standing postures with ease and

Participants will have the ability to link

the posture to the breath

Utkatasana – Chair / fierce pose Upper and lower back and leg strength Use a block under heels, sit
back into a chair, use blocks
between knees
Strengthens legs, relieves backache, relaxes Give alternative hand
Trikonasana – Triangle pose and stretches trunk, flexibility in hips positions, rest hand on
block/s, perform against a
Strengthens and stretches legs, strengthens Perform against a wall
arms and shoulders, relieves stiff back and Vary stance
Virabhadrasana 2 – Warrior 2 shoulders, aids deep breathing Keep hands on hips

Virabhadrasana 1 – Warrior 1 Balance, ankle strength, thigh flexibility, Use a chair for balance
strengthens knee joints, aids concentration, Keep hands at chest level
balance Give options for foot
Vrkasana – tree pose placement
Restorative, calming
Sit on block/blankets, blocks
Sukhasana for Breathing practice under knees, sit against a wall
- lengthening the in and out breath –
adding the extension of out breath Relaxing

Savasana for relaxation

Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
3 Aims: Savasana – Corpse pose Restful, calming Bend knees up Mats
To introduce participants to some new
asana Savasana with leg and arm lifts Warms up arms and leg joints Straps

To introduce participants to abdominal Suta-padang-ustasana - hamstring Stretches hamstrings Keep knees soft if too strong Blocks
breathing stretch with straps
Use pads under knees

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

To lead participants in relaxation Cat – Cow Warms up back

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Keep knees soft if too strong
Participants will be able to perform the Adho mukha svanasana – Downward dog Lengthens back and hamstings
selected asana

Participants will be able to follow a Tadasana – Mountain pose Give different hand positions
basic breathing practice Good posture, balance, poise
Uttanasana – Standing forward bend Lower hands on to hips
Participants will participate in a Lengthens back and hamstrings
relaxation session Virabhadrasana 2 – Warrior 2

Virabhadrasana 1 – Warrior 1 Strengthens and stretches legs, strengthens Use alternative hand
EVALUATION arms and shoulders, relieves stiff back and positions
Virabhadrasana 3 – Warrior 3 shoulders, aids deep breathing

Trikonasana - Triangle Strengthens legs, relieves backache, relaxes

and stretches trunk, flexibility in hips
Pavritti Trikonasana - Revolving Triangle

Bhujangasana – Cobra pose Back flexibility Use strap to reach legs

Dhanura-asana – Bow pose Chest opener, stretches front of body, aids Use alternative hand
backache and rounded shoulders, stretches positions
Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose abdominal area, aids breathing, stretches
legs, back and glutes

Savasana for Abdominal three part breath

Relaxation / recovery Relaxing, calming and restorative

Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
4 Aims: Savasana – Corpse pose Relaxing Mats
To introduce participants to some new
asana and variations of ones they know Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose – with Back mobility, opens chest Stay in bridge if leg lifts are Straps
leg raises too strong
To introduce participants to Vinyasa - Blocks
Flow Knees bent - arms up and over, knees fall Mobility of shoulder joints, spine Use a strap held taut whilst
to sides raising arms overhead Blankets

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

To introduce participants to the easy

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breath Cushions
Cat / Cow Spine mobility
To lead participants in relaxation Keep heels down for balance
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward dog Lengthens back and hamstrings, calming
pose – on elbows Keep hands on hips
Objectives: Balance, poise, posture
Tadasana – Mountain pose - on toes, raise
Participants will be able to perform the arms over head with strap
selected asana Hamstring, shoulder flexibility Perform against a wall
Uttanasana – Standing forward bend - Vary stance
Participants will be able to follow a clasp hands behind Keep hands on hips
basic breathing practice
Introduces concept of Vinyasa - Flow
Participants will participate in a Virabhadrasana 2 – Warrior 2 – leading Strengthens and stretches legs, strengthens Give alternative hand
relaxation session straight into Virabhadrasana 3 and 1 – arms and shoulders, relieves stiff back and positions, rest hand on
Warrior 3 and 1 shoulders, aids deep breathing block/s
Perform against a wall
Strengthens legs, relieves backache, relaxes
Trikonasana – Triangle pose and stretches trunk, flexibility in hips
Use a chair for balance
Keep hands at chest level
Vrkasana – Tree pose Balance, ankle strength, thigh flexibility, Give options for foot
strengthens knee joints, aids concentration, placement
Ustrasana - Camel pose Give three options for hands
lower back, back of thighs
and heels – use a block
Sukhasana for The easy breath (Sukha Back flexibility across the calves
Perform against the wall
Relaxation / Recovery
Sit on a cushion, against a
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
5 Aims: Savasana – corpse pose Relaxing Mats

To introduce a selection of new asana to Savasana with soles of feet together – Inner thigh flexibility, shoulder mobility Don’t take hands to the floor Straps
the participants arms up and over with strap overhead
To introduce pranayama practice to the Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose Back mobility, opens chest
participants Chairs

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

All fours balance – lifting alternative arms Core stability, balance

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To lead a relaxation practice and legs and the left arm with right leg Perform on the elbows
Lengthens back and hamstrings, calming

Objectives: Adho Mukha Svanasana – downward dog pose

Balance, poise, posture
Participants will be able to perform the Alternative arm/ hand
selected asana Tadasana – Mountain pose Hamstring, shoulder flexibility positions, use a block

Participants will be able to follow a Uttanasana – Standing forward bend

pranayama practice Reduces tension and stiffness Use a block
Prasarita Padottanasana – wide-legged
Participants will participate in a forward bend – with twists (Pavritti)
relaxation session Upper and lower back and leg strength
Use a block under heels, sit
Utkatasana – Chair / fierce pose back into a chair, use blocks
Balance, ankle strength, thigh flexibility, between knees
strengthens knee joints, aids concentration,
balance Use a chair for balance
Vrkasana – Tree pose Keep hands at chest level
Give options for foot
Balance, shoulder, hip and knee flexibility, leg placement
Garudhasana – Eagle pose strength Options to do arms only or
legs only
Use a chair for balance
Ardha Matsyendrasana - Seated twist Spine flexibility, digestion, stimulates internal
organs Use hand as a support on
Virasana – Hero pose with Gomukhasana the floor, use a block on one
arms - Head of cow pose side
Hip, knee and ankle flexibility, shoulder
flexibility, posture Use blocks to sit on
Seated - Pranayama practice - Breath
retention (Kumbhaka)

Relaxation / Recovery
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
6 Aims: Savasana – corpse pose Relaxing Mats

To introduce a selection of new asana to Savasana with soles together, arms up Inner thigh flexibility, shoulder mobility, hip Don’t take hands to the floor Straps
the participants and over with strap, alternate knee hugs flexibility overhead
To lead a Pranayama practice for the Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose
participants Back mobility, opens chest

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Cat / Cow

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To introduce meditation to the Back flexibility Alternative arm/ hand
participants All fours balance positions, use a block

To lead a relaxation practice Tadasana – Mountain pose Use a block

Core stability, balance
Objectives: Balance, poise, posture
Uttanasana – Standing forward bend Perform against a wall
Participants will be able to perform the Vary stance
selected asana Prasarita Padottanasana – wide-legged Hamstring, shoulder flexibility Keep hands on hips
forward bend – with twists (Pavritti)
Participants will be able to follow a Reduces tension and stiffness
Pranayama practice Virabhadrasana 2 – Warrior 2 – leading
straight into Virabhadrasana 3 and 1 –
Participants will be able to follow a Warrior 3 and 1 Introduces concept of Vinyasa - Flow Use a block under heels, sit
meditation practice Strengthens and stretches legs, strengthens back into a chair, use blocks
Utkatasana – Chair / Fierce pose with arms and shoulders, relieves stiff back and between knees
Participants will participate in a Pavrittti shoulders, aids deep breathing
relaxation session
Sarvangasana – Shoulder stand against
EVALUATION the wall Upper and lower back and leg strength

Dandasana – staff pose

Pressure massages for your thyroid glands,
Paschimottanasana - Seated forward stability, soothes the nervous system
bend Sit on a block
Good for back ache and posture
Ardha Matsyendrasana - Seated twist
Sit on a block
Pranayama practice – Nadi Shodana – Helps to unwind the mind
Alternate nostril breathing
Use hand as a support on
Meditation practice – Meditation on the Spine flexibility, digestion, stimulates internal the floor, use a block on one
breath organs side
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
7 Aims: Savasana – Corpse pose Restful, calming Mats

To introduce new asana to the Savasana with shoulder circles with strap Warms up arms and leg joints Blocks
To lead a Pranayama practice for the Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose
participants Back mobility, opens chest Rest and go back in if too Chairs

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Lying abdominal twists – alternate knees strong

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To lead a meditation practice for the to sides and straighten legs once in
participants position Waist and spine mobility Use straps to straighten the
To lead a relaxation practice Uttanasana – Standing forward bend

Prasarita Padottanasana - Wide-legged Hamstring, shoulder flexibility

forward bend Alternative arm/ hand
Objectives: positions, use a block
Garudhasana – Eagle pose Reduces tension and stiffness
Participants will be able to perform the Use a block
selected asana
Tadasana with Gomukhasana arms Balance, shoulder, hip and knee flexibility, leg Options to do arms only or
Participants will be able to follow a strength legs only
Pranayama practice Utkatasana Use a chair for balance
Shoulder flexibility, posture
Participants will be able to follow a Prananasana – Hare / Bowing pose
meditation practice Upper and lower back and leg strength
Danurasana – Bow pose
Participants will participate in a Back flexibility, relaxing, arms strength and Relax in Childs pose
relaxation session Paschimottanasana - Seated forward flexibility
Chest opener, stretches front of body, aids Use strap to reach ankles
Purvottanasana – Inclined plane pose backache and rounded shoulders, stretches
abdominal area, aids breathing, stretches legs,
Skandasana – Crouch balance back and glutes

Seated – Pranayama practice - Bhramari Back flexibility, arm strength, shoulder stability
– bee or humming breath Rest out when needed
Balance, inner thigh stretch
Meditation practice – Trataka (with a Use a chair or pile of blocks
candle flame) in front

Relaxation / Recovery
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
8 Aims: Savasana – Corpse pose Restful, calming Bend knees up Mats

To introduce Sun Salutations to the Savasana with leg and arm lifts Introduces linking breath to movement, warms Straps
participants up arms and leg joints
To lead a Pranayama practice for the Stretches hamstrings
participants Suta-padang-ustasana - hamstring stretch Keep knees soft if too strong

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

with straps

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To lead a meditation practice for the Warms up back
participants Apanasana – Wind relieving pose
Hamstring, shoulder flexibility Alternative arm/ hand
To lead a relaxation practice Uttanasana – Standing forward bend positions, use a block
Aerobic in nature, strengthens abdominal Do at own pace, step back
Objectives: Surya Namaskar - Sun Salutations x 3 muscles, calms anxiety, promotes relaxation, or jump depending on ability,
each side flexibility and strength in all areas of body put knees down in all fours if
you cannot hold plank
Hamstring flexibility
Participants will be able to perform the Soften front knee if needed
Sun Salutation sequence Balance, strength
Use a chair for balance, use a
Participants will be able to follow a Standing forward flank strap around extended foot
Pranayama practice Core strength
Standing straight-legged balance Place knees on floor
Bend the supporting leg

Plank Core strength, balance Use a strap around feet,

Side plank place a block behind
Participants will participate in a buttocks
relaxation session
Navasana Boat
Seated twist

Seated – Pranayama practice – Nadi

Shodana – alternate nostril breath

Relaxation / Recovery
Week Aims and Objectives Content of session Benefits Modifications Resources
Adaptations Teaching
Alternatives aids
9 Aims: Savasana – Corpse pose Quietens the mind, reduces fatigue, relaxes Bend knees Mats
To teach a selection of postures involving muscles, allows flow of energy Blanket under lower back
shoulder movements emphasising the Blankets
breath (themed Liberation) and to lead a Strengthens and stretches legs, aids fatigue, Soften knees
breathing practice and relaxation Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward dog rests heart, relieves stiff shoulders, eases spinal Blocks
pose compression
Objectives: Straps

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

Participant will gain an insight into how Aids mental concentration, calms mid, aids

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the theme of Liberation can be applied Sukhasana with Gomukhasana – Cows stiff shoulders, strengthens upper back, aids Use blocks to sit and Chairs
on and off the yoga mat and participants head pose (arms only) rounded shoulders support knees
will leave the class feeling energised, Use straps behind to join
balanced, calm and relaxed Balance, poise and good posture hands
Tadasana - Mountain pose with arm Warms up shoulders, links movement and
movements breath Can be performed against a
Aids concentration wall or with a wider stance
Opens up back and shoulders, hips, thighs and
Garudhasana – Eagle pose ankles
Aids concentration Can be supported with a
Give out a Handout depicting all of chair
the postures and breathing practices Virabhadrasana 1 – Warrior 1 Strengthens and stretches legs, strengthens
introduced over the past nine weeks arms and shoulders, relieves stiff back and
- Ask participants to vote for their shoulders, aids deep breathing Lower hands on to hips
favourites and use this as a template for Balance, ankle strength, thigh flexibility,
planning next weeks session Vrkasana – Tree pose strengthens knee joints, aids concentration,

Use a chair for balance

Builds balance and stamina, strengthens back Keep hands at chest level
Navasana – Boat pose and leg muscles, builds abdominal and core Give options for foot
strength placement
Stress relief, improves digestion
Start posture lying down and
lift chest and legs together
Dwi Pada Pitham – Bridge pose Place block behind buttocks
Aids backache and rounded shoulders, Place strap around feet
stretches abdominal area, aids breathing, Keep knees bent if
stretches legs, back and glutes necessary
Sukhasana – Easy pose for Pranayama
practice – Deergham Swasam – Deep Take breaks as needed

Relaxation/ Recovery
Week Aims and Objectives

10 Aims –
Participants choice class – Recap on postures learned over past nine weeks

To lead a class of participants favourite asana, emphasising technique and use of the breath

To lead a basic breath / pranayama practice

To lead a relaxation

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Participants will be able to perform the selected asana

Participants will be able to follow a basic breath / pranayama practice

Participants will participate in a relaxation session

Unit 4 Health and safety for yoga

Aim: the aim of this unit is to provide learners with the knowledge of important health and safety
aspects of teaching a yoga class. This unit covers the common conditions that participants may suffer
from in a yoga class, and how to manage and adapt classes for these conditions. This unit also covers
general health and safety practice to ensure that classes are safe for participants.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will:

• understand different conditions that participants may have when they attend yoga sessions
• understand the importance of screening participants
• understand the health and safety aspects of teaching a yoga class

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168 Level
Level 33 Diploma
Diploma in
in Teaching
Teaching Yoga
Yoga (QCF)
(QCF) -- Manual
Understanding different conditions
Yoga is viewed by many as a gentle form of exercise and therefore often attracts participants who have not
excised for a while or have never exercised before. Some participants may have had injuries, operations or
be recovering from illnesses. Yoga is increasingly often recommended by medical professionals for people
with various conditions.

One of the most important aspects of being a yoga teacher is the safety of the participants. Care should
always be taken to ensure the postures that are taught are suitable for individuals within the class. It is vital
for the teacher to be aware that everybody is different, and each person has their own history and genetic
makeup which predisposes them to certain restrictions within postures. Consideration must also be given
to participants who will attend the class with specific ailments and conditions.

To enable the teacher to have confidence to safely teach these individuals, it is essential that they are
aware of the conditions and the problems that participants may present with. This information is usually
obtained by giving the participants pre-class questionnaires or asking them to complete questions via
email or online. It is also important to be mindful of any prohibitions and precautions for postures that are
directly affected by the ailment or condition.

As well as specific health and safety aspects that relate to each individual and their condition, a yoga
teacher will also need to consider the safety of the teaching environment and the emergency procedures
should an accident or incident occur.

Prohibition and precaution

Prohibition is defined as ‘the act of forbidding, preventing or stopping’. For the purpose of teaching yoga,
prohibition is a definitive ‘do not do’ - the same as a contraindication in fitness classes. Certain conditions
will mean that a participant is prohibited from performing it.

Precaution is defined as ‘prudent forethought against danger’, ‘a provision made for emergency’, or
‘exercising care’. Participants who have certain conditions may be allowed to participate in a yoga class
with suitable adaptations and modifications.

Common conditions and their implications

There are many conditions that a yoga teacher may encounter; the ones that will be addressed in this
section include stress, high/low blood pressure, musculoskeletal problems (such as back, shoulder, knee
and wrist problems), and pregnancy.


Stress is a common condition that manifests as a response to a physical threat or psychological distress that
generates a host of chemical and hormonal reactions in the body. The body prepares to fight or flee, pumping
more blood to the heart and muscles and shutting down all non-essential functions. As a temporary state,
this reaction serves the body well to defend itself; however, when the stress reaction is heightened, the
normal physical functions that have been either exaggerated or shut down can become dysfunctional. Many
people have noted the benefits of exercise in diminishing the stress response. Yoga has been recommended
and studied in its relationship to stress and several researchers claim highly beneficial results from yoga
practice in alleviating stress and its effects. The practices recommended range from intense to moderate to
relaxed asana sequences, in addition to pranayama and meditation. In all these approaches to dealing with
stress, one common element stands out: the process is as important as the activity undertaken. Yoga can
help to foster self-awareness, making it a promising approach for dealing with stress.

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A review of the current thinking on stress reveals that the process is both biochemical and psychological.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for reacting to emergencies, employing the fight and
flight reflexes. Originating in the brain, sympathetic projections exit the spine and branch out to almost
every organ, every blood vessel, and every sweat gland in the body. The sympathetic nervous system
becomes dominant during an emergency, as well as the perception of an emergency. The nerve endings
release adrenaline and noradrenaline - chemicals which signal organs into action within seconds. The
parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming and restorative effect on the body, is inhibited by
the sympathetic nervous system during a stressful emergency.

There are other chemical changes in the body that facilitate the stress response and are crucial in an emergency.
The pituitary gland and brain secrete substances that dampen pain; these are known as endorphins and
encephalins. The pancreas is stimulated to produce glucagon which helps to raise levels of blood glucose.
The pituitary gland also secretes prolactin, which suppresses reproduction; other reproductive hormones -
oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are inhibited during times of stress. Growth-related hormones and
insulin are both inhibited as the body mobilises its resources for immediate survival.

When an emergency is over, continued arousal may become pathological; it is not just the threat of
physical danger that must recede for the response to end. The brain must think and understand that it is
over, or the cycle can continue, becoming a hindrance to health. It is not that stress itself makes us sick;
however, its continuation can create a basis for a number of related conditions.

Stress also causes an increase in cardiovascular output in order to deliver oxygen and energy to exercising
muscles: blood moves faster and with more force. A vascular response of constriction of the major arteries
can cause a rise in blood pressure, and consequently, blood is delivered with greater speed to the muscles,
decreasing blood flow to unessential parts of the body (digestive tract, kidneys and skin). Vasopressin
reabsorbs water into the circulatory system to keep the blood volume up, so that it can deliver glucose
and oxygen to muscles. However, a continued stress response keeps the cardiovascular system in this
heightened state. It is interesting to note that because the stress response is a condition of the body and
the mind, its effects are both physical and psychological.

It is possible that some of the most beneficial aspects of yoga practice are the sense that things are
improving, that one has some control over what is happening - two factors that help mediate stress. There
is the support and encouragement of the teacher and the social interaction of the class, both of which
provide a buffer from isolation, another well-known side effect of stress-related conditions.

Stress and yoga practice

Many studies have demonstrated the stress-reducing effects of exercise, but the self-observation necessary
to recognise and stop the deleterious effects of the stress response before it spirals out of control, is the key.
Physical symptoms of the stress response include: rapid heartbeat, fast shallow breathing, gastrointestinal
discomfort, and sleep disturbances. The decision to stop and address the problem, as well as to admit
that stress is an issue and is no longer acceptable or productive can be challenging. A daily yoga practice
provides the time and space to experience the sensations of the body, and to interpret them mindfully
(Serber, 2011).


Anxiety is a common condition associated with stress. Awareness should be given to ensure the participant
does not participate in deep breathing or retention work, especially if their anxiety is linked to panic attacks.

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Stress: modifications to yoga practice

For stress-related issues, the following modifications should be carried out:

• Shorten relaxation sessions and avoid imagery and affirmations.

• The participant can keep eyes open if needed, as closing the eyes may be stressful
• Participants may benefit from quietening postures such as forward bending postures and avoiding
too many back bends

High blood pressure (Hypertension)

Blood pressure represents the force (pressure) exerted by blood against the arterial walls during a cardiac
cycle (heart beat). During the cycle, heart muscle contraction is known as systole, and heart muscle
relaxation is known as diastole.

Systolic blood pressure, the higher of the two pressure measurements, occurs as the heart muscles
contract, pumping blood into the aorta. Heart muscles then relax allowing the heart to refill with blood and
the lowest pressure reached represents the diastolic blood pressure.

Normal systolic blood pressure in adults varies between 110 and 140 mmHg in generally healthy
individuals, and diastolic pressure varies between 60 and 90 mmHg.

When blood pressure rises to 140/90 or above, this is classified as hypertension – see Table 1.

Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg) Classification

<130 <85 Normal
130-139 85-89 High Normal
140-159 90-99 Hypertension (stage 1)
160-179 100-109 Moderate hypertension (stage 2)
>180 >110 Severe hypertension (stage 3)

Table 1 Classification of blood pressure

Hypertension is also related to other diseases including stroke, heart attack, and coronary artery disease.
The two types of high blood pressure are:

• Primary hypertension – also known as essential hypertension, and commonly caused by stress and
injury. It has no specific symptomology. Other causes include emotional disturbances, heredity, race,
climatic condition, obesity, smoking and alcohol intake.
• Secondary hypertension – this condition may lead to kidney infection, malfunctioning of the
endocrine glands and arterial problems, such as arteriosclerosis.

If not detected at an early stage, high blood pressure may lead to arterial cardiac and renal damage.
Nevertheless, hypertension can be suspected if people experience headaches, giddiness, hazy vision,
ringing in the ears, and disturbed kidney functioning.

Participants should check with their doctor to ensure it is safe to practice yoga with their specific blood
pressure problems. Standard medical advice for people whose blood pressure is controlled on medication
is to engage in exercise and other healthy activities that a person with normal blood pressure would do. For
participants with high blood pressure the main area that a yoga teacher needs to consider is the avoidance
of postures that will increase blood pressure further.

Inverted postures

In an inverted posture, gravity causes pressure to increase inside the blood vessels of the head and neck.

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The extent of the increase will depend on two factors: how far above the head the heart is, and how far
above the heart the legs and trunk are. Therefore, a mildly inverted posture such as Downward Facing
Dog, which lifts the heart only a little above the head and does not elevate the legs, only increases pressure
in the head a little. Supported Bridge Pose, which involves lying on bolsters, legs horizontal, and feet at
hip level, increases pressure in the head to a greater extent because the legs and trunk are slightly above
the heart, and the heart is slightly above the head. Shoulder Stand increases pressure in the head to yet
a greater level, because the legs and trunk are raised to their maximum vertical position above the heart,
and the heart is raised somewhat higher above the head than in the bridge position. Headstands increases
blood pressure in the head the most, because the legs and trunk are maximally elevated and the head is
as far below the heart as it can get.

To safely practice inversions, they should be introduced gradually over several months, starting with mild
or partial inversions first, then gradually attempting steeper inversions.

In order to manage hypertension, lifestyle management that includes the adoption of a ‘yoga lifestyle’
can be beneficial (Ayammie, 2011). Yoga techniques can help to treat and prevent high blood pressure,
through a combination of postural work, meditation, breathing, relaxation and nutrition.

Hypertension: modifications to yoga practice

For hypertensive participants, the following modifications should be considered:

• Do not take the head lower than the heart, and be wary of raising the hands above the head.
• Avoid extreme inverted postures, and encourage semi-inversions instead
• Participants should not hold their breath, and should avoid excessive exertion
• Care should also be taken when holding postures for a length of time
• Any posture that constricts the neck is prohibited, and options should be given (e.g. Bridge)
• Be wary with bandhas, especially Jalandhara and Uddiyana bandha
• Do not hold the breath excessively in breathing practices (kumbhaka)
• The following postures should be practised softly with no strain: Downward facing dog, Standing
forward bend and Locust

Key research

Conquering stress significantly reduces the risk of disease to the cardiovascular system. Research has
suggested that yoga is beneficial for the cells in the inner lining of the arteries (endothelium). The lining
is usually flexible in apparently healthy individuals, but among those with cardiovascular disease or those
at higher risk, it becomes more rigid and susceptible to damage. A study that followed the effects of yoga
on 33 people (Meikle, 2004), showed significant reductions in blood pressure, body mass and pulse
rate following yoga practice (six weeks of three ninety minute yoga and meditation sessions per week). In
addition, arterial monitoring showed significant improvements in endothelial function.

Low blood pressure

Participants with low blood pressure should avoid breath holding in postures and breathing practice. Care
should be taken when moving from inverted postures and seated postures into standing. If a participant
becomes dizzy they should stay in a lying or seated position until they feel comfortable to proceed.

Participants should roll on to their right side following savasana to allow the blood pressure to normalise
after relaxation.

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Musculoskeletal problems

Back pain

Back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, and yoga can offer a simple, effective and
sometimes permanent resolution for this condition. Arthritis, slipped disc and sciatica are also common

Normal Lordosis Kyphosis Scoliosis

Figure 1 - Postural abnormalities

causes of back pain that may benefit from yoga (Karmananda, 1983). It is worthy to note that some
authors will have definite prohibition for some postures for back pain, whereby others encourage the same
postures to help strengthen the back. Precaution is needed by the yoga teacher to ensure the postures
taught do not lead to exacerbation of a back condition. If in any doubt, a participant should always contact
a specialist for advice.

In addition, a number of common postural abnormalities may also contribute to back pain (Figure 1).
These include excessive lordosis (lower back curvature) and kyphosis (excessive mid-back curvature), as
well as scoliosis (lateral deviation of the spine).

These abnormalities can increase stress on the spine and surrounding soft tissue structures, as well as decreasing
the efficiency with which the body moves. It is thought that the normal thoracic and lumbar curves, when in a
static neutral position, should be approximately 20-45 degrees. Whilst a minor lateral deviation of the spine is
considered fairly normal, a curve of more than 10 degrees would be considered a scoliosis.

Yoga can help alleviate and prevent various forms of back pain: by encouraging greater awareness of correct
posture, and by helping to release excess tension. The causes of back pain can be varied, and include:

• stress related
• poor posture or incorrect movement of the body
• obesity and poor diet
• lack of exercise
• accident or trauma to the area
• conditions, such as arthritis

There are specific postures that may help to alleviate certain types of back pain; the following routine
highlights some of these postures:

• Lying on the back, bring knees to chest one at a time (bend up the other knee with foot flat on the floor)
• As above but straighten the leg
• Pelvic tilts – with both knees bent up and feet flat on the floor
• Bridge – two foot support
• Locust – alternate arm and leg raises
• Hug knees to chest

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• Lying on the back, bend the knees up and have the arms out at shoulder height, drop both knees
over to one side and repeat other side
• Childs pose
• Recovery – lie on the back with the legs on a chair or legs up a wall

Lower back problems

The lumbo-pelvic-hip region is a common site of pain and dysfunction, often taking the greatest strain
in lifting and bending during everyday movements. Participants should avoid over-bending and twisting
postures, instead working with postures that ease spinal loads. It is vital that the spine is kept flexible and
mobilised, as well as encouraging participants to work on their abdominal muscles. When lying down is
required, such as in relaxation, ensure that alternatives are given where required, e.g. bending the knees
up, or sitting in a chair or against a wall. In seated positions it is good to ask participants to sit on blocks.

Upper back problems

The thoracic/cervical area is most commonly affected by stress and trauma. Participants need to avoid
inverted postures such as headstands, as well as avoiding taking the head back in postures such as Camel
and Fish. Care should be taken with Bridge postures (reduce lift, use piles of cushions under the neck if
necessary) and Shoulder stands (practise the alternatives). In Savasana, a pillow can be used to support
the head. An example routine that can benefit those with thoracic/neck problems may include:

• Exhaling, drop the head forward, inhaling, lift up

• Exhaling, turn chin to right shoulder, inhaling, return to centre (repeat left)
• Exhaling, tilt the right ear to the shoulder, inhaling, return (repeat left)

Shoulder and wrist pain

This is usually due to muscular imbalances or weakness, and can be aided by yoga which can balance
the muscles and increase strength in the weakened areas. For shoulder and wrist problems each posture
should be adapted individually for the participant.

Knee problems

The knee is particularly vulnerable to forces in the frontal and transverse planes, thereby increasing risk of
injury if participants do not position the hip correctly, particularly when the knee is bent.

Participants will need alternatives for kneeling postures if they have painful knees (e.g. kneel on a folded
mat or blanket instead), or alternative postures such as seated. For postures involving flexion of the knees,
a block may be used to sit on (or a number of blocks) and a rolled up towel behind the knees.

Protecting the patella (knee cap) and meniscus (cartilage between the femur and tibia that cushions the
force of weight from the body) is important. This may be achieved by lifting the toes on all standing leg
stretches such as Forward bends, Triangle, and Twisted triangle; when the front leg is bent in poses such
as Warrior 1 and 2, the front toes should only be lifted. This action activates the lower leg muscles, which
serves to protect the knee from hyperextending. The knee should always track over the ankle, and never
past the toes. If participants have a sensitive patella, a blanket can be placed under the knee cap when
kneeling in poses like Camel. If there is pain during knee flexion, a rolled up towel can be placed behind
the knee, to create space in the joint (Chambers-Goldberg, 2011).

Yoga offers an approach that emphasises flexibility and deep breathing, both of which can aid relaxation,
improve lymph drainage (the removal of cellular waste from the bloodstream) and improve strength. As
a result, it can be beneficial for most types of musculoskeletal problems (Internet Health Library, 2011).

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Clinical perspective

Yoga offers well known health benefits on a number of different levels, however this ancient art is described
in traditional texts as offering specific benefits for many types of arthritis. Two studies at the BKS Iyengar Yoga
Studio of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, showed yoga to be of great benefit in treating cases of osteoarthritis
of the hands and carpal tunnel syndrome. In both these complaints, the researchers discovered that there
was a significant improvement in the pain experienced by those patients who practised yoga, compared to
patients who were not participating in yoga.


A yoga teacher should generally recommend that a pregnant participant attends a class specifically for
pregnancy as the benefits of yoga tailored for pregnancy can be tremendous

Pregnancy is a time when many ordinary body weaknesses can be exaggerated, and the expectant mother
may suffer from common ailments such as back ache, blood pressure changes, digestive problems,
sickness and vascular problems. During this period, yoga can be a valuable form of exercise and relaxation.


Many women may go through pregnancy with no experience of backache, while others may find it a real
problem. The body’s centre of gravity changes throughout pregnancy, altering balance and often leading to
postural problems. This in turn can cause periods of muscular pain. The lumbar and sacral areas are
particularly vulnerable as the spine adopts a ‘leaning back’ posture often associated with heavy pregnancy.
The larger the load, the more likely this is to happen. The gentle stretching postures of yoga coupled with
breathing techniques can help to alleviate pressure and restore correct postural balance, creating feelings of
‘lightness’ and relieving discomfort. All postures should be adapted and modified as the pregnancy progresses.

Blood pressure changes

Many women are worried by raised blood pressure during pregnancy. Although hypertension does require
medical treatment, elevated blood pressure associated with stress can be alleviated by yoga practice.The
relaxation aspect of yoga is particularly beneficial.

Digestive problems

Many women suffer from heartburn and indigestion during pregnancy. This is caused by the effects of relaxin
and the size of the uterus pushing upwards on the diaphragm and the stomach. Problems can also be caused
by unusual cravings and not eating in a regular way due to sickness. Constipation is also often an issue,
especially if the pregnant woman does not keep active. The breathing techniques of yoga that complement
the postures and relaxation techniques can aid the circulatory and respiratory systems, and in turn this aids
digestion and elimination.


Sickness can occur all the way through pregnancy, and at any time of the day or night. Hormonal and
physical changes can cause sickness and is often very distressing.

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• Avoid retention of the breath and breathing practices such as Kapalabhati and Ujjayi
• Often clients will approach yoga for the first time during pregnancy, and this should be preceded by
a GP consultation. If the participant is a regular yoga participant, she can continue with yoga as long
as she feels comfortable. The following guidelines are generic and each pregnant participant will
need to be treated individually to ensure the postures are suitably adapted

ºº One to three months – yoga practice can continue as usual, with particular attention and
awareness of the changes in balance. Teachers should work with the participant to see which
postures produce feelings of well-being and which cause tiredness. The participant should not
overstretch or try to increase flexibility; this is because the hormone, relaxin increases ligamentous
laxity during pregnancy, and over stretching can cause damage to the ligaments during this time.
The participant should also avoid postures that contain strong twists, as well as avoid retention
of breath
ºº Three to six months – during this time of noticeable change, any balancing postures can be done
against the wall or using a chair. Strong twists and overstretching should also be avoided (as
above), as should face down postures. The use of teaching aids should be considered such as
blocks, pillows, blankets etc. Seated and standing forward bends should be performed with the
legs at a wider stance. Strong Pranayama should be avoided, and suitable relaxation practices
can be lengthened; positions for relaxation, recovery and meditation can all be modified to suit
the participant
ºº Six to nine months – seated postures, as well as those that encourage good general posture
should be a strong focus during this time, particularly postures that maintain strength in the
pelvic floor and aid hip flexibility
ºº Post-natal period – gentle supine twists, pelvic tilts and bridges are advised at this time. Individuals
should always consult with their GP to ensure they can begin practice again. Full postures and
strong Pranayama should be avoided. The ligaments will still be soft, and the pelvis and lower
back will take some time to regain normal function (The British Wheel of Yoga, 2004)

Contraindications in yoga practice

Although yoga has numerous health benefits, strict precautions must be taken with certain medical
conditions; in some cases, yoga should not be practised at all. If a participant has any changes to their
health, or observes any changes in their body, the yoga teacher must encourage them to talk this through
in case the yoga practice has to be discontinued. If the yoga teacher is in any doubt or uncertainty
regarding any aspect of the participant’s health, they should refer back to their doctor.

There is some controversy in what conditions are definite contraindications, but the following list outlines
a selection of these. The yoga teacher should ensure that a screening process (see next section) is in place
before any participant can start classes, and if a teacher is unsure about any aspect of the client’s health,
they should ask the participant to consult their doctor.

The following list contains conditions that may be worked with, but with caution:

Heart disease

People suffering from atherosclerosis and angina are advised against the practice of any yoga positions
which may lead to excess mental and physical exhaustion.

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Severe joint problems

Those suffering from arthritis or gout should not practise any such asanas which aggravate their condition;
Surya Namaskar is one such asana. As a result of knee problems, an individual may not be able to sit
cross-legged, therefore alternative asanas that can be performed in a chair should be offered.


The side effects of anaemia can often produce symptoms of dizziness and weakness, therefore Yoga
should be avoided until the participant has been treated.

General contraindications

• Regular nose bleeds

• Infectious disease
• Psychiatric disorders (e.g. schizophrenia)
• HIV/AIDS - the immune system of the person may be very weak; however meditation and relaxation
exercises may produce some benefits. Any exercise which causes physical and mental fatigue should
be avoided (Green Herbal Remedies, 2011; Jerard, 2009).

There are a number of other conditions that may be discovered during the initial screening process; these
conditions can be addressed through exercise only if the yoga teacher holds further specific qualifications
to manage these conditions even after medical clearance is provided. Such conditions include:

• Cardiovascular disease
• Stroke
• Cancer (this will depend on type of cancer and treatment plan)
• Type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus
• Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s
• Multiple sclerosis
• Diagnosed depression
• Dementia
• Glaucoma

If the yoga teacher does not feel confident or comfortable teaching a participant with a specific condition,
it is important that they refer the participant to a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

Where appropriate, teachers should inform clients that they do not have the specialised qualification and
training in the adaptation of yoga for special populations. Where teachers find themselves frequently
working with special population participants they should endeavour to obtain the relevant qualifications;
failure to do so could render them in breach of their duty of care.

Teachers should ensure that their employer’s insurance policy covers their instruction, of special population
clients if relevant.

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Understanding the importance of screening


Screening is essential for participants that will be taking part in any physical activity. Although yoga does not
have to incorporate any physical exertion, this unit presumes that physical yoga is to be taught to participants.

Screening is important as it sets out to identify the presence of disease or health conditions that would
affect an individual’s yoga practice. Adequate screening will give the yoga teacher the information they
need to be able to plan and teach safe effective sessions for their participants. Some simple questionnaires
to assess current health status can be used. These can be sent out via email to prospective participants
prior to their first class. Often the participant will complete this at their first class, so it is essential that any
problems that may affect practice can be discussed with the teacher beforehand.

Based on the results of the screening, a professional judgement can then be made as to whether the
participant can join the yoga session, or be referred to a more suitably qualified healthcare professional.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)

The first step to screening usually begins with some sort of Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire
(PAR-Q). This is used to determine a participant’s readiness to begin a programme of physical activity.

The PAR-Q has two purposes:

1. Build self-awareness
2. Help to inform the teacher of participant needs and concerns

Fitness professionals working in a gym or studio may not have the opportunity to administer the written
PAR-Q with each participant individually before the start of a session. However, the form may have been
administered by other members of staff (e.g. customer service team).

A verbal PAR-Q should be used every time a class starts even if written PARQs have been carried out. This
will ensure that any changes to health are picked up on (e.g. “does anyone have any illnesses or injuries
that I need to know about?”). Each facility will have its own method of health screening, and it is essential
that all teachers are aware of these procedures.

Other considerations

It is important that teachers have details of a participant’s emergency contact numbers (e.g. next of kin)
and GP’s contact details. In the event of an accident or emergency these details are vital. This can be
incorporated on a PAR-Q form. It is essential that the teacher knows where these details are stored.
See Appendix 1 for a sample PAR-Q form

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Health Commitment Statement (HCS)

The Health Commitment Statement sets the standards that health and fitness centres and users can
reasonably expect in regards to the health of the user. The HCS is considered the evolution of the PAR-Q,
which has existed for the past 15 years. The HCS reflects government policy and legal trends, which aim
to shift responsibility for personal health from the operator to the user. The HCS has been developed by
Fitness Industry operators, medico-legal professionals and health providers to support the evolving
requirements of users and operators.

• To develop the current PAR-Q to simplify access to activity facilities for users
• To assist the health, medical and fitness industries to work in harmony while supporting initiatives
to encourage the nation to become more active
• To bring health and fitness clubs in line with virtually all other sports and active leisure facilities in
relation to health matters
• To demonstrate respect for members by placing responsibility where it belongs - with the individual
• To be consistent with current government policies in encouraging every individual to take responsibility
for his or her own health
• To be in keeping with current trends in legislation and case law
• To be consistent with a more modern approach to individual responsibility in medicine and the law
• To provide the opportunity for a uniform approach across the health and fitness industry, producing
greater clarity and reducing costs
• To remove stress and anxiety from staff in relation to health of members

The HCS has been designed with all operators in mind, allowing flexibility with its usage, and can be
purchased from a web download centre. This allows the operator to use it to suit individual operating
models. On purchase, the HCS will be branded to suit the operator. The HCS may be accessed by
individual sites or by an operator’s head office in order to provide greater operating control.

The HCS should be drawn to the attention of users. It is not necessary by law that the user indicates receipt
of the HCS. However, should an operator in the future wish to be able to prove that a user has seen the
HCS; the operator may want the user to indicate receipt of the HCS. This may be achieved in various ways,
according to the most suitable practice of individual operators:

1. Online – users that are purchasing online contracts could read an online copy and tick a box to
indicate they have read the HCS.
2. HCS copy visibly placed on reception with a term added to the user agreement that makes reference
to the visible HCS. The user signs the agreement thereby confirming they have read the HCS.
3. HCS copy visibly placed at reception with a term included in a signing-in book or guest book that
makes reference to the visible HCS.
4. HCS copy printed off and signed individually by the user and recorded in the members’ notes in a
private and confidential location.

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Lifestyle analysis

Lifestyle analysis asks further questions around the participant’s personal lifestyle and health history. This
information is valuable if a teacher wants to work closely with a participant to enable them to achieve their
goals for attending yoga classes. Lifestyle questionnaires are subject to a participant’s interpretation and
willingness to share private information about their lifestyle; it may be that their concerns or embarrassment
about how they live will restrict the accuracy and honesty with which information is shared.

The yoga teacher should decide what areas they would like to be covered in the lifestyle analysis but it is
important that they understand their participants and their reasons for attending the yoga class. Again this
can be sent out prior to the first class along with any screening documents.

Examples of the type of information that can be obtained in a lifestyle questionnaire include:

• Medical history
• Current physical activity levels
• Exercise history
• Posture and alignment
• Functional ability
• Occupational factors – this gives clues to any postural problems e.g. hunched over a computer all day
• Diet
• Smoking and alcohol use – may highlight coping mechanisms
• Stress levels
• Sleeping patterns - sleep deprivation has been linked to premature aging, digestive disturbances,
psychological problems, behavioural disturbances and a myriad of chronic diseases
• Goals
• Motivation levels
• Barriers to participation

Important information for a yoga participant

Once screening and lifestyle analysis questionnaires have been completed, the teacher will also need to
provide information about their first class. This can be in the form of a hand-out including frequently asked
questions, and can be sent via post or email format. This information may include the following.

Information on yoga

For example:
The most common translation of the Sanskrit word yoga is ‘union’. Yoga is a practice and a philosophy
that originated in India 5000 years ago. Hatha yoga has been described as the science of living. It
combines physical movement and postures, basic and skilled breathing techniques, structured mental
concentration and relaxation exercises. Yoga can be a class once a week, or a lifestyle. Whatever you
choose yoga to be in your life, it will help to keep you healthy and happier and it’ll help cultivate knowledge
of self.

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Information on the type of yoga taught in class

For example:
I teach Hatha yoga and I vary my classes each week. I focus on alignment and breathing, in order to help
release tension in the mind and body, and to help participants develop greater body intelligence. I put
emphasis on the connection between body and breath, rather than advanced postures.

Benefits of yoga

For example:
Yoga offers ways to keep the mind and body healthy and happy. It helps to
• support the body’s systems (endocrine, immune, respiratory, circulatory etc)
• promote strength and flexibility
• improve posture
• relieve mental and physical tension

Information on what happens during the class

For example:
Classes follow a set structure and are often themed. They start with a relaxation and breathing exercise
to calm the mind and body. They move onto preparation movements to awaken the joints and muscles
ready to work in the postures (asanas). The main part of the class is asana work and classes end with a
longer relaxation

Class capacity, start time and duration

For example:
Class numbers vary from 6 to a maximum of 12 people, and begin at 1pm every Thursday. Classes last
1 hour and 15 minutes. Please make sure you are on your mat and ready to start at the time advertised
for the beginning of the class.

Prior fitness and health

For example:
Yoga is for everyone, no matter what age, fitness level or flexibility. Before you attend the class you will
need to complete and return the health screening and lifestyle questionnaires. It is important to listen to
your body. You are your best teacher. If you are unsure about anything during a class, ask for assistance.
Or if anything causes you pain or distress, let me know as I can modify the posture for you or give you an
alternative. If you have any concerns, please let me know at the beginning of the class.

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Appropriate clothing

For example:
Yoga is practised in bare feet, so you can connect more effectively with the earth. Wear clothes that allow
you to move freely and are comfortable. It is wise to wear layers, this way you can control your temperature.
Bring some socks and a long sleeved top for the final relaxation, as body temperature will drop. A blanket
or rug to put over you during relaxation is also a good idea. Please take care not to wear strong perfumes,
as yoga classes do heat up the body and the effect of perfumes can be overpowering in this environment.
Do not wear excess jewellery especially anything that jangles such as bangles or earrings that may make
a distracting noise or get caught in clothing when doing the postures.

Pre class preparation

For example:
It is advisable not to eat a full meal less than three hours before a class, as it impacts on your digestion,
making it uncomfortable for you during the class. If you get hungry or know that you feel weak if you don’t
eat, you can eat a small, light snack up to 30 minutes before the class, e.g. a piece of fruit, yoghurt or a
handful of nuts. It is also advisable not to drink during a class, as this stimulates the digestive system. It
is also recommended that students drink lots of water after and in the run up to a class.


Try to avoid any unnecessary talking during your practice. This will help you and other students to keep
focused and promote a yogic environment


Yoga is practised on mats and these are provided for you


Please arrive with enough time to be settled on your mat for the start of the class. This will help you feel
like you have committed to your practice, and that you won’t disrupt others. If you do find yourself coming
to class late, please enter the room quietly and find a space. If I feel you have missed too much preparation
for it to be safe for you to practise, it won’t be possible for you to take part in the class.


I will advise about safe ways to practise postures. It is up to you to listen to your body and practise with
care and mindfulness. Everyone’s body is different. By tuning into your body you can tailor your practice
to suit your body type within the constraints of the instruction. If you experience any pain whilst practising,
release out of the posture and let me know. If you experience pain after practising remember to tell me
before your next class. Real pain is an indication that you are doing something wrong or that the posture
needs to be modified in some way to gain the greatest benefit, and to prevent injury.

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Remember that your body is different from everyone else’s. Every day your body will have a different
endurance level and your yoga practice will help to increase your awareness of this. Never be afraid or
embarrassed to come out of a posture before others, or before being told to do so by the teacher, if you are
feeling discomfort or tiredness (Downward dog yoga, 2011)

Occasions when you shouldn’t practise yoga

There are varying opinions as to when people should or shouldn’t practise yoga. The most important thing
is to seek information and listen to your own body.


Most yoga teachers recommend women should not practise inversions (shoulder stand, headstand etc)
when they are menstruating. This is because inversions work against the natural energy flow during this
time by taking the head below the heart. Many postures are especially beneficial during this time.


Generally it is fine to practise when you have a cold; it can be very beneficial. However, please consider
other students, as it may not be appropriate for you to come to class.


There is varying opinion on this, and it will depend on the individual. It is possible to modify postures so
that pregnant women can still enjoy yoga practice.

Injury or post operation

Please ensure that you fill out a health questionnaire and return it to the yoga teacher before attending a
class. Following injury or recent surgery, it is recommended that medical advice is sought from a GP before
attending a class. It is possible to modify almost all postures to accommodate injuries.

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Legal and ethical implications of collecting information

Client confidentiality

In 1998 the Data Protection Act (DPA) was introduced to give and protect the rights of individuals who
have personal information held about them, and places obligations on those individuals with legitimate
reasons for recording, processing and using personal information. This means yoga teachers will need to
justify the purpose for which personal information is to be processed, and the benefits that will be gained
by the participant.

Since yoga teachers will need to collect personal information, they have a ‘legal and ethical duty’ to
document, organise and store personal information obtained from participants and should be in line with
good information handling practice. To comply with the DPA, the yoga teacher must obey two obligations
when holding personal information. Firstly, teachers need to follow the eight principles of good practice.
These state that data must be:

1. Fairly and lawfully processed

2. Processed for limited purposes
3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive
4. Accurate and up-to-date
5. Not kept longer than necessary
6. Processed in accordance with the individual’s rights
7. Secure
8. Not transferred to countries outside the european economic area, unless the country has adequate
protection for the individual

For personal information to be fairly processed, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

1. The individual has consented to the processing

2. Processing is necessary for the performance of a contract with the individual
3. Processing is required under a legal obligation (other than one imposed by the contract)
4. Processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of the individual
5. Processing is necessary to carry out public functions e.g. administration of justice
6. Processing is necessary in order to pursue the legitimate interests of the data controller or third
parties (unless it could unjustifiably prejudice the interests of the individual)

The participant has several rights stated by the DPA over all personal information held by the yoga teacher,
these include:

1. The right to access – participants have full access to personal information held about them, whether
it is recorded electronically or manually
2. The right to prevent processing – the participant can ask the data controller not to process personal
information held if they feel it causes distress or harm to them or others
3. The right to prevent processing for direct marketing – the participant can ask the data controller not
to use personal information for direct marketing purposes

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4. The right to compensation – the participant will be able to claim compensation for damage and
distress caused by the misuse of personal information held about them
5. The right to rectification, blocking, erasure and destruction – participants can apply to the courts to
rectify, block or destroy information held by the data controller if they feel the data controller has
misused or based their opinions on inaccurate information
6. The right to ask the Information Commissioner’s Office (body to promote and enforce the DPA) to
assess whether the Act has been contravened – participants can ask the commissioner to make an
assessment if they feel that their personal information has not been processed in accordance with DPA

In addition to the above, consideration should be given to the following.

• Writing is legible
• Writing is in black permanent ink
• Information is in a clear and logical format
• All entries are dated and signed
• Any corrections must be initialled and dated
• Correction fluid must not be used
• Any advice given to the participant is recorded within 24 hours
• All subjective and objective information is recorded
• The teacher’s full signature must appear on each page
• Records are stored securely in a lockable fire proof cabinet at all times
• Records are confidential and not accessible to third parties
• Records are retained for a minimum of eight years
• Records are only released with the client’s written permission

The second obligation states that data controllers must inform the Information Commissioner about
themselves, the kind of information they intend to hold and the purpose for which that information is to be
processed. A form can be completed online at The notification form should then be
printed off and sent by post with a fee of £35 to: Notification Department, Information Commissioner’s
Office, P.O.Box 66, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AX.

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Understanding the health and safety aspects of teaching yoga
Safety issues
With any exercise there can be risks. Yoga allows participants to become aware of their bodies (and
minds), and so factors such as poor posture, poor muscle tone and emotional tension can be addressed
through continued practice.

By law all employers have a duty to make their employees aware of the health and safety regulations
pertaining to their place of employment. The prime responsibility is with the owner/proprietor of the
premises, but safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Any accidents that occur whilst teaching a class must be reported according to the organisation’s emergency
reporting procedures. In addition, freelance instructors or contracted members of staff should check the
procedures relating to health and safety responsibilities. These may include the following.

• Ensuring the environment is safe

• Carrying out a risk assessment of any new venues
• Ensuring the floor is suitable and non-slip
• Ensuring mats are clean and in good condition
• Checking that equipment is in good condition and suitable for purpose
• Ensuring broken or damaged equipment, fixtures or fittings are reported
• Ensuring car parking facilities are adequate
• Ensuring fire exits and assembly points are clear and participants are aware of these
• Ensuring participants are aware of evacuation procedures
• Be aware of the location of the nearest phone
• Being aware of the location of the first aid box
• Ensuring the first aid box is up-to-date
• Being aware of the reporting procedures for accidents or incidents
• Being aware of the qualified first aider on the promises (if this is not yourself)
• Being aware of any participants’ medical needs
• Ensuring participants are advised on suitable dress

If your yoga classes are being run from home, there are still laws regarding health and safety of participants.
These pertain to the use of the building and possibly parking. Insurance should cover working practices
from home.

The amount of health and safety monitoring required from a yoga teacher will depend on the location of
the class, e.g. one-to-one private setting vs. leisure centre/health club. The latter is likely to be covered by
in-house health and safety policies

Wherever the class is taught, the yoga teacher has a duty of care and responsibility to their participants.
A yoga teacher must:

• Ensure the teaching environment is safe

• Prevent risks to health
• Ensure that equipment is safe to use
• Make sure that all equipment is handled, stored and used safely
• Provide adequate first aid resources
• Be clear of the facilities evacuation/emergency plans
• Record any incidents or accidents
• Make sure that ventilation, temperature, lighting, and toilets, washing and rest facilities all meet
health, safety and welfare requirements

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Risk assessment
A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. The risk is the likelihood that someone could be
harmed by that hazard together with an indication of how serious the harm could be. The law doesn’t require
employers to eliminate all risk, but they are required to protect people as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’.

The first stage of a risk assessment is to look for hazards. A hazard can be something easily seen, such as
a trailing cable, a worn carpet or exposed wiring. Or it can be something less obvious - a slippery surface,
for example. It can also be something general, such as poor lighting, or it can be something specific to the
teaching environment e.g. excess noise from other users.

A hazard can also be something directly affecting participants, such as exposure to fumes - or something affecting
the environment in general, such as boxes piled up in a walkway and excess waste in the teaching area.

There are different types of hazards.

• teaching room hazards, such as the room layout

• activity hazards, such as using equipment in the class
• environmental hazards, such as the fumes created when using cleaning chemicals

When looking for hazards it can be helpful to:

• walk around the teaching room

• talk to other users who may be more aware of the hazards
• look at any available safety data sheets and manufacturers’ instructions to identify potential problem
• examine accident and health records to identify existing problem areas

Making the yoga teaching space safe

There are a number of steps that must be taken to ensure the yoga teaching space is a safe place to
exercise. This may include checking there are no overt hazards or obstacles that could threaten the safety
of your participants, as well as ensuring all walkways are clear of any objects that might cause a slip, trip
or fall. Rugs and mats should also be secure, so they don’t slip beneath a participant’s feet. Plants or other
objects placed on the floor should be clear of the teaching area.

If the yoga teaching space is in a place where the weather could have an effect on the safety of participants,
(e.g. outdoors), then this will need to be included in the initial safety check as well. Participants should
be able to get to the yoga class safely and there should be no branches or rocks on the walkway into the
venue, and any snow or ice needs to be cleared before participants arrive.

Another place where safety can be a factor is in the products used in the teaching space. Some teachers
may use scented candles and incense sticks to create a relaxed atmosphere; in such cases, the teacher will
need to find out about any allergies or sensitivities that participants might have, that may trigger a reaction.
Scented candles are also a fire hazard.

Even with all of these precautions taken, yoga teachers still carry a risk by operating a business, and that
risk should be insured. By purchasing yoga insurance, teachers can create a safety net for any accidents
or damages that might occur, despite every effort to create the safest environment possible.

For example, a participant could slip, trip or fall on the way to the class; this could happen even if there are
no obstacles in the way, and the participant could decide to sue for damage and/or personal injury. In such
cases, the general liability portion of the insurance policy would provide the protection required in order to
face this claim. Other aspects of a solid yoga instructor insurance policy should include malpractice liability
insurance and product liability insurance.
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These two portions of the yoga insurance policy will provide protection in the rare case a participant claims
damage or injury due to a lack of skill or competence of a yoga teacher, or due to a product used during
the teaching session (National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2010).

Common hazards in a teaching environment

Slip, trip and fall hazards

The main causes of slips, trips and falls are:

• spillages - clean up all spillages immediately. Use another area until the spillage or wetness is gone
• trailing cables - try to place equipment to avoid cables crossing walkways and use cable guards to
cover cables where required, e.g. cables on a music system
• rugs and mats - where they cannot be eliminated, make sure rugs or mats are securely fixed and
that edges do not present a trip hazard
• slippery floor surfaces - assess the cause of the slipperiness and treat accordingly, for example treat
chemically and use appropriate cleaning materials and methods
• changes in floor level - improve visibility through additional lighting
• poor lighting - improve lighting levels and placement of lighting to provide a more even lighting level
over all floor areas

Lifting and carrying hazards

These include injuries resulting from lifting and carrying. Ensure participants lift any equipment in an
appropriate manner, especially if using chairs for props.


Fire is a major hazard and may be caused in a variety of ways that include waste paper, faulty wiring or
other electrical faults, equipment overheating and candles.

Good management of fire safety is essential to ensure that fires are unlikely to occur; and if they do occur,
they are likely to be controlled or contained quickly, effectively and safely. If a fire does occur and grow,
everyone must be able to move quickly and safely to a designated safety point.

Fire risk assessments will help to ensure that fire safety procedures, fire prevention measures, and fire precautions
are all in place, and the risk assessment should identify any issues that need attention. This will include:

• alarms
• signage
• evacuation procedures (Emergency Action Plans)
• staff training

Hazardous substances and chemicals

There are a number of chemicals which may cause harm, e.g. liquid soap in the washroom, or candles
that may cause skin irritation. Ensure that these risks are minimised for the safety of participants.

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Risk assessment

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what could cause harm to people, so that the yoga
teacher can weigh up whether enough precautions have been taken, or if more could be done to prevent harm.
Participants have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonably controlled measures.

There are five key principles to risk assessment:

1. Identify the hazards

2. Decide who might be harmed and how
3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
4. Record the findings and implement them
5. Review the assessment and update if necessary

The following information and guidance is provided by the Health and Safety Executive and describes each
of the 5 steps:

Step 1 Identify the hazards

• Walk around and look at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm
• Ensure all users are asked what they think. They may have noticed things that are not immediately
obvious to others

Step 2 Decide who might be harmed and how

• For each hazard be clear about who might be harmed; this will help identify the best way of
managing the risk. That doesn’t mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of
people (the participants or the teacher)
• In each case, identify how they might be harmed, i.e. what type of injury or ill health might occur

Step 3 Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

• see if there’s more that should be done to bring the environment up to standard
• having spotted the hazards, decide what to do about them
• can the hazard be removed altogether?
• if not, how can the risks be controlled so that harm is unlikely?

When controlling risks, apply the principles below, if possible in the following order:

1. Try a less risky option

2. Prevent access to the hazard
3. Reduce exposure to the hazard
4. Provide welfare facilities (e.g. first aid and washing facilities)

Step 4 Record findings and implement them

• When writing down your results, keep it simple, for example ‘Tripping over rubbish: bins provided,
weekly checks’

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Step 5 Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

• Few environments stay the same. Sooner or later new equipment, substances and procedures are
brought in that could lead to new hazards. Therefore, review on an on-going basis. Periodically
conduct a formal review to make sure the environment is still improving, or at least not reverting
back to unsafe practices
• Look at the risk assessment again. Have there been any changes? Are there improvements that still
need to be made? Have any participants spotted a problem? Have there been any accidents or near
misses? Make sure the risk assessments are up-to-date
• During the year, if there is a significant change, don’t wait. Check your risk assessments and, where
necessary, amend them

Reporting Hazards

It is important that you report any potential health and safety hazards to the manager of the venue. These
reports are one of the most effective ways to identify hazards. When hazards are reported (before they result
in an injury or illness), managers can take preventive actions to make sure injuries or illness do not result.

Each organisation will have a specific procedure for reporting hazards.

Dealing with emergencies

Emergency procedures in a teaching environment

A teaching environment can potentially be a dangerous one, and a teacher may be faced with an emergency
situation. This may be in relation to those participating in the class, for example, through poor technique
or from heart attacks and strokes. Alternatively emergencies may arise on a larger scale, such as fires
or chemical spillages/leaks. Each environment will possess a set of emergency operating procedures
which the teacher will need to become familiar with. The following information provides insight into
typical procedures that take place in the event of an emergency, and areas of concern within the teaching
environment in relation to such events.

Accidents and sudden illnesses

The effects of an accident or a sudden illness may cause the body’s function and structure to change. The
teacher’s role in an emergency is to remain calm, recognise signs and symptoms, call emergency services,
total patient care, self-care and deal with the aftermath. The acronym CALM can be used:

• C - Calm yourself
• A - Assess situation
• L - Locate assistance if available
• M - Make area safe

Note the following as part of an emergency plan: location, telephone number, district, guiding landmarks,
description of accident, other services required (i.e. police, fire brigade), number of casualties and their
sex and age, description of injuries, and seriousness of injury or condition

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The Emergency Services should be called when:

• casualty is unconscious
• suspected head, neck or spine injury
• suspected fractures or severe dislocations
• severe external bleeding
• suspected internal injuries
• serious medical problems such as heart attacks, asthma and diabetic emergencies
• you feel unable to handle the situation yourself, or the casualty’s condition is worsening

First aid box

Minimum contents of a first aid box - recommended where there are no special risks:

• guidance leaflet
• 20 individually wrapped sterile adhesive dressings of various sizes
• 2 sterile eye pads
• 4 individually wrapped triangular bandages
• 6 safety pins
• 6 medium sized and 2 large individually wrapped, sterile wound dressings
• 1 pair of disposable gloves

Emergency situations

The following provides examples of the type of procedures a teacher may follow when confronted with an
emergency situation. It is important, however, that the teacher follows the emergency operating procedures
as laid down by their employer. Following procedures calmly and correctly is important to ensure the safety
of everyone within the facility. Remaining calm is important to avoid inflicting panic on others, and to
prevent further harm. It is crucial that the procedures set by the organisation are followed, as an employee
can be held liable for harm caused by the work environment if certain actions are not taken. They also
provide focus and clarity for the teacher during the emergency and will have been put together by a
qualified professional, thus providing the ideal course of action to follow during an emergency situation.


1. If you discover a fire, operate the nearest fire alarm or, if no alarm is provided, shout “FIRE”.
2. If you hear a fire alarm, leave the building by the nearest available escape route and go to your
assembly area. Lifts must not be used in the event of fire.
3. In the event of a fire requiring the attendance of the fire brigade or ambulance service, follow the
guidelines provided in Table 2.
4. Care of casualties - if you are not qualified in first aid yourself, send for the nearest available First
Aider, who will take charge of the situation. If no qualified First Aiders are available, ensure that an
ambulance is called.

Contacting emergency services

Location Telephone number, district, guiding landmarks
Incident Description of accident
Other services required Police, fire service
Number of casualties Number, sex, age
Extent of injuries Description and seriousness of injury, or condition
Location Repeat location description

Table 2 Contacting emergency services

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A fire fighting strategy should consider:

• appointment of fire wardens, with subsequent training

• location plans of fire hoses, extinguishers and water sources
• access for emergency services
• provision of firewater lagoons

Area evacuations

Evacuation of areas in the event of fires, toxic gas emissions or security threats, for example, should
be addressed in an emergency evacuation procedure. This should specify designated safe areas and
assembly points. The procedure should also identify responsible personnel whose duties during area
evacuation include:

• responsibility for a specific area

• ensuring roll calls are undertaken to identify missing persons
• communication of missing persons to central emergency services

Role of the emergency services

Emergency services are organisations which ensure public safety by addressing different emergencies.
Some agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc
emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities.

There are three services which are almost universally acknowledged as being fundamental to the provision
of emergency care to the population, and are often government run. They would generally be summoned
on a dedicated emergency telephone number, reserved for critical emergency calls. They are:

• Police – providing community safety and acting to reduce crime against persons and property
• Fire and Rescue Service – reduce the risk of fire and other emergencies in all communities through
a combination of prevention and protection, working in partnership with other service providers
• Emergency Medical Service – providing ambulances and staff to deal with medical emergencies

Health and safety legislation

The following information is relevant to yoga teachers who teach in a gym or health club environment.

Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974

The ‘Health and Safety at Work Act 1974’ is the basis of British health and safety law, and sets out the
duties that employers and employees have to themselves and members of the public. Employers must make
every attempt to ensure maximum health and safety requirements, as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’.
In other words, employers need not avoid or reduce a risk/s if the risk is grossly disproportionate to the
measures taken to avoid or reduce it.

Other relevant legislation that teachers need to be aware of includes the following:

First aid
• Covers the requirements for first aid
• Number of first aiders
• Who are the first aiders?
• First aid kit requirement
• Where the nearest telephone is
• Reporting accidents and information to be given

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Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)

Requires employers to report injuries (and some diseases), and allows enforcing authorities to investigate
serious accidents

Manual handling

• Defined as ‘when a person uses their body to lift, carry, push or pull a load’
• If hazardous lifting cannot be eliminated then mechanical means need to be used
• The environment in which manual handling takes place needs to be considered
• The capability of the individual involved in manual handling needs to be taken into account

Emergency action plans (EAPs)

EAPs are a company’s procedures in the event of accident or incident, e.g. bomb threat, evacuation,
gas leak, fire, or life or death situations. EAPs are generally specific to an environment; for example, the
requirement for a studio-related incident will be different to a gym-based incident. Staff training must be
given to all employees, and this is often followed with a test to demonstrate competence. EAPs cover the
following requirements:

• What to do in the event of…

• What to do during…
• What to do after…

Responsibilities of the yoga teacher

There are a number of additional responsibilities for the yoga teacher in relation to health and safety. These
include the following:


Yoga teachers must have valid and current qualifications for the tasks they are performing, including a first
aid qualification; if not, they pose a risk to themselves and others.

Public liability insurance

Yoga teachers must be covered by employer’s liability insurance if working in the place of employment, or
personal public liability insurance in all other environments.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)

Written screening must be completed by all clients before participating in physical activity. The client
should fill out a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (see example in Appendix 1) confirming that
they are fit to take part in a class. If they answer “YES” to any of the questions they must get their doctor’s
consent before participating in any physical activity.

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Licensing requirements for using music in a yoga class
It is illegal to copy pre-recorded music for use in a yoga class. Companies that produce specialised yoga
music have purchased the right to do so. They pay large annual fees to provide this service to teachers.
Once a company has produced a CD or music download, it is then licensed to that company. It is illegal
for anyone to copy this product. The fines for copyright infringement are very high and it is illegal to play
copyrighted music in public places. This includes any recordings of songs which are performed by the
original artist. A license to do so must be purchased prior to the use of such music. In general, this is the
responsibility of the instructor. The companies that produce yoga music CDs may provide such a license
to teachers purchasing their products.

In other situations, health and fitness centres may purchase the license. The teacher should purchase
their own license prior to using such music products, or ensure they are covered by the license held by the
facility where they are employed.

Professional registration for yoga teachers

Yoga has a variety of professional bodies and codes of conduct as previously mentioned. It is not mandatory
to be a member of any associations, but it is always useful for the teacher to have the support of a network
of like-minded individuals.

Each style of yoga has its own independent organisation, and there are other associations and bodies that
can be joined. It is strongly recommended that yoga teachers become registered with REPs, and teachers
are encouraged to update their knowledge and skills regularly; by joining an association, opportunities for
training are wider. Associations may also offer specialised insurance policies for yoga teachers.

Below is a selection of yoga associations:

• Bikram yoga –

• The British Wheel of Yoga - (recognised by Sport England as the governing body
for yoga in Great Britain)
• The Association for Yoga Studies – (formerly Viniyoga Britain)
• British Council for Yoga Therapy –
• British Yoga Teachers Association – www.yogauk
• Friends of Yoga Society (FRYOG) International –
• Independent Yoga Network –
• Iyengar Yoga Association (UK) –
• Yoga Alliance UK –
• Yoga Biomedical Trust –
• YogaUK –
• Register of Exercise professionals (REPs) – REP’s is an independent public register – www.

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1. Ayammie (2011). Yoga and high blood pressure. Available at
yoga-for-hypertension (accessed 7/12/11)
2. British Wheel of Yoga (2004). Yoga and Pregnancy Leaflet
3. Chambers-Goldberg, T (2011). Tips for protecting knees Available at
(accessed 13/12/11)
4. Downward Dog yoga (2011). Information needed before attending a yoga class Available at www. (Accessed 14/12/11)
5. Green Herbal Remedy (2011) Contraindications in yoga. Available at www.greenherbalremedies.
com (Accessed 13/12/11)
6. Internet Health Library (2011). Musculoskeletal problems and yoga. Available at Internethealthlibrary.
com/Health-problems/MusculoskeletalPain (Accessed 7/12/11)
7. Jerard, P (2009). Contraindications in Yoga. Available at (Accessed
8. Karmananda (Swami) (1983). Management of common diseases. Yoga Publications Trust
9. Meikle, J (2004). Yoga benefits body, soul and blood vessels. The Guardian
10. National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011). Making the yoga space
safe. Available at (Accessed 14/12/11)
11. Serber, E (2011). Yoga and stress. Available at and stress (Accessed

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Appendix 1
Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)
If you are between the ages of 15 and 69, the PAR-Q will tell you if you should check with your doctor
before you significantly change your physical activity patterns. If you are over 69 years of age and are not
used to being very active, check with your doctor.

Common sense is your best guide when answering these questions. Please read carefully and answer each
one honestly: check YES or NO.

1. Has your doctor ever said you have a heart condition and that you should
only do physical activity recommended by a doctor? ┚ ┚
2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity? ┚ ┚
3. In the past month, have you had a chest pain when you were not doing
physical activity? ┚
4. Do you lose balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness? ┚ ┚
5. Do you have a bone or joint problem (for example, back, knee, or hip) that
could be made worse by a change in your physical activity? ┚ ┚
6. Is your doctor currently prescribing medication for your blood pressure or
heart condition? ┚
7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?
┚ ┚

If yes, please comment: ………………………………………………………………………………………


YES to one or more questions: You should consult with your doctor to clarify that it is safe for you to
become physically active at this current time and in your current state of health.

NO to all questions: You can be reasonably sure that it is safe for you to participate in physical activity, gradually
building up from your current ability level. A full fitness appraisal can help to determine your fitness level.

I have read, understood and accurately completed this questionnaire. I confirm that I am voluntarily
engaging in an acceptable level of exercise, and my participation involves a risk of injury.

Participant name: …………………………………………

Participant signature: ……………………………………. Date: …………………………………………

Teacher name: …………………………………….

Teacher signature: ……………………………….. Date: …………………………………………

Having answered YES to one of the above, I have sought medical advice and my GP has agreed that I may exercise.

Signature: ………………………………………….. Date: …………………………………………

Note: This physical activity clearance is valid for a maximum of 12 months from the date it is completed
and becomes invalid if your condition changes so that you would answer YES to any of the 7 questions
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Unit 5 Teaching a yoga session

Aim: the aim of this unit is to provide learners with the skills needed to be able to teach a safe and effective
yoga session. The unit includes teaching skills related to asana, breath awareness and pranayama, mudra,
bandha, relaxation, concentration and meditation. This unit also includes self-evaluation and personal
development skills for the yoga teacher.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will:

• be able to teach breath awareness techniques to participants

• be able to teach mudra techniques to participants
• be able to teach bandha techniques to participants
• be able to teach relaxation techniques to participants
• be able to teach pranayama techniques to participants
• be able to teach concentration and meditation techniques to participants
• be able to self-evaluate and reflect on the teaching of a yoga session
• be able to undertake personal yoga practice
• be able to plan a personal development programme

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in in Teaching
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- Manual
- Manual
Teaching yoga techniques
Previous units have covered the underpinning theory and application relating to a number of techniques
used within a yoga session. These include the following.

• Breath awareness and pranayama

• Asana
• Bandha
• Mudra
• Relaxation and meditation

This unit will consolidate the knowledge gained from the practical workshops that accompany this
qualification, by providing clear information on how to apply this knowledge into practice. In addition,
Appendix 1 contains a checklist that can be used to prepare for teaching classes for the first time, and to
plan for assessment.

Considerations for starting and ending yoga sessions

Prior to starting a yoga session, the teacher should also consider the following format to ensure that the
class begins in a safe and appropriate manner:

• Participants are welcomed

• Participants are verbally screened to check for injuries and medical conditions that may affect their
• The aims and objectives of the session are explained
• Clothing is appropriate to the session
• Relevant health and safety issues are addressed, e.g. emergency exits, location of water fountain
• Participants are advised to work at their own level, using suitable adaptations/modifications where
• New techniques or teaching points are explained and/or demonstrated, e.g. new breath awareness
techniques or mudra
• A suitable atmosphere is created, e.g. music, lighting
• When ending a yoga session, teachers should aim to prepare participants emotionally and physically
to finish the session safely, and should include praise of effort and achievements during the session.
In the event that participants have any questions, the teacher will also need to ensure they are
available after the class.

As courtesy to the teacher and participants in the next class (if relevant), the area should be cleared as
quickly as possible, and is the responsibility of the teacher. This may involve:

• checking all equipment is in good working order, and reporting any breakages or faults
• returning all equipment to its storage area safely
• checking the area for any dangers/hazards for the next session, and putting measures in place to
avoid these (e.g. reporting any important information)

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Improving performance of participants
Teaching position
It is essential that the teacher maintains observation of the entire group at all times throughout the session
to ensure that errors in technique are identified and corrected or modified/adapted. Often in a yoga class it
is the restrictions of the participant’s body that will stop them achieving certain asana. Participants should
not be forced into positions and individual differences should be recognised by the yoga teacher.

When planning the layout for the class and where to place the mats, consideration must be given as
to where the teacher will be best positioned in order to effectively observe the group, and for the class
participants to see the teacher. In so doing, teachers should also be aware that participants will be viewing
a mirror image and therefore they should adapt their language/demonstrations appropriately.

The class can be planned with the mats vertical or horizontal, and teachers should ensure that participants
have their mats aligned with the rest of the group. All too often, new yoga teachers stay at the front of the class
for the whole session, making it difficult to recognise poor technique promptly. To avoid this, teachers should
move around the class regularly, carefully observing the entire group whilst motivating and interacting with
the participants. Yoga can be very hands on and the teacher should be prepared to touch the participants to
gently encourage them into positions that would be more beneficial to them and their bodies. Yoga teachers
should always ask permission before touching a participant as some people just do not like to be touched
and this could put them off coming to a yoga class.

Communication and motivation

During a yoga class the teacher will be expected to inform participants of specific techniques, relevant
teaching points, any corrections in technique, and suitable adaptations (where necessary). This requires
the combination of many communication and motivational skills, using both verbal and non-verbal

Verbal communication

More than simply calling out instructions, this can involve the following considerations:

• Varying intonation, to mark out key words and to maintain participant interest and motivation
• Speaking slowly and confidently
• Giving clear, concise teaching points, using simple words and sentences
• Using visualisation and metaphorical language
• Stressing positive technique and avoiding use of negative teaching points (i.e. saying what to do,
not what not to do)
• Speaking to everyone in the class, not just the front row
• Relaxing and staying calm
• Remaining observant

Non-verbal communication

There are a number of ways to employ effective non-verbal communication, including:

• demonstrating correct technique

• using facial expressions and eye contact
• using manual assistance to correct technique (with permission)

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Communication and asana practice

The following general suggestions may aid the introduction of yoga postures to participants:

1. Before starting to instruct a posture, ask everyone to be quiet and still for a few breaths. Make a few
comments about the intention of the posture or tell a story connected to the posture using references
from the ancient yoga texts.
2. Set the tone by giving direction for the breath. This may include cues such as, “Listen to your breath
as if you are listening to the sound coming from a sea shell,” or “Listen quietly to your breath as you
breathe in and out through your heart.”
3. Ensure that the breath is linked with the pose. For example, for Mountain pose (Tadasana), “Take
a big breath in, and at the same time lift your heart and let your arms reach up to the sky and
touch the clouds” or, “Think of yoga as a dance of movements that are connected to the rhythm
of the breath. Typically, on inhalation, the body is moved in order to be open to receive oxygen; on
exhalation, the body is moved to release toxins and carbon dioxide”.
4. Bring awareness to the energy or the intention of the pose. For example, for Tree pose (Vrkasana),
“The supporting or balancing leg is like a strong tree trunk, with the foot growing strong roots deep
in the ground below”. Back bends provide another example. “When the spine bends backward, the
area around the heart opens up. Keep the area around the heart open and find the middle ground
and the balance between effort and challenge mixed with comfort and ease”.
5. Before starting a posture or a movement, it is important for participants to feel grounded and
centred, to have a foundation. To reinforce this, a teacher may say, “In yoga, the body needs to be
strongly grounded at all times. The feet are the foundation when standing and the sit bones are the
foundation when sitting. Similar to building a house, where the foundation allows for floors to be
built on top of it, a strong foundation allows the rest of the body to be correctly and safely aligned”.

Motivating participants

It is essential that teachers can motivate their participants and inspire them to change their lifestyle with
yoga in a way and at a level they wouldn’t normally consider. Achieving this type of motivation may involve
a number of factors:

Be prepared
When a teacher is thoroughly prepared, they do not have to concentrate on their technique or their cues,
allowing full focus on the participants; interacting with them can be a powerful motivator. Being prepared
will also give the teacher confidence to motivate.

Be yourself
As a new teacher, it is beneficial to have a role model, such as another respected teacher. At the same
time, it is important to remain congruent, as participants will relate better to a ‘real’ person, rather than
someone who’s pretending to be something they are not.

Encourage your participants

Participation in all aspects of the yoga class should be encouraged. If participants are finding aspects of
the session challenging, teachers should acknowledge this first, either non-verbally with an understanding
smile, or verbally, with a few well-chosen words. The teacher can then make a decision on whether to
correct or modify the technique at that moment, or to speak with the participant after the class, offering
some supportive words and guidance.

Enjoy yourself
One of the most motivating factors in any class is when the teacher is seen to be enjoying themselves. If
the teacher is enjoying their class, this energy can carry across to the participants.

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Take notice of your participants
Noticing and feeding back on participant progress can be a strong motivator when delivered both
individually, and to the entire group – and may contribute to long term adherence to yoga.

Positive reinforcement and feedback

Teaching correct alignment

Teaching correct alignment is central to setting the tone and foundation for each yoga pose. Alignment
refers to the configuration of the body that allows for optimal mechanics and posture. Even in final
relaxation posture, correct alignment still applies, and the body should feel lengthened and open.

A useful illustration of the concept of feeling grounded, centred, and in alignment is Mountain pose, from
which all standing poses begin. Participants should be instructed to imagine a mountain, with the base
strongly rooted into the ground while the peaks aspire into the clouds and the sky. The following steps
describe alignment using Mountain pose as the reference.

1. Spread the toes wide, making floor contact with all four parts of the foot: the ball of the foot, little
toe side, and inner and outer heel. The feet are hip-width apart, with the feet firmly placed into the
floor. Briefly lift the toes to allow for the body weight to be shifted back. Then release the toes, and
be mindful not to grip with the toes.
2. Actively engage the muscles of the legs, with the knees slightly bent. “Actively” engaging muscles
means contracting and making the muscles firm in the area. Engage the abdomen, or core, of the
body as if putting on a belt, keeping the area from the hips to the shoulders (core) strong and stable
but not rigid. The tailbone will naturally tuck down and under to point to the floor, which helps
stabilise the back muscles.
3. Stand tall, finding length through the spine with the crown of the head reaching toward the sky.
Honour the natural curves of the spine, and keep the head as a natural extension of the spine, not
hyper-extended or arched back. Imagine a string attached to the crown of the head pulling upwards
to the sky.
4. From the belly button down, there is a strong foundation. With the feet rooted into the ground, the
legs are strong as if the muscles are squeezing the bones, and the kneecaps are slightly lifted, with
the muscles of the quadriceps (front of the upper legs) engaged.
5. From the belly button up, the upper body is open and lifted out of the waist but not rigid. Place the
head at the top of the spine, the chin level with the ground. Keep the chest open and lift the heart
space, the collarbones wide. Roll the shoulder blades back and down as if they are reaching to
the back pockets. Do not let the shoulders hunch, but instead create space between the ears and

Holding of postures

The holding of a yoga posture refers to how long the posture is held or maintained in order for the benefits
of the posture, such as muscle endurance, strength, or flexibility, to be realised. To improve these areas,
the principle of overload must be applied. To gain strength, endurance, or flexibility, the body must be
challenged in order for growth to occur, but not to a point where there is discomfort or pain. Overload can
be facilitated by asking participants to stay with the posture so they feel challenged, but not overdoing it
and becoming frustrated.

The teacher needs to continually point out that yoga should feel good yet invigorating. The teacher’s
language must include ‘permission language’ to facilitate this process. This means giving participants the
responsibility of being the best judge of what their bodies need, and when to come out of a posture. A
useful teaching instruction to encourage this permission is to state (during a posture), “You can hold this
pose for one or two breaths and then come in and out of the pose when you need to.”

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Yoga poses should have a natural ebb and flow to them, implying a moderate level of steady and comfortable
effort, and not a goal to push to exhaustion. It is important to pace the more active poses with restful
poses. Paying close attention to participants breathing and energy levels can provide useful cues to what
is the right mix for them (Tummers, 2011).

Correcting participants

In order to correct form and technique effectively, the yoga teacher will need to constantly observe participants,
watching for those who are having difficulty understanding the correct alignment of the asana, or specific
yoga technique. If errors are identified the best way to address this is to give a positive statement to the
participant first before correcting any poor technique. This ensures that the teaching is positively delivered
and encouraging, and any remarks don’t de-motivate the individual and the group. A good teacher should
always inform participants what they should be doing rather than what they should not; this brings attention
to the correct form and technique rather than focusing on the wrong way of performing.

When a teacher notices a participant who is performing a technique incorrectly, the following steps can
be taken to correct them:

1. Make a general statement to the entire class about the correct performance of the technique. In
many cases, participants will adjust the technique problem accordingly.
2. If a general statement fails, try to make eye contact with the participant and make the general
correction again. Be sure to smile and encourage the participant. Alternatively, move closer to the
participant and re-demonstrate the technique.
3. If the participant continues with bad form or technique, the teacher will need to assess the risk of
injury to the participant if they maintain their current execution. If there is minimal risk of injury,
make the general correction whenever performing the technique. Try not to single out the participant
and make a mental note to speak to them after class.
4. If a teacher feels the participant is likely to injure themselves, they will need to approach them.

Explain that they are at risk of injury if they carry on with their current technique. Reinforce the correct
technique again and allow them to copy. Be encouraging and positive, offer alternatives if needed. Try to
avoid bringing the groups attention to one participant, as this will cause embarrassment.

Positive feedback

Feedback is essential for both the teacher to give, and the participant to receive. When delivered positively
and with sincerity, it can encourage people by letting them know they are performing well. The following
may offer some guidance when delivering positive feedback:

• Give general positive statements throughout the class, e.g. “good”, “great”, “terrific”, “fabulous”
• Use non-verbal positives, e.g. nodding, open body expressions, smiling, hand gestures
• Give positive feedback with specific information, e.g. “good straight back”
• Consider that too much corrective feedback can create an error-centred climate
• Consider that specific correction can be effective, e.g. “knees over toes”, “contract your abdominals
• Give four positive feedback statements to every one correction
• Personalise positive feedback where possible by using names
• Maintaining eye contact with a smile is one of the most simple and effective forms of positive
feedback. Be careful of non-verbal cues which create negative tones, e.g. frowns, rigid posture,
facial expression

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Self-evaluation and reflection
On completion of the class, the teacher should feedback to participants on their efforts. They should also
ask for any feedback on the class, as this can be invaluable in improving future teaching skills. To ensure
classes are effective and meet the needs of all participants, the review of the session should involve all
members of the class. Types of questions that could be asked include:

• What did the participants think of the teacher’s ‘teaching style’?

• Did the participants enjoy the session?
• What have the participants achieved during the session?
• What would they suggest to improve the session?

Any information gathered should then be used to determine if the session has met expectations and, if not,
what can be done to rectify this in the future. It can also be used to plan the progression or modifications
of future classes.

To further improve teaching abilities, it is important for the teacher to evaluate and reflect on their own
performance by asking themselves the following questions:

• Did the session meet the aims set out in the session plan?
• Did the session meet the needs of the participants?
• Were all the health and safety aspects addressed during the session?
• Were all resources used adequately (e.g. mats, blocks, straps)?
• Were the asana adapted appropriately for the relevant participants?
• Were professional codes of practice adhered to?

This ‘personal reflection’ would include noting any improvements which could be made to the original
class plan. This will help the teacher to explore ways to progress planning and delivery skills. When
evaluating own performance, a teacher should not be too hard on themselves; selecting just one or two
areas that can be worked on over the following few weeks will serve as a useful starting point.

Feedback from peers is another useful and constructive means of progressing teaching skills. An experienced
teacher can often offer suggestions to further improve teaching skills and to increase a new teacher’s
confidence by identifying strengths in current teaching practice.

All aspects of the evaluation should be recorded in order to assist the continued professional development
of teaching techniques. Following the review, it may be necessary to update existing plans utilising any
feedback and suggestions made, to ensure continued participant satisfaction and retention.

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Personal yoga practice
It is vital for any yoga teacher to have their own practice, ideally daily. This will ensure that teachers are
in tune with their own bodies and that any asana that they teach is well practised. Daily practice will also
enhance a teacher’s own health and wellbeing, as well as influence their teaching greatly. It is difficult
for a teacher to share the benefits of yoga with their classes unless they can experience them first hand

It is essential that yoga teachers have their own teacher too. Teachers should regularly attend classes
themselves to enable them to improve their own technique. Workshops and continual professional
development is also essential to enable progression both personally and professionally and to bring new
ideas to the participants. Yoga isn’t something that can be learned from one course or from a few years of
attending a class; yoga is something that is an individual journey and one where a teacher and participant
will be continuously learning each time they step on the mat.

As a new teacher it is recommended to keep a diary of yoga practice, especially when trying new techniques.
Thoughts, feelings and experiences should be recorded, plus timings of any sessions. A daily practice
need not be long - it can be as little as 10 minutes of meditation, or a full hour and a half asana practice
with pranayama and relaxation. Across a week, a teacher should practise a selection of asana, breathing
practices, mudra, and bandha techniques. It is common for yoga practitioners to experience other aspects
of their lives changing once they embark on yoga practice. All of these aspects can also be recorded in a
yoga practice diary.

Evaluation and reflection of personal practice

Every month or at planned regular intervals, the yoga teacher can look through their personal practice
diaries and reflect on what they have learned. It is especially useful to note any difficulties that have
been experienced as these can be shared with the class (where relevant), especially if participants are
experiencing similar issues. This may be related to asana, breathing practices, meditation, or concentration
issues. Everything that is experienced is valuable for the teacher and may be something that can be
shared to benefit and enrich the yoga class participants.

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Personal development plan
Once a teacher has gathered feedback from their participants and reflected on their own teaching skills,
they will need to develop a personal development plan which outlines their personal learning objectives.

Personal development plans can address the following questions:

1. What do you want to get from your teaching?

2. What are your strengths?
3. What areas would you like to improve?
4. What is preventing you from developing as you would like?
5. Which interests or talents would you like to develop?
6. How do you like to learn?
7. What skills or experience would give you more confidence?
8. What are your short, medium and long term goals

Identifying learning requirements

If a yoga teacher is employed, a personal development plan can also identify the learning requirements
within the organisation and set out the ways in which the requirements can be met; this may include the
resources needed, the timescale and how the learning will be evaluated (Skills - Third Sector, 2011).

Below is a simple example that will help formulate ideas for a personal development plan.

Designing a personal development plan

Your needs How can you meet those needs? How will you know when you
have met those needs?
What are the challenges in my
teaching that I need to improve?
Where do I want to be in 2
Where do I want to be in 5 or
10 years?
How does that fit in with
my career path or what my
organisation wants?
What adjustments will I need to
make to achieve what I want?
What adjustments will other
people need to make for me to
achieve what I want?
What else should I consider?
What additional resources will you require and from where do you hope to obtain them? (Will you have
to pay any course fees? Will you be able to organise time for learning in working hours?)
How will you evaluate your Personal Development Plan?
How will you know when you have achieved your objectives? (How will you measure success?)

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Evaluation of learning
Once a teacher has recognised what learning needs to take place and has undertaken the necessary
learning, it is essential to evaluate the learning against the original goals.

The following guide may help to assist the evaluation:

Courses Your objectives, what was learnt, how you will use the information
Mentoring Dates, outcomes, key learning for you, how you will use the learning
Coaching Dates, outcomes, key learning for you, how you will use the learning
Coaching – Informal Outcomes of informal coaching with peers and other colleagues
Reading What was learnt, how you will use the information
Research Your objectives, what was learnt, how you will use the information
Training The course objectives, what you learnt, what you will do differently next time.
Experiences Real experiences from which you gained significant insight, Mistakes – yours
or others. Record what happened, what you learnt, how you will have applied

Reflection on learning
It is important to reflect on learning in order to:

• accept responsibility for personal growth

• help see a clear link between the effort put into the development activity and the benefits that can
be achieved from it
• help see more value in each learning experience
• to learn ‘how to learn’ and add new skills over time

How to reflect on learning

Reflecting on learning enables a teacher to link professional development to practical outcomes, and
widens the definition of what counts as useful activity. In simple terms, a teacher should always keep
asking ‘what did I get out of this?’

A reflective learner thinks about how new knowledge and skills can be used in future activities – so
learning is always linked to action, and theory to practice. It’s also useful to reflect on personal preferences
in how to learn. This may be through private study, networking with peers, formal courses, mentoring, or
a combination of techniques.

1. Skills-Third Sector (2011). Training needs analysis. Available at
(Accessed: 31/8/11)
2. Tummers, N (2011). Teaching yoga poses. Available at (Accessed: 25/1/12)

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Appendix 1
Teaching checklist
1. Arrive in time to prepare for the planned session. Get mats and resources ready (blocks, straps, blankets
etc) plus any administration documents such as PARQs, questionnaires, hand-outs, register etc.
2. Welcome the participants as they enter the class and create a suitable atmosphere to begin the class
– encourage participants on to their mats and to become peaceful and calm. Ideally in savasana or
comfortable seated posture with eyes closed. Try and discourage too much chatter at the start of the class.
3. Ensure appropriate clothing is worn by both teacher and participants, i.e. bare feet, non-restrictive
clothing and minimal jewellery.
4. Carry out verbal screening before or at the start of the class giving appropriate advice to the
participants based on the information given.
5. Advise on appropriate health and safety procedures specific to the session, e.g. emergency procedures
or highlight any hazards.
6. Explain the aims and objectives of the session.
7. Select safe and effective asana and counter poses. Ensure that a thorough plan is in place for each
session and the plan includes a balance of postures i.e. standing, seated, lying, balances etc.
8. Give clear/accurate explanations to the participants to ensure they can perform the asana safely and
9. Project volume and pitch of voice effectively (without the aid of artificial amplification) to suit each
section of the class. During relaxation the voice should be quieter and should become louder in
recovery section to awake the participants from any meditative state.
10. Demonstrate correct technique of asana and counter poses.
11. Incorporate the breath with each asana and use the in breath and out breath in the correct manner
12. Incorporate the theory of yoga throughout the class where relevant to explain the yoga postures and
their benefits bringing in ancient yoga texts where relevant.
13. Incorporate the Sanskrit names for asana and explain their English translations.
14. Adopt appropriate teaching positions to observe class participants and respond to their needs. Move
around the class when needed and ensure you can be seen at all times.
15. Adapt verbal and non-verbal communication methods. Try to avoid constant talking and leave some
silence whilst teaching so that the participants can enjoy being in the postures and concentrate on
their breath. Ensure the class participants understand what is required.
16. Use appropriate motivational styles that are consistent with accepted good practice
17. Analyse participants’ performance, providing positive reinforcement throughout
18. Use appropriate methods to correct and reinforce technique (e.g. tactile cueing, changing teaching
positions, asking questions, mirroring).
19. Provide feedback and instructing points which are timely, clear and motivational
20. Identify asana that need to be adapted.
21. Adapt asana with suitable progressions and regressions according to participants’ needs and use
teaching aids where necessary. Ensure blocks, straps, cushions, blankets etc are always available
to support the participants.
22. Provide alternatives to the planned asana if participants cannot take part.
23. End the session with appropriate relaxation, breathing, concentration / meditation practices and final
recovery activities. Ensure these are planned out before hand and part of a long term plan for the
participants. Ensure the practices are appropriate for the participant’s level and ability.
24. Review the outcomes of working with participants including their feedback on the planned session
25. Identify how well the session met the session’s aims and objectives
26. Identify how effective and motivational the relationship with the participants was
27. Identify how well the teaching styles matched the participant’s needs
28. Develop an action plan to improve future sessions

207 Copyright © 2012 Active IQ Ltd. Manual not for resale

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga (QCF) - Manual

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