My favorite yoga classes are the ones that allow me to access a place within me that I don’t always find in the normal day-to-day: a place of heart, compassion and self-reflection.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to access that place is through the use of poetry.
Typically, in the yoga classes I teach, I’ll bring in a poem to read at the end of class, either when the students are just about to come out of savasana, or when they are seated in meditation at the start or end of practice.
I wanted to share with you a few of the poems that I’ve used in my yoga classes over the past few months. I’ll also explain how the poem related to my overall class theme and provide suggestions for how you might integrate these poems into your classes.
Excerpt from the poem ‘When people move on without you’ by Morgan Harper Nichols
for there will be storm clouds
hovering the flower fields
where you were hoping
to watch the setting sun,
and there will be cities
you meant to visit
before the world
as you knew it
and there will also be moments
when you remember
the small strip
of ocean shore
where the seafoam sang to you
“there is more,
there is more.”
Using this poem as your theme: This poem is a great one to tie into a yoga class that focuses around the theme of Aparigraha, or non-grasping/non-attachment. Aparigraha is the final yama in the eight limbs of yoga. In the poem, the author talks about missed opportunities. Moments in life when what you had planned doesn’t come to fruition. You can use this poem to remind your students the value of letting things go. As the author ends her poem, “there is more” – there is always something else waiting around the corner, our task is to simply be present with what is and allow whatever will be to come.
'Lost' by David Wagoner
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Using this poem as your theme: This is a wonderful poem focused around feeling lost, overwhelmed, misguided, but using the reality of what’s around you to anchor yourself. You are not really lost – as the poem says – the forest knows exactly where you are. This is a poem about mindfulness. About tuning in to the small moments, the signals from the earth. It’s about pausing, finding stillness, listening deeply. All of these messages are wonderful reminders to thread throughout your yoga class.
‘The Guest House’ by rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Using this poem as your theme: This poem points to the cyclical nature of life. Illustrating that all the many emotions that come with being human – from joy, to pain, to sadness, to fear – they all ebb and flow. Once one emotion is pushed out, it’s usually replaced with a new one. You can use this poem in your yoga class as you cue the students to be watchful of their own minds. In the centering moments before class, you can ask students to practice being the watchers of their minds – noticing the thoughts, feelings, emotions that pop up, and then having them practice letting go of those thoughts. Watching, without judgement, is a core practice in our yoga journey, and this poem serves as wonderful inspiration.
Poems are a great way to beautifully illustrate a lesson, theme, or intention in a yoga class. They often strike a chord in student’s hearts and leave them in a state of reflection or gratitude.
What are your favorite poems? Share in the comments below!