Teaching Yoga to Students Recovering from Surgery or Living with Chronic Illness: Contemplative Practices

May 7th, 2013

yin yoga instructor certification intensiveBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

If you are a Yoga instructor who is teaching one or more students who are recovering from surgery or living with a chronic illness, modifying the practice in order to tailor the intensity level to each student’s current ability is critically important. The awareness and application of therapeutic Yoga asanas, breathing exercises and contemplative practices can be profoundly healing to students who are working toward regaining their health. Your inner attitude or “bhav” towards your students’ efforts in Yoga class can also substantially impact the healing effect of the class on your students. 

In fact, when you are teaching a Yoga class, mentally holding the image of your students in your conscious awareness as whole and vibrantly healthy will help to support your students in seeing themselves the same way. As your Yoga students begin to mentally shift from focusing on what may not be working correctly in their bodies to the parts of their bodies that are healthy and strong, they will begin to align themselves with a state of strength and well-being. This internal shift from a negative to a positive perspective about their bodies will also help to offset depression, which so often accompanies serious illness, injury or a lengthy recuperation from a major surgery.  

As a Yoga teacher, it is also important to be aware of and uproot any of your own negative thoughts about your students, especially those students who may be struggling with health issues. Thoughts such as, “I can’t believe she is still doing the Yoga asanas while seated in a chair. Her knee seems strong enough now to support her weight!” Thoughts such as these will energetically undermine your students’ sense of themselves as healthy yogis or yoginis who are temporarily healing from an illness or injury, instead of students who are chronically physically unwell. 

The same effect holds true for each Yoga student’s inner attitude. If a student feels despondent, weak and unhealthy and continues to focus on those negative states of being, he or she will undermine their own efforts during Yoga class. If, on the other hand, you gently and compassionately remind your students to focus on the fact that they made it to class, the amazing effort they are making to regain their own health and the parts of their bodies that are strong and healthy, their spirits will be uplifted and a sense of purpose, strength and mastery will begin to fill their bodies, which will deeply support them during the healing process. 

© Copyright 2013 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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