teaching competitive studentsBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Have you ever wanted to stimulate your competition-minded students, but, at the same time, were concerned about safety precautions? Here is an example of a way to design lesson plans for new Yoga students with limited range of motion, but who thirst for a challenge.

Q: Recently, I started teaching another Yoga class. The students are regular ‘gym people’. These Yoga students are quite strong, but not so flexible. So I’m trying to structure the class to focus more on improving flexibility. But even the ‘routine’ asanas are a challenge to them. Please comment.

The other thing is – they are of the opinion that yoga is just another ‘sport’. But I want them to know that there is more to yoga than the physical discipline. But I suspect that they’ll balk if I go into explaining yoga philosophy. Also, they may consider that as a ‘waste’ of good ‘workout time’.

A: Having taught students, with competitive mindsets and limited range of motion, at the same time, it has been my experience that exposing them to philosophy has its natural born limits. Some students see only the physical challenge of Hatha Yoga.

The adventure of a challenge, and the glory of a conquest, is their priority. However, you could structure a program, which gives them gradual and safe challenges. One suggestion that comes to mind is a Vinyasa class. With each repetition of a sequence, their range of motion will improve.

Firstly, demonstrate all or part of a new Vinyasa sequence, so your students have a visual interpretation within their minds. You could start your sequencing with slow deliberate movements – with emphasis on form. As the class continues, you could gradually, and safely, increase the speed by requiring less time for your students to hold the postures, but still mention the importance of good form and proper alignment.

You could also roam the class, and make adjustments as needed. Let the class flow, stop them in a posture that needs adjusting for 20 to 30 seconds, and make a few adjustments, then roam to another corner of the room and do the same. Remind your students that holding a Yoga asana for longer than 20 seconds challenges their strength.

It will not be long before your students see and feel the value of a continued practice. Their interests will likely evolve into different aspects of Yoga, with steady practice, because they have learned to respect it as more than an exercise class.

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