Teaching Yoga to Students with Ailments Questions and Answers

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Teaching Yoga to Students with Ailments Questions and Answers

become a yoga teacherBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Q: I have a concern; one of my students, who has been studying with me for a while, came to me and said that she experiences pain on the inside of her knees when sitting cross-legged, also in Sukasana forward fold.

I have suggested to avoid this pose and switch to sitting on her heels instead. Was not sure, though, what could be the cause of this pain and what ideas I could give her to move away from this discomfort.

A: Hatha Yoga can be the remedy for pain, or the cause of it, in some cases. This student should see her family physician or a specialist. We can guess what the source of pain is, but an MRI will tell the real story. A good modification is preparation for Sukasana.

One leg remains straight, while the other leg is bent at an angle where the knee does not encounter pain. Obviously, if the knee is bent into a sharp angle, the student will experience pain in the preparation pose. Therefore, this preparation should be practiced carefully, with a wide angle on the bent knee. This same principle holds true for any asanas where the knees are bent.

Q: I have a query from a student who wants to attend my Yoga classes. She is an older woman, in her late 50s, but she had a bunion removed about 5 months ago on her foot – would it be advisable to come to class?

Or, shall it be only private Yoga practice? Also, what would be your idea, in terms of therapeutic practices; and which asana would she need to avoid?

A: You might want to schedule a private session first – just to do an evaluation. You won’t know much until you see her.

Bunion surgery is usually the procedure to remove the bone of the big toe and foot. The procedure varies and recovery does as well. Bunion surgery reconstructs the big toe bone and may require screws and plates to be placed in the bone during recovery.

All that said: Any postures that put pressure on the big toe, or roll the big toe under the foot, should be practiced carefully, or avoided altogether.

She should be observed in private to see if she can modify them for regular classes with other students. Have her go easy and carefully.

Q: There is something I would like to find out from you. Many of my students, after class – as they are beginning Yoga (but some also that stick to the mat for a while) do say that they feel stiff, some even lightly sore. I do use intelligent sequencing and pay special detail to injuries and modifications.

What would be my best reply if they mention they are stiff afterwards (although it’s an antidote as they come to Yoga class to become more open and work on their flexibility)?

Beside that they are loving the classes, they do feel very relaxed and centered. I want to be in their best service, so I want to be able to explain to them what is actually happening to their bodies and the reason why they feel stiffer then beforehand.

A: My guess is they feel sore in the legs. This usually happens when students’ bodies are not prepared for a standing series. If they give Yoga a chance, the soreness will disappear in a week or two.

If they still feel pain, you may want to reduce the standing series practice time, and gradually increase it over a period of months. However, if students do not attend regularly, or practice at home, their bodies will never adapt to the standing series.

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