By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
How serious should teachers be about student safety precautions? Yoga is considered healing for injuries, but that does not mean the potential for damage does not exist. Accidents and injuries are possible in every Yoga class, and instructors must be aware and take steps to minimize these problems. Beginner classes are especially fraught with potential for injury: Students unfamiliar with any particular movement have the potential to push themselves too far, fall from an unstable position, or try to compete with the practitioner on the next mat.
Here are some general student safety precautions for Yoga instructors: Be aware, by watching your students at all times. While teaching Yoga, the number one priority should be the safety of your students, rather than your own practice. Demonstrate the asana, and then come out of the position to observe the students. Move around the room, if all of the students are not visible to you. Consider the class level, and be especially vigilant with beginners and midlevel students. Keep class sizes small enough to feel comfortable watching everyone.
Recognize the potential for injuries. Some asanas lend themselves more to injuries, if not performed correctly. A pulled hamstring, for example, is a common injury in Yoga and is usually caused by overstretching in a seated or standing forward bend. Before moving into the posture, instruct students to stretch slowly, not to jerk or bounce, and to stop at their comfort level.
Ask about pre-existing conditions, and design a questionnaire that addresses these questions, for the sake of student safety. Students may be relying on the Yoga teacher to tell them not to perform an asana with a pre-existing condition, but there should be a state of student and teacher awareness of the exact contraindication, when you warn them against the technique.
Prepare the muscles and joints for practice. Always complete a thorough warm-up before moving into the class. The length of the warm-up should be proportional to the skill level, with new student classes taking the longest. Age of the student, and time of day, are also factors in warming up. For example: Morning chair Yoga classes, with the median student, age of 75 years, require a longer warm-up than an evening beginner class, with a median student age of 25. This warm-up time not only prepares the body, it gives the mind time to focus, which is good for those new to Yoga. Setting intentions, and reminding students to listen to their bodies, can also help reduce injury rates.
Emphasize alignment. Move into every pose, from the foundation up, and do not encourage anyone to “take it to the next level,” if they have not completely mastered the technique.
Teach your students at their level. Be humble about your own abilities, and be certain you fully understand all of the student safety precautions of any new styles, or techniques, you introduce to students.
Consider obtaining CPR/AED certification. This lifesaving tool is inexpensive to learn and can help in situations far beyond the mat.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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