when to assistBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

When to assist our students is confusing to some teachers. There are several aspects to teaching Yoga. Instructors must first know all the postures and how to perform them; they must know the correct verbal cues; understand the benefits and risks associated with each pose; be able to convey the philosophies and techniques of Yoga concisely, and be a positive role model to students. As a Yoga teacher, you have a responsibility to your students to provide them with a positive, informative, and uplifting experience with Yoga. Sometimes, this involves correcting students’ postures when they are performing them incorrectly.

Knowing when to assist and how to help out your students, during class, comes with experience. After careful observation, you will begin to realize that not all Yoga students need immediate correction of postures. If given time and verbal cues by the instructor, many students will be able to fix minor errors in positioning without assistance. Some students need some extra instruction, modeling, or physical guidance. Knowing who these students are, and when to help them, is a finely-tuned skill.

When to Assist or Let Them Explore

It is not always necessary to point out all mistakes. People will often catch their own mistakes, once they gain experience with the poses, and begin to learn how each pose should feel. Beginners often flail around a bit, simply because of their lack of experience with Yoga asana practice.  An instructor, who is constantly correcting everything students do, might turn them off from Yoga completely, or give the impression that it is too hard for them to succeed.

On the other hand, someone who struggles with a pose, receiving no assistance, might feel unimportant or let down by the Yoga teacher. Yoga instructors must really tune in to their students to understand who to help and when. If a student is obviously struggling with a pose, go over to their mat and offer advice, or guide them into the pose with gentle hands. If you are introducing a new pose, walk around to get a look at everyone, giving guidance as necessary. Always speak calmly and quietly, and adjust poses to the best of the student’s ability.

When to Assist Right Away

Always, immediately, assist someone who is experiencing extreme discomfort or pain.  Without using words, many people will ask for help as needed. Pick up on the cues the student is giving. If they seem to welcome your advice, keep giving it. If they tend to pull back or become embarrassed by your help, give them the necessary space. Always remind your students to do what feels right and good for their bodies, and not to worry so much about getting the Yoga poses “right.”

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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