What Should a Yoga Teacher Know About Asana?

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What Should a Yoga Teacher Know About Asana?

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Yoga teachers are certainly not expected to “know it all,” but students do anticipate a specific standard of knowledge and competence from an instructor. In order to be an effective Yoga teacher, you should possess a well-rounded body of knowledge, regarding Yogic history and roots, its benefits and cautions, and how to teach specific asanas. Most importantly, Yoga teachers should always have a source to consult when faced with unanswerable questions from students. As you gain experience teaching Yoga, and grow in your own practice, your knowledge base will also grow.

Lesson Plan – Sequence

When it comes to asanas, there are hundreds. Within those hundreds, there are many variations, depending on what style you are teaching. If these numbers seem overwhelming, keep in mind that you do not have to know all of the asanas as a new Yoga teacher. However, Yoga instructors should know how to teach a core set of asanas. They should be able to put the poses together into a sequence, so students feel as if the class has a certain rhythm or theme.

When putting together a sequence, consider the starting point. Will the students be seated, lying on the floor, or standing? Ask yourself how you want the sequence to flow. Do you want it to start slow and easy, then move to more challenging poses, then end with more soothing, contemplative poses; or will the sequence revolve around a series of poses, such as a Sun Salutation? You can also group asanas by beginning with seated poses, moving to standing poses, and ending with floor poses.

Cueing

It is not enough for Yoga instructors to know the asanas. As a teacher, you should be able to demonstrate them to the students, while giving important verbal cues to look for within the body. For example, when teaching Warrior I pose (Virabhadrasana I), you must always remind the students to keep their front knee above the ankle, not the toes. You must remind them to keep their hips faced forward, and their shoulders down (not locked into hyper-extension). Each pose has its own set of cues that help students perfect the asana, as well as avoid injuries or strains. Keep in mind that demonstrating the poses is about the students achieving the posture, not about a perfect Yoga teacher modeling a perfect pose.

Observation

Always put yourself in a position to see exactly what all of your students are doing. This entails walking around the room – at times when it would be impossible to know if your students are practicing correctly, unless you get off your mat to observe them. Turn your mat to face your students and always remember it is their class. Our personal practice does not take place during student class time.

Modification

As a Yoga instructor, you must realize everyone’s body is different. We cannot put students into a mold. Learn and develop the best methods for using props. Get past the idea that props are for beginners. Props are therapeutic and help students develop the best possible alignment for their bodies.

Adjustment – Assisting

Get permission before you make a physical assist. Take a specialized Yoga teacher training course, if you do not know the rules of alignment for different bodies. For example: When teaching Triangle (Trikonasana), it might be impossible to adjust every student into perfect alignment. Be gentle, patient, compassionate, and never force muscles or joints. Do not spend all of your time “over handling” students. The best student experience is the culture we want to create during class time.

Risks

There are always certain risks involved with each pose. It is the Yoga teacher’s job to inform his or her students of all potential risks involved with each pose. A competent Yoga instructor should know the health and injury history of each student, in order to provide specific students with cautions or adaptations for poses.

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3 Comments

  1. Masud Parvez April 9, 2016 at 1:51 am

    A competent Yoga instructor should know the health and injury history of each student, in order to provide specific students with cautions or adaptations for poses.

  2. Marry Wilson April 9, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Yoga instructors should know how to teach a core set of asanas. Its really very useful article, Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Dr R. K S. Rathore April 12, 2016 at 4:00 am

    It is the Yoga teacher’s job to inform his or her students of all potential risks involved with each pose. A competent Yoga instructor should know the health and injury history of each student….., Very useful article for Yoga Teachers. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

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