By Faye Martins
Students come to yoga class for a number of reasons. Some want to stretch and relax, some are looking to lose weight or tone muscles, and still others want to grow deeper into a yogic practice. This can make the instructor’s job a bit tricky, since not all students or asanas (poses) are one-size-fits-all. As you encounter a class full of students of various ages at various levels, keep in mind that your job is to keep your students safe and happy. When it comes to adjusting students for each asana, give concise instructions and gentle guidance, but don’t force anyone into a posture they aren’t quite comfortable with.
Know the Students
Yoga instructors should know their students’ medical limitations and injury backgrounds. When a specific pose will affect a student, you must let them know what type of modification would be appropriate. You can address the issue by making a general statement to the entire class, or go to the specific student and let them know in a low voice. Many people have back trouble, knee issues, or weak wrists and ankles. Instructors should be aware of which poses can irritate these areas, and then warn their students accordingly.
Stop Expecting Perfection
Model each pose for students, then walk around and make minor adjustments as you see fit. If someone is experiencing great difficulty, adjust the main problem, but don’t expect perfection. Inexperienced students will often adjust their selves over time as they become more familiar with the poses. Be careful not to turn students off by adjusting every little part of the pose. As long as a student isn’t in danger of injuring him or herself, let the minor mistakes go.
Tell Students to Do What Feels Right
The best yoga instructors reiterate to the students over and over again, “If it doesn’t feel right, adjust,” or, “Do what feels right for you.” Although commonly practiced in a group, yoga is an individualized, personal activity. The students will get out of it what they put into it, but it’s not necessarily the instructor’s job to push them too far. Instructors can encourage students to work to the best of their abilities, and to push their selves a bit further each time. But, since everyone in the class might be at varying levels, the instructor shouldn’t feel the need to push everyone into the same posture for the same amount of time.
Most 200 hour Yoga teacher training courses spend more than half of that time covering all the technical aspects of asana, modifications, adjustments, and how to create a lesson plan. With so much time devoted to asana, you might think we should be ready for everything. The truth is: Yoga teachers never stop learning. Each student is unique in many ways. No Yoga certification course can show you everything. At best one yoga instructor training course can build a strong and safe foundation of knowledge. That’s the reason why we continue to learn at workshops, camps, seminars, intensives and with each yoga student we meet.
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