By Gopi Rao
Assisting asanas is an art form that requires communication and observation skills. Teaching a Yoga class is a unique experience, and every class is different. The range of students, along with their comfort and ability levels will obviously vary. As Yoga teachers, we learn to make Yogic methodology an accessible activity for people, no matter what his or her fitness levels are. Offering alternatives to certain poses along with assisting with asanas are integral parts of being a mindful teacher. After all, one of the many reasons people enjoy the practice of Yoga is that it offers something for everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or experience.
One of the key aspects of being a strong Yoga instructor is the ability to observe students as they flow through their practice. Making sure they have good posture, correct footing, and are following the proper breathing techniques is all part of the process. Sometimes this means that extra verbal instruction might be required, other times it may mean offering a hand to help balance or gentle physical touches in order to guide the body through the asana. Whatever the case may be, a good teacher will know when to step in so that students get the most out of their practice.
Flexibility and balance are two of the main physical issues that we hear most about as teachers. Many students come to class and volunteer those two words (flexibility and balance) as to why they are taking classes. However, those two concepts are also very difficult for some people. It is up to you, as a teacher, to help guide them through the difficult asanas. This can be done in a gentle way, without forcing the issue, by touch and verbal cues. Often we find that simple words of encouragement are the best ways to help students as they move through a particularly challenging asana.
One of the most important things to remember is to not force the issue. If a student is having a problem with a certain pose, it is never a good idea to get them to conform by using force. Doing so can lead to the student feeling uncomfortable or even lead to injury. Many times people come to Yoga training as a way to recover from a previous injury or because they are learning to gain some physical or emotional strength. Since we, as Yoga teachers, cannot know everyone’s history, all we can do is offer gentle yet constructive advice when assisting asanas.
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