By Gopi Rao
Where do we begin with asana modification? Sometimes, a Yoga instructor is like the conductor of an orchestra. The many minds of our students are multi-tasking, but we want to bring them into the moment and into their practice. As you may have learned during yoga teacher training: Good minds do not always think alike.
One of the great things about asana is that it is a comfortable option for people of all fitness levels. The reason for this is that there are modifications for many of the poses. This is especially convenient for beginners along with other people who may not have full range of motion due to age or injury. Yoga teachers have the option of showing the modifications along with helping the students so that they get the most out of their practice. This is why it is so important to observe the students as they move through the poses, so that you can see if there are certain people who are struggling during practice.
Joint pain, back pain, and issues from previous injuries are common. This can mean that certain asanas are unattainable for some students. Yet the benefit of asana modification can help a student to get the full experience and benefit from their practice of Yoga. Modification is an important aspect of Yoga training, as it offers students a choice and a different way of looking at things. Although there are many things in life that are rigid, the practice of asana is not one of them. Students can and will benefit from the flow of asanas and although form is important, it isn’t the only thing.
There are times when you are offering modifications that verbal cues or showing the asana modification by example will be sufficient. However, there is also a place and a time to show the student by physically guiding them, using a gentle touch, or perhaps by offering a helping hand. This can be beneficial during the asana, especially if you notice a student struggling. Many times a student will be unaware of a modification and will think they are unable to participate in an asana, so they will be pleasantly surprised by the offer of modification.
Of course, not everyone who struggles during an asana is interested in modifying it. Many students want to push their boundaries and grow through their practice. As a Yoga teacher, there are times when recognizing that need is also important so that a person can get the most out of themselves and challenge their abilities in a healthy way.
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