Teaching Hatha Yoga for Injury Prevention

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Yoga is often thought of as a method for preventing injury. How could injuries occur during Yoga classes? How are the postures and pranayama presented during a class? Are postures thoroughly explained or strung together in a sequence and presented “on the fly.”

If the time is taken to know each student’s condition of health, there is, at least, one student present who needs a full and complete explanation of the posture. This includes a demonstration, cueing, and possibly, a modification or an assist.

When classes are too large, it becomes difficult for teachers to monitor every student and make adjustments properly. Unless a Yoga teacher has assistants present, the pace of a class has to slow down when the number of students present goes up.

Each Yoga teacher has a mental picture of how many students he or she can effectively teach within a class. If that number is surpassed, there are solutions: Slow down the class, place a limit on your numbers, or have experienced helpers present to monitor, adjust, assist, and modify.

Teachers should know the potential for injury in each posture. For example: When performing Matsyasana (Fish Pose), students should also know of the potential to hyper-extend the neck. If a student has pre-existing migraines, high or low blood pressure conditions, or a history of neck and back injury, this pose may have to be by-passed.

Again, referring to Matsyasana, how many teachers realize it can cause insomnia? How many students have learned this from those few teachers who know? This posture might not be the best for an evening Yoga class.

A blanket would make a nice support, if it is rolled up or folded under the back. Do teachers explain this? Are blankets or assistants available for students who are about to practice Matsyasana? Did the Yoga teacher explain that the throat should be soft, at all times, when performing Matsyasana?

Were preparation or substitute poses offered? For example: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) would make a nice substitution or preparation posture for Matsyasana, but it also has a list of cautions for students who have headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, a back injury, or who are pregnant.

The intention here is only to point out poses that are often taken for granted. I personally enjoy Matsyasana, and it can be modified to suit most students. This requires time and patience. If you ask around, most Yoga students do not realize the potential for injury in any posture, unless it is thoroughly explained.

Yoga classes cannot be compared, in any way, with aerobics classes. There should not be a feeling that unless we do this many “moves” today, it was not a “good class.” What is a good Yoga class? Everyone should learn something, be safe, and feel relaxed, as a result of the classroom experience.

The deeper learning experience is part of the reason why people come to Yoga classes. When we do not take the time to completely explain the method, preparation, alignment, modification, and potential for injury, we are putting students at risk.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Continuing Education and Free Resources

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Where could you learn about the contraindications of asanas and pranayama techniques? You could take a notebook to a week long exotic Yoga vacation. You could schedule a private Yoga teacher training intensive with me.

You could search through piles of Yoga DVD’s and books. You could go through online Yoga video archives and surf through hours of material. The problem is -you need the information before you teach your next Yoga class.

You have a new student with Glaucoma. Which asanas are off limits? Which techniques may help this student? The short answer is: Inversions are absolutely not suggested. Calming pranayama and tratak may be useful.

Where can you find this information within a day or a few hours? You should visit the Yoga teacher training forum. At this site you can get advice from Yoga teachers around the world. You can learn about Yogic applications for children, adults, elderly students, and Yoga for a variety of health conditions.

Anything you have a question about, in regard to Yoga, is being discussed on the Yoga teacher forum. I invite you to make use of this resource. Visit us, sign up, introduce yourself, and feel free to ask any Yoga-related questions.

You will notice that experienced Yoga teachers have a variety of approaches to the same problem. The Yoga teacher forum is a great place for teachers to share information about asanas, ailments, modifications, regulations, styles, and health solutions for students – or anything else related to Yoga.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications