By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
The systematic practice of Yoga poses, meditation techniques and breathing exercises can have a profoundly healing effect on a Yoga student. This healing may come in the form of a healthier body and/or in the form of a lighter, happier more peaceful mind. However, if a student is working above his or her ability or fitness level in a class, the possibility of injury can derail many of these benefits. By creatively formatting your Yoga class and maintaining an awareness of any students who may be prone to injury, you will lessen the likelihood that a student may injury him or herself in your class.
In addition, by facilitating easy and comfortable communication between yourself and your students, you will further mitigate the possibility of injury. This ease of communication will help you to be aware of any students who may need extra support or modified Yoga poses and props, in order to practice certain asanas safely. One of the easiest ways to improve the communication between you and your students is to have each student fill out a questionnaire about their health concerns prior to practicing with you. As you review the student questionnaires, you will be able to identify students who are healing from injuries or who are contending with serious health issues.
In this way, you will be able to keep on eye on these students, so that you can support their healing process through their Yoga practice. The other way to facilitate easy, fluid, ongoing communication is to have “office hours” prior to, or just after, a Yoga class. Even a fifteen minute slot of time when you are available to meet with your students individually, on an ongoing basis, will help you to stay aware of any students who may need some extra support and attention during class. Additionally, by creatively formatting your Yoga class, so that you can quietly and unobtrusively keep your eye on any students who are injury prone, will greatly improve your students’ safety during a class.
A wonderful way to creatively format a Yoga class in order to improve student safety is to practice in a circle! Although this class format is unconventional, practicing in a circle will help you to have a direct line of vision to each student. This will facilitate your keen awareness of each student’s needs, on a moment-to-moment basis. Although some students may feel a bit shy about practicing Yoga in a circle at first, if you exude an air of acceptance and fun, these students will begin to relax and most of them will enjoy the enhanced contact with you and with the other students.
Another creative way to format your Yoga class in order to improve the safety of your students is to rotate the direction that you are demonstrating the poses. In other words, in the traditional Yoga class format where the teacher faces the front of the room, by demonstrating the first pose or first series of postures facing your students, you will put them at ease. As the class proceeds, by rotating the direction you, yourself, are facing, you will be able to quietly keep on eye on any injury prone students. By simply turning a quarter of a turn towards each adjacent wall as you demonstrate each posture, with your students following suit, you will be able to more easily spot students who may need additional support to practice the postures safely and effectively.
This is particularly true when the class turns to the back wall and you can observe your Yoga students from behind, without them becoming self-conscious. This observational stance will allow you to identify those students who frequently choose to practice in the back of the class, but who clearly need additional instruction, modifications and props to safely progress in their Yoga practice. By creatively formatting your Yoga classes, you will facilitate increased connection between your students and yourself, as well as increasing the connection between your students. This increased connection will further enhance a sense of community, fun and safety during your Yoga classes.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.