Friday, November 06, 2015

Teaching Yoga and the Power of Truth: Offering Modifications

Back bends for healthy backs
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

During a comprehensive teacher-training course, you will learn how to teach a wide range of students the classical postures, pranayama exercises and meditation techniques of a variety of Yoga styles. You will also learn how to modify and customize your Yoga classes, in order to address your student’s individual needs during class. One of the primary ways of customizing a particular sequence of Yoga postures is to offer students who are struggling with modified versions of the classical poses. 

One way of modifying poses is to use Yoga props, such as blocks, bolsters and straps.  Another way of modifying the postures is to offer beginning versions of more advanced postures to students who are still developing the necessary strength and flexibility to practice more advanced versions of the same poses. For instance, if a student is particularly tight in the front of the upper torso, practicing the full version of Upward Facing Dog may cause strain and discomfort. 



In this case, suggesting that this student practice Sphinx or Cobra Pose, before moving on to Upward Facing Dog, will help that student elongate the front of the torso, shoulders and neck muscles, so that in time he or she will be able to practice Upward Facing Dog without straining. Although this may make intuitive sense to you as a professional Yoga instructor, approaching your students honestly, kindly and firmly may take some finesse. You may find that a number of your students, who would benefit from a modified Yoga practice, are actually quite fit from other athletic activities. 

For example, if you do have a number of students in your Yoga classes who are physically quite fit, but who have shortened hamstrings from any number of other athletic activities, such as running on pavement, playing basketball or skiing, approaching your students in an honest and respectful manner is important. When you are offering modifications to your Yoga students, skillfully modifying a pose in an appropriate manner is imperative. In addition, honestly letting your students know if and when it is important for them to back off the full version of an asana and practice a modified version is also necessary. 

As a certified Yoga teacher, when you approach your students in an honest, courageous and kind manner, they will feel supported in their practice instead of criticized. At least, most of the time! An innocuous way to offer a stepped series of modifications, is to have a few students practice at the front of the class, who can correctly model beginning, intermediate and advanced versions of the same posture. In this way, a student will be more likely to practice the appropriate level of a pose, without feeling individually pointed out. If this is not possible, quietly and compassionately offering modified Yoga poses to your students who need a less advanced practice will help those students to build up the requisite strength and flexibility, before moving onto more advanced versions of the same postures over time. 

When you are offering modified versions of classical Yoga postures to your students, it is also important to be quite firm in your guidance. If you have a number of students in your Yoga classes who are very physically fit and active in a number of sports, being told that they would benefit from using a block or a bolster in a certain pose may not sit well with them! However, if they injure themselves during a Yoga class, they will be less likely to develop a long term relationship with this ancient form of physical postures, breathing exercises and stress relieving, meditation techniques, which have the ability to create and sustain an abiding sense of well being for a lifetime. 

With persistent, patient practice, even those Yoga students who are quite challenged by many of the basic asanas will make substantial progress on the mat. As they begin to experience the balancing and strengthening benefits of a regular practice of postures, pranayama exercises and meditation techniques, your students will learn to trust your ability to guide them in an appropriate and fearless manner through a challenging Yoga class. Over time, their growing trust in your ability to offer them a practice that is comprehensive, safe and effective will engender loyalty to you as their teacher and a deepening commitment to their own Yoga practice. 

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: enchantress108@gmail.com.

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

2 comments:

parvezbdjsr said...

When a certified Yoga teacher approach his/her students in an honest, courageous and kind manner, the students feel supported in their practice instead of criticized. Thanks for this valuable post.

Mary Wilson said...

One of the primary ways of customizing a particular sequence of Yoga postures is to offer students who are struggling with modified versions of the classical poses. Thanks for good posting!