By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Competent Yoga teachers should have enough knowledge to work with special populations. This includes students with disabilities, seniors, and many more specialized groups with physical limitations. The reason is that Hatha Yoga is a health maintenance system, but some people only look at the superficial aspects.
If a Yoga teacher is only capable of instructing elite athletes who are 16 to 25 years of age, that’s wonderful. However, such a Yoga teacher should accept the title of “Yoga fitness coach,” as this is a limited method for teaching Yoga students.
As Yoga teachers, we always remember the students who can turn their bodies into pretzels, but that is not all there is to Hatha Yoga. If Yoga were a physical competition, we could invite some top gymnasts to teach classes and retire from teaching Yoga because we were too old to perform feats that impress a crowd.
This is not meant to imply disrespect to young gymnasts, martial artists, dancers, or any other highly trained athlete. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge, effort, work, and time that is involved in their specific training. Therefore, the same can be said for Yoga; since teaching Yoga requires in-depth knowledge and training.
Some of the children, I have trained, around 10 years of age are capable of performing amazing asanas with fantastic form. Should they be teaching Hatha Yoga to the rest of us? By now, I hope you understand my point.
Many Yoga teachers work with special populations because it challenges the mind. You have to research ailments, consult with other Yoga teachers, and find solutions to problems. This might be frustrating to a Yoga teacher who wants to show what he or she can physically do.
Therefore, a Yoga teacher who has not matured much past “showing off” should not be teaching Yoga to special populations. As long as he or she doesn’t hurt any elite athletes, everything should be fine. Some Yoga teachers are capable of working with the young and the old Yoga students, within the course of a week, but this is not usually the case.
The key ingredients for teaching Yoga to special populations are compassion, patience, understanding, and maturity. When Yoga teachers work with these groups, we always remember the fantastic comebacks Yoga students made from a stroke, heart attack, ailment, disease, trauma, or a special condition.
To be in the presence of a positively charged human spirit is an amazing feeling. This is what usually happens when Yoga students, who the world might have given up on, make a come back from a near death experience. These very special Yoga students will never be forgotten due to their indomitable spirit.
© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
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