Five Tips for Yoga Instructors
Recent statistics indicate that more than 15 million Americans practice yoga for its mind and body benefits. Even though there are many different styles of yoga, all instructors can do certain things to make sure their students gain the health benefits of yoga while minimizing their risk for injuries. We asked a group of professional yoga instructors and teacher trainers to tell us the top five things that all yoga teachers should do to keep their students safe.
Know Your Anatomy
“Ensure you have proper training in alignment and anatomy so you can fully understand how poses affect the human body,” says Angie Eckenroth of Radiant Yoga in Overland Park, Kansas.
Anatomy studies are an important part of yoga instructor training for good reason. The structure of the human body and variations from person to person mean that certain poses are riskier than others and may not be appropriate for every student. Giving your students a good grounding in proper alignment and the physical structures and actions associated with it can go a long way toward helping them build strength without injury.
Teach Body Awareness
Leah Morgan of Core Balance Yoga in Lee’s Summit, Missouri says, “Encourage your students to listen to their bodies and understand their own limitations.”
Yoga produces many intense physical sensations, so it is important to teach students the difference between harmful pain and the expected feelings that come from working and stretching the body productively. A student’s experience of yoga postures can change from day to day, so it’s important that you make them feel that they have permission to honor their own feelings and adjust their practice as necessary in class.
“Make sure to give alternate yoga poses so students with limitations or injuries can practice safely,” suggests Morgan. “I tell my students there’s always child’s pose. They’re welcome to stop whenever they need to and rejoin the class when they’re ready.”
As a yoga instructor, it is your responsibility to ask each student about potential physical limitations and injuries and offer adjustments to accommodate them with alternate poses or modified pacing.
Encourage, But Don’t Push
Kelly Colln of Zona Yoga in Kansas City, Missouri says, “Be encouraging and challenge your yoga students, but don’t push them beyond safe limits.”
This can be a particular problem in fast-paced, fitness-style yoga classes but it’s something for instructors to watch out for in any class. Your goal should be to help your students maximize their physical potential without taking them over the line to injury.
Always Keep Learning
“Get continuing education in the form of training or workshops so you can continue to grow as a yoga teacher,” says Eckenroth.
There will always be more to learn about yoga and you never know when a class, workshop or conference might provide just the information you need to help a particular student safely deepen his or her practice. Your learning process should be lifelong by design to benefit your own practice and that of your students. The more you know, the easier it will be to teach your students how to remain injury-free.
Thank you so much for your prompt response. Might I add, Veronica was a delight to work with and her professionalism and attention to detail made this an overall pleasurable experience.