By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
During Yoga teacher training, interns commonly ask similar questions. However, when considering Yoga student safety, the most common question of them all might be the following sentence:
What Should Yoga Teachers Look for in Standing Postures?
One role of a Yoga teacher is to observe students practicing their poses, and help them make corrections when needed. The teacher must be able to quickly spot alignments that may cause injury, produce discomfort, or prevent the Yoga student from experiencing the pose’s intention. Yoga instructors should especially monitor students who are practicing standing postures, because there is a greater likelihood that students might fall or distribute their weight in such a way that could be dangerous. Below are some details that Yoga instructors should look for in standing postures.
1. Balance: Make sure the student is comfortably balancing while practicing the pose. If this is not the case, the student can become steady by lowering a raised foot, or knee, to the mat. The Yoga teacher should be aware that adjusting the student physically, in a balancing asana, can cause the student to lose his or her balance altogether. Verbal guidance regarding focal point, calm breathing, and mentally avoiding self-criticism can be a big help for Yoga students.
2. Strength: The student should have enough muscle strength to remain steady in the pose. If the student appears weak or tired, he or she can alleviate overburdened muscles by coming out of the pose, or by placing a raised foot or knee on the ground. Standing postures are excellent for building strength; however, the student must work within their means and strengthen muscles over time.
3. Knee Placement: In lunging poses, such as Warrior 1 and Crescent Warrior, the front knee stacks over the ankle. Students will often turn the front knee inward or push it ahead of the ankle. Yoga teachers can effectively support their students by either manually, or verbally, explaining the correct alignment.
4. Hip alignment: In standing postures, the hip points are usually either parallel to one another and facing forward, or they are open to the side. Students will often open their hips while practicing “parallel hip” postures, such as Warrior 2, Warrior 3, and Dancer’s pose. Yoga instructors can help students maintain the integrity and purpose of the posture, by watching hip alignment and providing physical, verbal, or visual adjustments when needed.
5. Spinal alignment: Standing poses present terrific opportunities to improve spinal alignment. Students can practice lengthening and extending their spines, which can help reverse chronic slouching and rounded shoulders. Often, a Yoga teacher can prompt a student to lengthen his or spine, by simply placing a finger on the spine and reminding them to stand up straight.
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