As a yoga instructor, you are there to challenge your students into new spaces mentally and physically from what they may never thought possible for themselves before. However, you are also there to keep your students safe and injury free. How to establish this balance between challenge and safety?
Types of Students to Challenge
When you kindle your students desire to push themselves, it is usually best for regulars or students you have frequent interaction with. These practitioners you typically know better, and therefore have a stronger understanding for their needs and abilities. In turn they feel more comfortable to inform you if they feel truly uncomfortable in a challenge.
Other times teachers can get swept up in the success of a new and eager yoga student. If a new practitioner reaches a higher milestone in the practice, it is easy for an instructor to forget that each day is different. Even if a student made great progress in a posture one day, the next day their body or mind may not be in the same place, which may lead to an injury in a posture they may have opened into the day before.
Teachers must leave their ego aside and continually evaluate practitioners, their comfort level and ability constantly. No matter how much you’ve worked with a student, check-ins are always necessary for safety. A quick “how does that feel” or simply placing a block near someone with a pained face in a floor posture will act as important prevention.
Filling Advanced Classes or Programs
Other possible danger zones occur when focus shifts from the practice to the business of yoga. Sometimes studios need a certain amount of students to run workshops or classes, and programs intended for advanced or master’s level can become too relaxed in the admission process.
A new student should never be allowed to participate in anything labeled master, no matter the level of supervision. Keep the integrity and safety of the practice at all times. It will be more enjoyable for the student, and you will rest easy knowing your students are safe and happy.
Education and Adjustments
Educate practitioners in your classes about what to watch for in certain advanced postures, and at the same time to check in with the ego before they attempt to push limits. This way you empower the students to check in with themselves before blindly attempting the challenge. The more your students are aware of their intention behind the desire to challenge, the better aligned their transition will be.
If you decide your intention to challenge a student is pure and ego-free, it’s important in the next step you slowly step into the student’s space to feel the energy and ask permission to push them a bit further with an adjustment or verbal cue. Acting in the student’s personal space will also allow for a more one-on-one experience, rather than inviting the ego when the class turns it’s attention as a whole to yourself and the student. Take your time, breathe with the student and check in before the challenge.
The Perfect Balance
Ask yourself why you want to push a student into a new space in their practice before you take action to do so. Sit with the reasoning to feel if it comes from a place of love or of ego.
When you do challenge a student, check in with him or her to insure they feel comfortable throughout the adjustment or verbal cue. Try and do so somewhat intimately, instead of involving the class for ego. Keep the intentions pure for growth in a specific posture or series, take your time to listen and you and your student’s practice will flourish.
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