modificationsBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

One definition of fear is to be anxious about an unpleasant or painful event that you feel is likely to happen in the future. For instance, if you are pursuing your Yoga teacher certification, you may be afraid that you are going to fail your final anatomy exam because you have not spent an ample amount of time studying. This fear may be completely reasonable and understandable, or this fear may be largely exaggerated if you have spent an adequate amount of time preparing for the anatomy final, but you are prone to anxiety.

In the same way, any number of your Yoga students may be afraid of what may befall them during class if they are struggling with any number of physical or emotional challenges. These challenges may be as simple and straightforward as tight hamstrings, due to running on pavement or playing tennis without stretching. On the other hand, some students’ physical and emotional challenges may be as serious as a traumatic brain injury, invasive cancer diagnosis or clinical depression.

Some students may even feel fear when they step onto the mat because they are afraid they will not be able to meet their own high expectations of themselves or the perceived high expectations of their teacher or the class at large. For instance, in some Yoga teacher training classes, there is a strong emphasis put on being able to drop back into Upward Facing Bow from a standing position. However, dropping back into this challenging backbend may not be appropriate for all teacher trainees, during every class.

If you are a committed Yoga practitioner, you know that your physical and emotional state of being fluctuates daily, and sometimes even over the course of the day. For example, in the morning your may be more stiff and your body might take more time to warm-up before you begin to practice challenging standing postures and arm balances. Similarly, the physical nuances and emotional needs of your students will fluctuate daily, if not hourly. Keying into the needs of your students is one of the hallmarks of a truly great Yoga teacher.

However, being attuned to your Yoga students’ individual needs and keeping your class moving at a decent pace, is another undertaking all together. This is where the conscious integration of modifications helps to create a cohesive class, which is safe, challenging and accessible to the vast majority of your students. Weaving modification instructions into the flow of your Yoga class will allow each individual student to tailor your class to his or her particular needs, on any given day.

There are many ways to modify the classical Yoga postures that are practiced in most classes. For example, using a block to support a student in his or her practice of Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose, will help that student to practice the posture in correct alignment, while keeping up with the pace and the intention of the class. Similarly, instructing your students who have tight hips to place a folded blanket under each knee while they practice Reclining Goddess Pose will help them to relax more fully in this restorative posture without putting undue strain on their knees.

One key to weaving modified Yoga postures into your class is to be very familiar with the postures and with a variety of modifications for the poses that you are teaching. Another key to seamlessly leading a group of students through a safe and effective multi-level class that offers them a variety of modifications is to have plenty of props available. There is nothing quite as disruptive to a class then when a number of students start rummaging around the back of the studio for blocks, bolsters or belts during a flowing sequence of postures!

In order to avoid this disruption to your Yoga class, it is advisable to announce at the beginning of class which props are recommended. It is also a good idea to let your students know how many of each prop they should place near their mat. For instance, if you know that a handful of your students have difficulty maintaining the correct alignment of their spine in Triangle Pose, placing a block next to their mat will facilitate the easy use of a prop during their practice of this fundamental Yoga posture.

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 specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: [email protected].

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

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