By Faye Martins
Teaching Chair Yoga classes requires you to think outside the box. Chair yoga is a wonderful alternative for students who are trapped in the office or who have trouble with mobility and/or balance. They can still gain many of the benefits of warm ups, asana practice, relaxation and breathing exercises, while staying on or near a chair for support. Instructing a yoga class that uses a chair as the main prop will be a change from a typical class of students with full range of motion capabilities. Yoga teachers must be careful to be sensitive to the needs of their students.
Know Your Students
Yoga instructors must pay special attention to the unique needs of each student. Students in a chair based class could have a range of different issues, from hip, knee, shoulder and spinal problems or hip replacements to post-heart attack concerns. Some of your students will be cancer survivors and some may be struggling with neurological disorders, arthritis or diabetes. If it is possible, obtain a detailed health history form from each student prior to the first class and study it well. Each facility may respond to privacy laws differently, which might result in you being in the dark regarding all of your student’s health issues. If this is the case, you want to give precautions and encourage questions.
Educate Your Students
In most cases, you will be teaching chair yoga classes filled with senior citizens who have health issues and concerns or people that haven’t necessarily spent a great deal of time in yoga training sessions. Yoga instructors should take this opportunity to educate their students in regard to the benefits of yogic practices. Focus on one or two yogic breathing exercises (pranayama techniques) each class. Consider providing your students with a written handout on techniques so they can practice during the time between classes.
Keep It Simple
Remember to go slow and keep the asanas simple. Plan to introduce one or two new poses each class. You might consider focusing each class on one particular breathing concept, body part or organ. Explain the benefits of each asana when done on a regular basis and encourage your students to practice yoga on their own if possible. Give them simple tips and stretches that they can do every day without much thought. Leave your ego behind and remember that the students aren’t particularly interested in how graceful you are, but rather they would like to see for their selves how to stretch and breathe their way to better health.
Consider the Class Space
You might find yourself teaching chair yoga classes in a senior center, senior living complex, hospital, rehabilitation center or nursing home to teach a yoga class in chairs. This would make sense, considering your students are limited in mobility. Since you won’t usually be in your studio environment, you must check out the classroom space before the first class. Make sure you have adequate room and wall space to accommodate the students, chairs and other props. Create a pleasing and welcoming environment for all of your students.
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