Hands-on work by yoga teachers during yoga classes is a hot topic at the moment! Teachers touching students (with no training to do so) can be a problem and it has created all sorts of challenges, including injuries.
As a matter of fact, it has been a serious problem for enough students that some studios now have consent cards so each student can let their teacher know how they feel. Not a widespread practice yet. And because they often place their teacher on a pedestal, or at least assume they know best, students tend to disregard their own body cues or won’t dare speak up in a class environment.
So injuries have happened.
Students with a trauma history have been triggered.
Many students have experienced discomfort under the adjusting hands of their yoga teacher.
And new yoga students have been turned away from yoga all together!
TEACHING YOGA IS A BIG RESPONSIBILITY!
Hands-on adjustments are not the only way students can be hurt by teachers. The cuing language has a lot to do with it! For instance, assuming that every student enjoys and can relax while in Child Pose is not being aware that different bodies have different needs. “Straighten those legs” when in a Downward Dog can be damaging to some students also. It is an invitation to adjust one’s body to fit the form of the pose instead of letting the pose be an opportunity for the student to stay connected to her body.
THE PERFECTION OF A POSE NEEDS TO BE A GUIDE NOT AN END IN ITSELF!
Hands-on adjustments were meant as a solution to yogis getting injured but the focus remained on the perfection of the form as a goal. It was assumed that injured yogis were not doing the pose correctly so adjustments would correct the body to fit the pose. And it certainly has helped many students. It also became obvious it was hurting many others in the process as the pose are there to help the yogis not for the yogi to be a slave to the pose.
Some teachers came up with the concept of hands-on assists, which is more gentle and helpful because the intention is to help and cooperate with the student’s body needs. This led to a wave of massaging hands and aromatherapy being used in the yoga class, making these classes very popular.
However, we are left with yet a couple unaddressed dimensions.
First, does massage belong in a yoga class? Are students coming to practice yoga or to receive massaging hands? Don’t get me wrong, those are wonderful to experience and fit a purpose. However, maybe such classes could be named differently?
Second, and more importantly, what is totally overlooked is what the teacher passes on to the student despite herself. I mean that when we touch others we pass on to them something about how we use our own body. And I have seen one yoga teacher after the other, rounding their back or craning their necks, or twisting their body to help a student lengthen his back?!
Yoga teachers know a lot about the poses and some know about yoga principles. However, they are taught to think in body parts. Teachers are not taught how to use their own body in an integrated way.
ADDRESSING THE TEACHERS UNCONSCIOUS WAYS OF USING THEIR BODY IS A MISSING DIMENSION IN YOGA TRAINING.
What they’re taught is to control their body by positioning its parts. That’s not the same thing nor is it sustainable. That’s why you can find many yoga teachers in the privacy of their own life, slouching into a pretzel when they forget about themselves. Yet good posture is the expression of a well-integrated body.
If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid these challenges as a yoga teacher, be it hurting students unknowingly or holding back from fear of hurting them. Be it holding yourself in “good posture” then finding yourself in an unavoidable slouch.
Join me on my next free webinar for yoga teachers called: Five Breakthrough Realizations to Transform your Yoga practice & Teaching. Hope to see you there!:)