Teaching Yoga to Students Recovering from Surgery

Teaching Yoga to Students Recovering from Surgery or Living with Chronic Illness: Contemplative Practices

500 hour yoga certification programBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Teaching Yoga to students who are recovering from surgery, living with chronic illness or contending with an injury poses a unique challenge to both the teacher and the students. A challenge can also be viewed as an opportunity to sink more deeply into the Yogic teachings that underlie asana practice. One of the primary contemplative practices of Yoga is the awareness and implementation of ahimsa or non-violence into every level of one’s life, including all of the various aspects of Yoga.


Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term that is defined as non-harmfulness in word, thought and deed. It is one of Pantanjali’s recommended five restraints or Yamas, which are explained in his famous Yoga Sutras. Helping your students to understand, practice and fully embody the concept of non-harmfulness will serve them well as they strive towards vibrant health and well-being. The concept of non-harmfulness can be quite tricky to fully understand and embody. Not only does ahimsa refer to refraining from pushing your students past their physical capabilities, it also refers to not engaging in a negative attitude about your students’ capabilities and level of commitment to Yoga.

As a Yoga teacher, if you engage in negative thoughts about the efforts and level of understanding of your students, they will surely feel the negativity of your attitude. When your are teaching one or more students who are struggling to engage in a full Yoga practice, despite serious illness or injury, do take some time to contemplate the fact that he or she actually made it to class and is actively working towards creating better health! This alone demonstrates a substantial dedication to the Yogic practices, regardless of any number of physical challenges.


It is also important to remember that it can be quite intimidating for new Yoga students to attend a multi-level class, even without an injury. Attending a multi-level class as a new student, with an injury or illness, takes even more courage. Additionally, seasoned Yogis or Yoginis may also struggle with new physical limitations that they have never encountered before. During class, by reminding your students to consciously be aware of the concept of ahimsa, you will help them to view their efforts from the perspective of non-harmfulness, compassion and patience, which are critical to implement during a period of healing from surgery, injury or chronic illness.

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

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