chair yoga teacher training programBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Teaching Yoga to students who are recovering from surgery or living with a chronic illness, poses a variety of challenges and a unique opportunity to make a significant difference in a student’s level of health. Of course, there are a wide diversity of physical challenges that your students may be experiencing. For example, in the Eastern United States, there is a high prevalence of Lyme’s disease, which is brought on by a tick bite. Left unchecked, Lyme’s disease can cause grave neuromuscular damage, including brain damage. Yoga students may also frequently contend with sports-related injuries or even injuries from practicing Yoga asanas incorrectly. 

By helping to guide and support your Yoga students towards physical strength, balance and the ability to rest and relax through a consistent asana practice, breathing exercises and meditation techniques, you will be supporting them in their healing journey. The same is true for the students who are recovering from an injury or surgical procedure. Again, there are many different injuries and/or physical challenges with which a Yoga student may be living. For example, one student may be contending with a torn rotator cuff from improperly practicing a twisting pose or a torn knee from a skiing accident. 

Regardless of the physical challenge, an individually modified sequence of Yoga poses, pranayama techniques and meditation practices can nourish and support a Yoga practitioner in regaining his or her overall health and well-being. The Sun Salutations are one of the core foundational sequence of Yoga poses, which are usually practiced at the beginning of class, in order to warm-up all of the major muscle groups and increase the circulation of fresh oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. 

Because it is one of the foundational sequences in Hatha Yoga practice, modifying the Sun Salutations, so that all of your students can safely practice this encompassing sequence of asanas, will help the students who are physically challenged to feel a sense of normalcy and physical mastery during their healing process. At the most basic level, the Sun Salutations are essentially a pranayama exercise, which circulates fresh blood and oxygen throughout the entire body. 

If a Yoga student is unable to stand or raise his or her arms overhead during the Sun Salutations, simply participating in the vinyasa through the breath will help to give your student a sense of inclusion in the class. Over time, the student may be able to stand and raise his or her arms overhead, and then flow into Standing Forward Fold. By building up the components of the Sun Salutation slowly and systematically with each individual student, you will ensure that each student is practicing the poses safely, while regaining a stronger state of health and well-being with each succeeding class.

© Copyright 2013 – Virginia Iversen – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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