Should yoga teachers physically assist their students to help them get into the correct poses, or should teachers rely solely upon verbal instructions? The question is a good one, and sometimes a controversial one, since not all students feel comfortable with being touched by the yoga instructor. Other students, meanwhile, feel that they cannot get the most out of a yoga class without being touched. Take a look at these four tips for using physical assists during a yoga class.
1. Be extra sensitive with physical assists for beginners.
New yoga students often feel uncomfortable already. The yoga environment to them is foreign, even strange. Unrolling a mat and getting into unusual postures, in the first place, might have been a hard decision for them. For these students, touching is sometimes too much on top of an already awkward situation. Teachers of beginner classes, who do plan on touching their students to ease them into better or more correct positions, should, at the very least, give the students fair warning at the beginning of class so that a sudden hand on a shoulder or back doesn’t come as a shock. The last thing a yoga teacher wants to do to a new student is send his or her heart nervously racing because of a surprise touch in the middle of class.
2. Combine physical assists with verbal cues.
Touching a student, without providing any verbal information, can sometimes confuse students even more. “Does she want me to move this way?” the student might wonder. “Is she telling me I’m doing it wrong?” Instead, combine a light touching pressure, with verbal instruction, so that the student understands what the touch is intended to communicate.
3. Don’t open the door for physical assists being misinterpreted.
Extra sensitivity is also especially critical when teachers work with their opposite-sex students. A touch in an awkward place, a prolonged touch, or using anything more than just the palm of the hand, can be misinterpreted by the student to mean something more than just a posture correction. An innocent posture correction can suddenly become the grounds of a sexual harassment accusation.
4. Ask up-front if students mind being physically assisted during class.
One method teachers use to find out if students want to be touched, or not, is to simply ask them. When students purchase a membership at a yoga studio, find out from them in advance if they prefer to be physically assisted or not.
What is your own experience with being physically assisted during a yoga class? If you’re a teacher, what is your experience with giving physical assists? Share your thoughts and your stories below.
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