How can we keep our students safe and give them challenges? As a yoga instructor, you are there to challenge your students into new spaces mentally and physically from what they may never think possible for themselves before. However, you are also there to keep your students safe and injury free. How to establish this balance between challenge and safety? Let’s look at a system of checks and balances to keep your students in a safe place.
Student Safety Procedure
It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure the safety of their students in the yoga classroom. Below are some guidelines for teachers to follow in order to create a safe environment for challenging students:
1. Know your students’ abilities and limits. It is important that you are familiar with the abilities and limitations of your students in order to give them appropriate challenges.
2. Make sure students are properly prepared. Before starting any challenging pose, make sure that your students are properly prepared mentally and physically. This includes making sure they are hydrated and have eaten a light meal beforehand.
3. Give clear instructions and demonstrations. When giving instructions for a challenging pose, be clear and concise. For beginners, make sure to provide a step-by-step demonstration so that new students can see what they need to do.
4. Encourage students to listen to their bodies. Students should be encouraged to listen to their bodies and go at their own pace. If they feel pain or discomfort, they should stop and rest.
5. Be available for support. As the teacher, you should be available for support if needed. This includes being aware of any physical or emotional issues that may arise during the class.
Types of Students to Challenge
When you kindle your student’s desire to push themselves, it is usually best for regulars or students you have frequent interaction with. These practitioners typically know better and therefore have a more robust understanding of their needs and abilities. In turn, they feel more comfortable informing you if they feel genuinely uncomfortable in a challenge.
Other times teachers can get swept up in the success of new and eager yoga students. If a new practitioner reaches a higher milestone in practice, it is easy for an instructor to forget that each day is different. Even if a student made significant progress in a posture one day, the next day their body or mind may not be in the same place, which may lead to an injury in a posture they may have opened into the day before.
Teaching Without Ego
Teachers must leave their egos aside and continually evaluate practitioners, their comfort level, and ability constantly. No matter how much you’ve worked with a student, check-ins are always necessary for safety. A quick “how does that feel” or simply placing a block near someone with a pained face in a floor posture will be an important prevention.
Filling Advanced Classes or Programs
Other possible danger zones occur when focusing shifts from the practice to the business of yoga. Sometimes studios need a certain number of students to run workshops or classes, and programs intended for advanced or master’s level can become too relaxed in the admission process. A new student should never be allowed to participate in anything labeled master, no matter the level of supervision. Keep the integrity and safety of the practice at all times. It will be more enjoyable for the student, and you will rest easy knowing your students are safe and happy.
Education and Adjustments
Educate practitioners in your classes about what to watch for in specific advanced postures and at the same time check in with the ego before they attempt to push limits. This way you empower the students to check in with themselves before blindly attempting the challenge. The more your students know their intention behind the desire to challenge, the better aligned their transition will be.
If you decide your intention to challenge a student is pure and ego-free, it’s essential in the next step, you slowly step into the student’s space to feel the energy and ask permission to push them a bit further with an adjustment or verbal cue. Acting in the student’s personal space will also allow for a more one-on-one experience, rather than inviting the ego when the class turns its attention to yourself and the student. Take your time, breathe with the student and check in before the challenge.
The Perfect Balance
Ask yourself why you want to push a student into a new space in their practice before you take action. Sit with the reasoning to feel if it comes from a place of love or ego. As a procedure, when you give a challenge and keep your student safe, check in with him or her to ensure they feel comfortable throughout the adjustment or verbal cue. Try and do so somewhat intimately instead of involving the class for ego. Keep the intentions pure for growth in a specific posture or series, take your time to listen, and your student’s practice will flourish.
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