How can teachers establish Yoga student safety guidelines? For all Yoga instructors, the number one priority in our classes is student safety. Hatha Yoga is necessary for the health of the mind and body, but, unfortunately, it can be unsafe if not practiced properly. Yogic methods are in the lower-risk category compared to many other physical activities.
Compare Yoga Student Safety to Other Popular Activities
Walking, golfing, canoeing, and swimming are also great activities, but most people never consider that severe accidents and fatalities happen during these activities. My point is not to shift attention to another action as more hazardous, but when you think of the possibilities, Yoga students are less likely to be hit by automobiles, golf carts, or golf balls during a class. That said, when you turn a Yoga class into a boot camp or torture chamber, there is much more room for error and accidents.
Yoga Student Safety and Every-Day Possibilities
The therapeutic benefits of Yoga can be magnificent. Still, over-extension of the muscles can occur if the poses are performed incorrectly or held for some time longer than a student can handle. Many Yoga students can recognize easily when they are having a problem. Still, Yoga teachers need to understand the signs that accompany a potential injury, as there are quite a few new students who may not have the ability to recognize a problem or who wish to push themselves as much as possible to keep up with the crowd.
Room for Concern
The usual concern about Yoga student safety is the potential for muscle tearing or straining. When a student extends a muscle more than it can safely move, such as a deep lunge that puts excessive strain on the muscles of the inner thighs, it can cause injury in the muscles that will require long-term healing. Physical therapy, rest, and less class practice time might also be needed. Bed rest and time away from work are frequently prescribed to patients with joint injuries. This means that students are not able to practice yoga regularly and are not receiving the benefits to their health that it provides.
Pre-Existing Health Conditions
Many people practice Yoga for its therapeutic benefits due to existing health concerns, and an injury for these students is difficult if a posture (asana) practice has caused additional harm or complicated recovery from a pre-existing problem. Less physical activity due to injury can lead to a compromised immune system, and those students with health problems cannot afford to become ill. Even the slightest cold may lead to more severe issues, complicating healing.
Other potential injuries associated with unsafe Yoga practices are problems in the tendons, ligaments, tissues within the spinal column, and tearing of cartilage. These injuries require long healing processes that may add to months of recovery. Warming up before beginning an asana practice can prevent many injuries by doing basic circular or linear warm-ups. Teaching students to be mindful of their bodies and aware of how gradual stretching should feel is vital in helping them avoid a potential injury. It empowers them with the knowledge to safely practice yoga when they are not in the presence of an instructor.
The Importance of Yoga Student Safety
As a teacher, establishing student safety is a primary responsibility that should be taken seriously. As the focus is placed on the body, mind, and breath, instructors must be sure that every student under their care is working correctly and not putting any unnecessary strain on their bodies. Remaining safe during practice will result in a more effective Yoga training session, healthier students, and clear minds.
Get off your mat. If you cannot see your students because a posture puts you out of position, this is the time to walk around the room. Taking an active role in class and, if needed, physically adjusting students will show them how to remain properly aligned and supported.
Ask the class upfront about permission to assist and that you might be touching them if needed so they are not startled by your presence. If a student has issues with physical assistance, you can still verbally explain how to correct an alignment.
In fact, with viruses, flu, and sexual harassment in the mix, the assistance for now and into the future may be verbal only. Many facilities are adopting “hands-off” policies to prevent a wave of problems.
Explain Individual Limits
It is human nature to compare and judge. Please encourage students to only work to their limit and not be concerned with how their classmate is stretching further or holding a specific pose. Remain encouraging and speak of individual limits as a known factor of yoga; all students are expected to have different and unique bodies with varying levels of flexibility.
When demonstrating asanas, teachers should show alternatives so students have a visual that they can follow. Teachers can verbally explain options for breathing techniques (pranayama) and poses. If students understand that they can do an alternative pose, they will be less likely to attempt a posture that may cause discomfort or an injury.
Emotional Flow and Yoga Student Safety
Creating a safe emotional environment to practice Yoga is a crucial part of the experience. Students need to feel safe mentally, emotionally, and physically to maximize their time at the Yoga studio. Teachers can help students feel comfortable and safe by being upfront about the emotional connection inherent in Yoga practice.
Let them know that it is acceptable to have emotions. Some asana and pranayama techniques can unlock muscular tension and release an emotional flow. If energy or pressure is trapped in the body and suddenly released, we react differently. What is a state of euphoria for one person might make another person feel emotional.
Imagine if all your life, you felt like you had a monkey standing on your chest that would not let you breathe, and suddenly it was gone. That’s bound to cause some emotional reactions. Once students realize that this is an everyday experience, they will feel safe expressing themselves and working through their emotions.
Food for Thought
The practice of Yoga is unique. Students feel cared for and essential when their instructor takes the time to ensure they practice safely. When Yoga instructors commit to keeping all of their students safe, the class becomes a comfortable, supportive, and secure environment. Yoga student safety standards improve through a steady practice of quality in teaching.
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