“If you are feeling something you are doing it” Bernie Clarke, Semperviva
For this next section of the training it will be a recap of what I learned regarding postures. How we feel in postures, how to demonstrate, options we can give, how ego can take over a shape, how doing less can be more & finally why breath is so important.
Listening to our bodies can be really difficult as most of us live in our heads. Yoga is about bringing our awareness from our thinking mind to areas in bodies we want to work on. For example, if the teacher demonstrates plank pose and you are in it shaking, stressed and the mind is creating numerous ways of how to harm your teacher…. ease off a little. Place your knees on the floor, start taking deep breaths into your lungs so the body can relax. The body will still be working but now you feel the challenge & can truly benefit from your work because you can breathe. Yoga is all about “No pain, no pain” We do not need to be in pain to think a posture is working, if we feel a challenge and we can remain in a shape with integrity & breath then we are in the right place.
As a teacher it is our responsibility to guide our students into the best shape possible for their bodies. Reminding them of all the different options we can take in a pose and to choose the option which works for them the best. Providing 3 options of the same pose can make a shape more accessible to a wider rage of students. For example, if you would like your students to try tree pose demonstrate 3 different options in tree pose.
- Option one: Hands in prayer & left ball of the foot placed on ground and the heel resting against the right ankle
- Option two: Hands in prayer & left Foot placed on shin above ankle
- Option three: Hands in prayer & Left foot placed inside right thigh
For extra challenge in all the above students could raise their arms in a V-shape over their heads and maybe try closing their eyes if it feels good……its ok to fall out of the shape.
Julia mentioned as a teacher we should remain in option one to show our students that they don’t always have to go to options two & three and for new people in your class option one will be more accessible. I believe this is key to making your classes more accessible to a wider range of students. Offer options but let your students know that they are only options and not requirements. You as a teacher need to demonstrate that by taking your own ego out of the equation and support the majority of your students while still offering challenge.
Julia reminded us that we need to encourage our students to be kind to themselves, ensuring they can breathe and constantly asking how they feel in a shape. Notice if people are pushing too hard, muscles are shaking and the breath is lost. Ask your students how would this shape look if you did not feel pain or stress, encourage students to ease off a little and find their breath, bring their awareness to how they feel after that adjustment. We need to constantly remind our students to bring their awareness to a shape and to notice if they are pushing too hard or not enough. The breath will be the guide. If the breath is lost the student has gone too far, if the student cannot feel challenge ask them to go a little deeper but still breathing deeply. People need to feel & be aware of their bodies more.
If we need to verbally assist a student in a shape Julia advised to ensure we compliment them first, like great breath work or this looks great before offering an altered shape. This will encourage the student and it wont feel like they are being corrected as they are doing something wrong. You are only offering another option that may feel better. After assisting ask how it feels, if its good let them stay there, if not let them decide where they would like to be or offer another option.
If you have very flexible students in your class and you notice they may be hanging out deep in a pose ask them to ease out of the pose so they avoid hyper extension and to create more strength and stability in the shape.
Julia mentioned that we as teachers should always verbally assist first before attempting to physically assist. Be mindful of how you physically assist as everyone’s bodies are different and you do not want to injure anyone. Ideally if you want to physically assist you should take more training in this area.
Before physically assisting any student, you should ask for consent. This can be done before class by asking your students while their eyes are closed if they want to be physically assisted or get them to place a token in the front of their mat to indicate they are good with physical assists. Really helpful & safe physical assists can look like:
- Placing your palm gently on the top of a student’s head and asking them to push up into your palm so they sit up taller
- Placing your palm between their shoulder blades in plank and asking them to push your upper back into your palms to avoid slumping into the shape
- Placing your palm in front of their bent knee in lounge and ask them to push their knee into your palm
- To encourage deeper breathing place your palms on the students back & ribs and ask the student to breath into your hands
These are all simple adjustments that give the student the control of the movement. After your assist always ask the student if that feels better or worse? Ensure to ask closed ended questions so a conversation doesn’t start in the middle of your class;-)
The postures we focused on day 3 of our training were:
- Childs pose
- Downward dog
We focused on each posture and went through many different options of how we could alter a posture to make it more accessible.
Childs pose is often considered a resting pose, Julia reminded us that for many people it does not feel like a resting pose. This is where we can offer options to students to help them relax into the pose more.
If your students have knee problems suggest placing a bolster between their knees and calves. Let them rest their bum on the bolster.
In addition to the above a bolster could be placed under the student’s chest and a blanket placed on top of the bolster behind to add more height.
Another option for child’s pose could be wide knee child’s pose.
Spreading your knees wide and sitting back on your heels or bolster with your arms placed down the centre of your body turning your face in one direction and after a few minutes switching to the other side
Always have the student rest their head on something, do not let the student hang their heads. Students can rest their heads on a block, bolster or stacked fists
The student’s arms can be placed:
- Alongside the body, palms facing up or down
- Stretched out in front actively pressing palms into floor
Point to note:
The above will depend why you are teaching the posture; do you want the posture to be more restful or more active?
Julia advised to encourage your students to make space and to take up space ensure to remind them to take a workable shape where they can breathe deeply and mindfully.
Saddle pose can be difficult if you have knee problems. The below is an option the students can try but if it is painful in the knees ask your students to take a different pose.
Place 2 foam blocks end to end on the middle of your mat with a bolster placing lengthways on top.
Saddle the bolster by placing both knees and shines alongside the bolster and lowering your bum on the bolster. Encourage the student to stay here if that feels good.
If the student would like to take it a step further reach back with your arms and place hands on two blocks behind you while reaching your chest to the sky. If the student does not need blocks, they could place their hands on the floor
- A tip Julia gave us to cue to help with the back bend it to ask the students to lift their hips and tuck their tail bone under and lower their hips to the bolster.
- Also, if you see your students’ knees begin to lift, they have gone too far and should ease out of the pose.
This is a great posture for opening the chest but it may not be accessible to everyone.
An alternative shape which provides the same chest opening is:
Sit crossed legged with 2 blocks placed behind you shoulder distance apart.
Reach back to your blocks placing your palms on each block and shinning your chest forward, if the student would like to take it a step further, they could lift their hips and draw them forward also.
In the traditional form of table top where the student can hold the shape offer different hand variations:
- Fingers can face towards the feet or
- Fingers can face away from the feet
For students whose knees are splaying out too far or to add more heat to the posture place a block between their thighs and get them to squeeze the block.
Downward dog can be considered a restful pose in yoga however people who have wrist issues do not find this shape very restful!
Other options that can be offered to students with wrist issues are:
- Puppy dog
If students’ wrists need more support in downward dog offer them to use a wedge.
Place the wedge about foot down from the top of the mat. Fold the top of the mat over the wedge to prevent the wedge from slipping.
The students can then place their palms on the wedge.
Tight upper back
If you notice students whose upper back is humped in this posture ask the students to place blocks underneath their hands which will move the pressure of the pose to the back body and give more space for their shoulders and back to straighten.
Tight calves & Achilles tendons
Ask the students to slightly turn their toes inwards to create more space in their lower back while lifting their abdomen. Pressing heels downs and lifting up toes.
Another option would be to place heels on a wedge or bricks underneath heels
Point to note:
Ensure your students are feeling the stretch in the belly of their hamstrings in downward dog and not in the area at the base of the bum…. if this occurs get your students to bend their knees to avoid injury to the hamstring.
High blood pressure/vertigo/dizziness:
Get the students to use the wall for downward dog.
Placing their palms of the hands on the wall and walking their legs away from the wall until their back and arms are in line and they feel a stretch in their hamstrings. The head should be kept above the heart. Encourage your student to push into the wall with hands
The above concludes with Part 2 of this 3-part series of blogs on our Ignite Mentorship training with Julia Dotty.
Please feel free to offer any other insights you have or if you have any questions & feedback please feel free to leave a comment.