Recently, I read this blog post at Yoganonymous which is about teachers keeping students safe with hands-on assists. It got me thinking about what other things teachers can do to make the students feel safe in their practice during the class.
As I have been practicing mostly with my teacher, Azmi Samdjaga during my first five years of practice, I have always felt safe in his class. I not only felt safe during his hands-on assists as he knows my body very well but also whenever I am in his class. Azmi always tell us to respect our body and to know our limitations and have the humility to go into child pose whenever we feel the need to. He always shows us the techniques to go into the poses and allows us to do a variation if we are not able to do the advanced version of the pose.
Ever since joining Chi Fitness last year, I have been practicing with more teachers and there have been times, I do not feel safe in my yoga practice during the class. Sometimes we are asked to do a challenging pose and although I am not comfortable doing the pose, I had let my ego took over and tried to do the pose. I have also been given hands-on assists that had me asking the teacher to stop.
With the above experiences in mind, I would like to list down below some suggestions to teachers on what they can to do to make students feel safe in their practice during the class.
- Please check by asking the students how long they have been practicing before the class. If the majority of the students are new practitioners (I do not like to use the word beginners as all of us are beginners in our own way), please do not do a class with a lot of advanced poses.
- Please do not assume that every student has the flexibility to do the pose. You need to show the variation of the pose so that students know what they should do if they can’t do the more difficult one.
- Please do not ask students to go into pose after pose after pose and tell us that if we are not able to do the next pose, just stay in the first pose. It is like challenging our ego and chances are some of us might just hurt ourselves trying to go into a pose that we have never done before.
- Please tell us the techniques to go into the pose instead of just demonstrating the pose.
- Please breathe with us when you give us hands-on assists. If you just pull us into the pose without warning, you might just have a student screaming his or her head off.
Finally, I would like to share what Joey who is one of my teachers at Chi, always says to us during her class which makes me feel safe in her class.
“This is your practice...I am here just to guide you…listen to your body and let it tell you what it needs."
And we all need these in our practice as teachers and students.