One of the most important aspects of being a yoga teacher is caring for the safety and wellbeing of your students. While yoga is designed to be a safe and healing practice, there are many ways a student can end up with injuries.
While you can’t control everything your students do, there are steps you can take to encourage a safe practice. We’ve come up with some tips you can use in your teaching practice to help keep your students safe.
Many students, especially beginners, are shy to communicate any issues regarding their bodies. Whether it is an injury, a trauma or some kind of emotional stress, it is often the tendency to keep it in rather than express that something might be wrong. That’s where you come in.
It’s a good idea to ask your students before class gets underway if anyone is dealing with any injuries. You can also offer the choice of allowing them to raise their hand so you can approach them to have a quiet conversation once class is underway. Making yourself available before and after class for discussion is another great way to build trust and encourage communication.
Any great yoga teacher (like you!) will provide a range of options and modifications for any asana, especially if it’s a more advanced posture. You’ve hopefully learned in your training different steps and degrees of difficulty that you can pass on to your students. By giving options, students will be able to safely approach their practice.
Stay true to the practice
One development with westernized yoga is that many students approach it as a fitness regime. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, what it can mean is that students have an almost competitive mindset for their practice. They push themselves, compare themselves with others and sometimes put themselves at risk of injury because they are trying to achieve some kind of goal.
As a yoga teacher, remember to lay out at the beginning of each class the notion that students should listen to their bodies and not their minds. Their thoughts might be encouraging them to push past any pain they feel, but if they are experiencing pain that might be their body telling them to stop! It’s up to you to impress upon your students that the practice shouldn’t be distressing to their bodies.
Keep a watchful eye
You can often see when a student is in pain and nearing an injury by the look on their face or the tension they are carrying in their body. If you notice that a student is on the brink of an injury or is in a dangerous position, gently approach them to give them a modification or to help ease them back into safety. Often a simple adjustment is all a student needs in order to get back to a place where they are safe and comfortable.
Keep it light!
Everyone has a different reason for committing to a yoga practice, whether it’s to heal, to meditate, to gain fitness or some other personal goal. One way to unite your students and to encourage a safe practice is to keep a sense of lightness and fun in your class. Not only will this take some of the pressure off students, it will help them move more fluidly and with joy. If your students can have some fun in class, they will be more likely to listen to the signals the body is sending and to keep themselves safe.
As you learned in your teacher training, there are many responsibilities that come along with being a yoga teacher. Your students’ safety should be a top priority.