’ll be honest with you: the first 3 years of my teaching I didn’t understand yoga anatomy at all. I tried to concentrate really hard and remember everything that other more expereinced teachers would say , the information seemed like a foreign language.I remember one day when a student asked me about her IT band, my stare was just this side of blank.That was when I realized.. I need to start understanding the body .
Anatomy and Accessibility
I felt badly about how little I knew, and that I couldn’t do more for the students who had paid money for my teaching ‘skills.’ It motivated me to study on my own, so that I could better answer students’ questions and perhaps actually offer some guidance as to how to modify poses or use postures to take care of their bodies. The more I worked at it, the more all the pieces began to fit together into the shape of the human body. (But let’s be clear: this is a process that has taken several years, that is still ongoing, and that I expect will continue for the lifetime of my teaching career.)
I began to take more seriously the concept of “first, do no harm,” and recognize that not all poses fit on the body types that come to class. That people do not fit into poses , poses have to fit the person.I believe the real skill of a teacher lies not in how gymnastic their own practice is, but in their ability to give everyone something to do. “Just don’t do this pose,” has got to be the most frustrating thing for a student to hear, especially if they’ve come to class with special needs or an injury and are hoping you can help them.
Speaking of injuries: did you know that over 5500 yoga-related injuries were reported in the United States in 2007? Given that statistic is almost eight years old, I bet the number has grown since then (and I bet there are even more unreported ones). And here’s this gem from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website: “Common yoga injuries include repetitive strain to and overstretching of the neck, shoulders, spine, legs and knees.” Isn’t that just pretty much your whole body at risk? It’s vital, then, that as yoga teachers we truly understand what it is we are asking of the bodies that have given themselves over to our instruction, and we make informed decisions as to what those bodies should or should not do.
With that said, there will always be the student that ignores your instruction , I’m of the belief that you’re not responsible for any negative outcome.
Helping Your Students
Here’s the bonus: the more you know, the better teacher you become. I think there is a middle path .. Asana can heal but also can harm. I find teaching good alignment not only helps keep your students strong and possibly injury free , but it also helps them find the steadiness and ease that should be in each practice. As a yoga teacher it is our responsibility to stay well informed and educated, so your students have confidence in the choices you present to them for their practice . It’s also entirely possible that you’ll end up loving anatomy so much, you’ll morph into the kind of bona fide yoga dork that teaches anatomy to other yoga teachers! That is where I am at now .. I love it and love teaching it to others.
Join me October 22nd for Alignment And Assist Teacher Training