Important Assets for Yoga Teachers
By: Linda Cuyler, Certified Yoga Therapist, C-IAYT, TIYT, ERYT500
Strong verbal communication skills are an important asset for any yoga teacher. Describing what we want the students to do with the body, where to place the hands and feet, describing the focus of the pose, how to utilize the breath, and the benefits of the pose, are all important things to communicate. What and how to communicate to special populations, to not only allow them to move into a pose, or even to experience something deeper than positioning themselves properly can be a daunting task for even the most highly qualified teachers. Understanding your population and their needs, developing a solid base of appropriate verbal and physical tools and teaching from a place of compassionate mindfulness will lead to providing your students in a therapeutic setting with the most positive yoga experience that you can provide.
I have had the opportunity to teach in a variety of therapeutic settings now, and each one has been unique and brought its own special challenges and blessings. Once you begin to study your population you realize how many things we say on a day to day basis that can possibly be thoughtless or even harmful in a setting where someone is healing. Developing the most well rounded knowledge of your population and their challenges and sensitivities is a great place to start. Each day in the setting you will learn on an even deeper level about triggering words, or even phrasing that might be misconstrued and utilized to the clients misguided agenda. It is important to keep an open mind and continue to learn. Additionally, once you have learned about a population some of the things you have learned will be useful in other therapeutic settings, but not all those things will be appropriate in another setting. Some may even be inappropriate. Letting go of the ego and be ready to constantly learn in therapeutic settings.
Begin to broaden your set of tools utilizing the teachings and suggestions of established books and videos. However, don’t be afraid to explore and be creative in developing your own tools. Consider different possible ways to convey the same teaching or practice but in a way that you feel may be understood by your population. Learn to think on your feet and trust your instinct. Flexibility, not just physically, but mentally is one of the greatest assets in teaching in special population settings as it is never routine. The more tools you have at your disposal, the greater the ease you will have to adapt. You will be called upon to be graceful under fire more than you might imagine.
The ability to teach from a place of compassionate mindfulness is by far the greatest asset that you can possess in teaching in any therapeutic yoga setting. Having a goal in mind for the class or a theme is a positive practice, but being ready to drop everything you had planned and responding to the energy and dynamic of the class is most often what is called for. Being mindfully connected with your population, hearing what they are expressing, and sensing the unspoken messages they are expressing in their faces or bodies can allow you to connect with them in a way that allows them to feel safe and honored. It takes an open heart to work in these types of settings successfully. People who are dealing with their own pain and healing will know when you are not truly connecting with them
While these types of settings are challenging to teach in they are also incredibly rewarding. The opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life is a distinct possibility. Mindful communication is a skill that will not only benefit your teaching setting it will benefit all areas of your life.
For more information:
Linda Cuyler, Certified Yoga Therapist, C-IAYT, TIYT, ERYT500
Dallas Yoga Therapy