… in chair based yoga
I am quite passionate about adaptation in yoga, because adapted yoga has so much potential in offering comfort and peace and be another form of physical therapy.
Before adapting poses though, it is important to know who our students are.
In chair based yoga students usually come with certain imbalances such as kyphosis, scoliosis, osteoporosis, MS, Parkinson’s and osteoarthritis. They come to the chair yoga classes looking for another form of movement, exercise and comfort. It is therefore to out benefit and theirs to adapt the practices in order to meet their needs and make them want to return to our classes and practices.
When we approach any practice of yoga we must look at what is involved in the practice and of course who is doing it; this is especially valid in yoga asana.
Whenever we look at the Asana we must look at two sides:
1. What is involved in the Asana.
2. Who is doing the Asana.TKV Desikachar, 1984
Like the quote says whenever you look at asana you must look at what is involved in the asana, therefore what is the purpose of the practice you offer; and who is doing it, hence your audience and their needs.
THE NEED FOR ADAPTATION
People come in all different shapes and sizes and not everyone is made equal or the same, but yoga is for everyone and we must find ways to include everyone in our practices.
It is our upmost responsibility when teaching to also keep everyone safe during the class. It is also in our and our students’ benefit to ensure that our students come back and that would only happen if they enjoy the practice and benefit from it.
Therefore we must adapt!!!
When adapting though we must readily accept that somethings will work and some won’t:
- one size does not fit all and there is no specific asana that will fix a specific imbalance.
- Each student is unique and so is their experience of their imbalance.
- Repetition is key: Repetition is the heat that sets the clay pot.
You have to do the yoga for the yoga to work.
- Finally we must understand the imbalances from all different angles and address them holistically.
Yoga is not a one pill treatment but it is very effective when it is targeted and practiced diligently.
THE PRINCIPLES OF ADAPTATION
1. OBSERVATION of our students physiology, how do they move, sit and stand will tell us about their physiological imbalances
Observation will also tell us a lot about energetic imbalances, their breathing patterns and quality.
2. We must also get to know our students, this is why social time with them (Or an interview in a 1-2-1 setting) is important.
It reveals their goals, aims and other ailments, therefore we can adapt to achieve something or to protect them – there is no point in practising asana if it is going to make our students feel worse.
Beyond what we see how does their disease affect them?
3. What our students say also guides us to education; what we need to know about their condition. The root causes and how to apply yoga to find balance.
4. FINALLY we must do all this while keeping SAFETY IN MIND. Safety in performing the asana and safety in its adaptation.
As I said there is no point in doing asana if it is going to make your students feels worse and there is definitely no point in doing it if it is going to hurt your students.
HOW TO ADAPT
THE PANCHAMAYA MODEL – THE KOSHAS
We are multilayered beings and ideally the practices we offer our students address all of those layers.
Their physiological imbalances, muscles, posture.
The energetic imbalances through their breathing patterns.
It is through the breath that will also address feelings, insecurities and anxieties.
- We must hold space for them and listen – truly and deeply listen. This is why being generous with our time is so vital in our teaching.
- This is why we must be grateful to be in our students’ presence, often they will reveal things to us they have not told anyone else.
- Be present and kind, no judgement, life is hard on all of us in different ways.
- Set intentions in your practices, which can address mindset. I have had many “lightbulb” moments in my practice and have found great comfort in the awareness this brings. Those moments have addressed my attitude and of course defined a better outcome.
- Finally by getting to know our students and holding space for them we can piece everything together and even give them reason to practice and commit to the change.
It is of course a lot easier to address imbalances in a one to one setting.
But if we could look at the group as one person the methodology remains the same.
The group often faces the same imbalances and ailments.
Group is potential of similar abilities or we target the average ability of the group and demonstrate at that level also. What we will is that the most advanced option is taken by those that can do it by just cueing it.
Often the group has the same goals when attending a group class or is happy to be told what the aim of the class is that day too.
If we look at the group at 1 multilayered person we will be able to offer a holistic approach and allow them to benefit from the practice.
We must always include all elements of the yoga practice: asana, pranayama, chanting and meditation in our practices also and OBSERVE!!!
Always go back to observation for feedback on the effectiveness of the practice and the need for further adaptation.
When we find things that work repeat them – it is in repetition we create new grooves and habits, it is in repetition we create positive change and bring balance.