I still remember my very first yoga class. It was bad. My students did not feel that way, but I did. I had only just started teaching (fitness) yoga and modifications were definitely not part of our training.
I was covering a pilates class and In the class was a lady that found it hard to kneel and another that could not place weight on her wrists. I am sure that there were many more things going on, but the class felt so wrong because I really felt that I was not of service to my students.
Fast forward to now and after countless hours of yoga teacher training and years of practice and teaching, I still wonder what it means to be of service to my students and at the same time how it changes depending on the setting.
In chair based yoga, more frequently than not, students come with certain limitations too. Until I taught my very first chair based yoga class, I had not realised how hard it would be to offer effective and inclusive classes to them.
It was these challenges that spurred and fuelled the drive to learn more. In all settings students come with many imbalances and it is those imbalances that often attract them to the yoga in the first place.
Being of Service
As a yoga teacher, deep in my heart, I want to be of service. I got into yoga teaching because of the way it feels on my body, mind and heart and I want the rest of the world to experience this. That is my goal!!
There is no need for fancy asana to achieve this, there is no need for complicated breathwork, no need to say much.
One size does not fit all
The gentle nature yoga appeals to many with physical imbalances. A large proportion of yoga students come to the mat with all sorts of problems. Some of the most common ones are: lower back pain, hip replacements, knee injuries, major surgery, stress and anxiety.
We are not all made the same either: some bodies are big, some are small, some strong some fragile. When we pair this with old age and ingrained living patterns we are bound to come across a large range of abilities in our classes too.
We are so lucky to be able to serve others with our gift of yoga.Jyoti Jo Emmanuel, Special Yoga
5 considerations to teaching yoga and being of service to your students.
In order to be of service to our students we must therefore learn to be flexible in our approach to yoga, mould our practices to fit our students needs… beyond asana:
- NO EXPECTATIONS: Meet your students with humility, without the expectations that they can / cannot do something. It is true that certain practices have the potential to make us feel better, but that does not means they will make the student feel better. Have no expectations on students’ abilities or effect of the practices.
- BE GENEROUS: With your time, love and effort. It is a great privilege to be able to serve others with our gift of yoga. Give your attention, time and love unconditionally to your students, without expecting anything back in return.
- HUMILITY: Begin your work from a place of service and humility. As a teacher I am no different to my students. I am not teaching, I am merely leading the practice and sharing my love and energy with my students. Leading with my heart, not simply by standing at the front of the class.
- EMPATHY: Try and understand your students without the need to be right or agree. For the sake of the student that is always late in class and for those that do not stay for savasana. Try and put yourself in your student’s shoes; of how it feels to be in the asana positive and negative and approach the practices and adaptations with kindness.
- PRACTICE: In order to be of service to students we must practice yoga ourselves and for ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Don’t get dragged into practising for the sake of just preparing for leading yoga classes, practice yoga for you, remaining in touch with what brought you to the mat in the first place. Stay connected with your heart and look after her through your practice.