First, a side note: My colleague, Kreig Cremeans (of Bodypatterning fame in previous posts) and I will be offering our 3-day workshop, Intro to Bodypatterning and Restoring Fluidity and Freedom of Movement in Corte Madera, CA (San Francisco area) April 29-May 1. The class has 21 CE hours (NCBTMB). If you have body worker friends in the area I’d so appreciate it if you’d let them know. Details on Kreig’s website.
My greatest struggle as a movement teacher has arisen from trying to make sure that students move within their limits. I used to think I was doing a pretty good job because I demonstrate postures and movements at more than one level and repeat often that everyone should make sure they’re moving within their limits. Over time I’ve had a number of students who wound up complaining of pain and I worked with them on “making it smaller” with movements and postures so they were able to continue without having more issues.
But I had to realize that I somehow kept failing at communication if students continued to go too far into postures or made the triggers of release movements too large for their abilities. What I finally came to understand is that many people are so numb to their bodies that just saying “stay within your limits” doesn’t really help them understand (and trust me that was where I started out–I was just young enough to get away with being that unconscious). We’re kind of a society of “suck it up”, “soldier on through”, etc. So many of my students missed noting any limit that didn’t involve something breaking or tearing, accompanied by unbearable pain.
I’ve been working on a longer list of “signs that you’ve moved too far or made a movement too large”. Some of these came from Kreig and I’m interested to hear whether any of you yoga teachers and students who read my posts have any more to suggest:
1. If it hurts at all you’ve gone too far or made the movement too big (fill this in on the rest)
2. If anything feels like it’s pulling …
3. If the movement or pose goes from easy to uncomfortable….
4. If you can’t breathe (because of discomfort)…
5. If you feel like you’re forcing your body to the position it’s in or to make a bigger movement …
In the end, as I tell all my students, I can tell you over and over to stay in your limits but only you can feel when you reach them. There’s no way that I (or any teacher) can tell by watching if you bent too far forward in a forward bend or took your knees too far toward the floor in the triggers of release for hips. If you’re not used to noting and honoring the signals your body gives you this can be the most challenging part of yoga (or any movement practice) but if you stay in your limits you can progress safely and without pain until you can do more and more. Yoga–at least the way I teach it–is meant to help you find greater health and balance. It’s not about proving that you can fight through pain and/or discomfort and wind up in a lot of pain the next day. Learn your body, let the practice flow. Easy does it really can get you there.
Let me know those suggestions!
- Tips for Teaching Beginner Yoga Students. ~ Amy Cushing (elephantjournal.com)