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5 Ways to Stay Healthy, Safe, and Grounded While You’re Teaching

Jason Crandell teaching

As yoga teachers, we’re committed to the wellbeing of our students. After all, our bottom line is to help people reduce their suffering. We even commit to ongoing, continuing education to help provide more skillful service. Yet, we often ignore how easy it is to injure ourselves–or become overly stressed out and ungrounded–when we teach. No, our job isn’t too dirty and there are plenty of other vocations that carry much greater risk. But teaching yoga presents plenty of physical and emotional challenges. Here are few ways to keep yourself healthy, safe and grounded while you teach.

Limit Demonstrations

It seems safe, easy and effective to demonstrate postures in class. You just pop yourself into an arm-balance, backbend or twist to visually express what you’re teaching. The problem is that you’re cold, a little adrenalized, and focused on the outward appearance of the pose—oh, and you’re probably always doing your demos on the same side. Sure, there is a time and place for demos, but the list of injuries that occur from seemingly simple, innocuous moments like these is frighteningly long. So, if you need to demonstrate please remember not to max yourself out. Check yourself if you realize you’re trying to impress your students. And, when it’s appropriate, have one of your students provide the demonstration since they’re already prepared for the posture that you’re teaching.

Be Mindful When You Give Adjustments

When I teach trainings, I ask students to raise their hand if they’ve been injured while receiving an adjustment. Unfortunately, 35-40% of the room usually raises their hand. If I were to ask a room full of teachers how many of them have injured themselves while giving an adjustment, I’m willing to guess that the percentage would be similar. Giving adjustments can compromise your body if you’re not focused on your own alignment and sensations. You can also make matters worse for yourself if you’re already experiencing a knee, lower-back, or shoulder injury and you ignore them while teaching. Providing good adjustments is nice, but give yourself permission to prioritize your own safety and comfort in the process. If you’re overly fatigued or nursing an injury, it may be in everyone’s best interest to take the day off from giving adjustments.

Remember to Breathe

Every time you tell your students to breathe, pause and take a breath yourself. Doing this will help you stay grounded, relaxed and focused as you teach. Staying grounded, relaxed and focused will make your classes even better and help stave off fatigue and burnout.

Trust the Power of the Practice

Teachers (including myself) have a tendency to be very critical of themselves. When we’re overly critical or lack confidence in our ability to teach, we start to over-effort. We forget that the yoga class is NOT all about the teacher. It’s about the transcendent, timeless experience of doing the practice. In order to stay grounded, relaxed and comfortable as a teacher, you have to trust that the practice is inherently transformational and that you’re simply facilitating your students’ experience. You’ll stay happier and healthier if you let the students’ practice do the majority of the work.

Be Kind to Yourself

Teaching yoga can be an emotional rollercoaster—and, it will certainly expose aspects of your personality and ego that other aspects of the practice don’t. Be mindful of your inner-narrative and practice kindness towards yourself. Doing so will decrease stress and help you weather the challenges that arise



9 Comments

  1. Jason I read your blog in Melbourne Australia. I listen to yogaland podcasts and I pull out my mat for your teachings on YogaGlo.
    The reason that I’m sharing this is simply because I want to thank both yourself and Andrea. I’m a yoga teacher and I just find you both to be a breath of fresh air. Honesty ( in the c’mon I’m as human as the next person kind of way) integrity cause well… it bloody matters and wonderfully, thoughtfully articulate… thanks again, Kirran.

    1. Thanks, Kirran! I (and Andrea) really appreciate it! One of these days I’ll make it to Australia and hopefully I’ll meet you! -Jason

  2. Thank you for the open words! I can find myself, my exerience there, and its helpful to read your advice!
    Thanks a lot
    and best wishes
    from Hannover Germany 🙂
    Anne

  3. I love your blog. I don’t normally comment but I really needed this one today – must be at the bottom dip of my roller coaster … sitting here with tears in my eyes. So just a thank you! Will go and release my tears with some yin and absorb your comments a little more.
    Thank you. xx

  4. As a brand-new teacher-in-training (I just taught my third-ever class yesterday), I needed this. I definitely over-demonstrate, largely because I’m nervous. It’s not that I’m trying to impress students per se… It’s that I’m adrenalized, and if I’m standing at the front of the room giving instruction, my anxiety eventually chimes in and tells me I need to be *doing something* with my body, not just talking. Demonstration is a crutch. I’m working to wean myself off of it.

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