Foster a Noncompetitive Environment

Foster a safe, noncompetitive environment in which each participant is encouraged to work at his or her own pace:*

  1. Teach students to take responsibility for themselves.
  2. Provide variations, alternatives and personalized options.
  3. If a class is too large to provide individual attention, avoid risky and/or complex postures.
  4. Explain what types of information students should inform their teacher about.
  5. Teach students how to distinguish sensation and pain. (Learn more here about pain and learn more here about how some students may seek pain.)
  6. Teach students to use their breath as an indication of their inner state.
  7. Teach both why and how to employ variations and adaptations.
  8. With your words, actions and energy, communicate that props, adaptations, and resting are welcome and honored. (See much more in Creating an Inclusive Space.)

*Some of the tactics noted above are drawn from Nina Zolotow’s Yoga for Healthy Aging article, How to Stay Safe While Practicing Yoga.

Teach Students How To Take Responsibility

Those new to asana may have little to no experience with listening to their body and distinguishing among sensations.

  1. Many new students may simply not understand the value of learning to listen inwardly.
  2. And some may have learned specifically to override messages from their body as part of practicing or competing in gymnastics, football or dance, for instance. (See more: Unhealthy Sensation & Working with Pain.)
  3. So telling students to “listen to their body,” for instance, may not be adequate and instead students may need to be taught how to take responsibility for themselves. 

Give Students Responsibility & Observe Closely

I tell my new students this: “You are responsible for yourself in this class. Please don’t think I have ESP and know when something is overtaxing for you or causing you pain. And please come out of any pose and let me know of the difficulty you are experiencing.” Yes, it is paramount that every student take the responsibility for his or her own actions and does not pass that responsibility onto the teacher… You need to observe every student to make sure that people aren’t becoming overly fatigued and distressed… Looking for subtle changes in your familiar students is important. Also, give people (or yourself!) permission to stop and rest. – Shari Ser