Reasons Yoga Students May Not HealFebruary 27, 2012 | 5 min read
Looking back, I can honestly admit before yoga, I wasn’t aware that I was sabotaging my own health through unhealthy behaviors. Taking yoga off the mat, I learned mindfulness in my inner thoughts and outer actions. Examining these behaviors wasn’t easy; I had to get the ego out of the way. However, once I did, I was able to experience deep sustainable healing in my mind, body, and spirit. Do you see any of these actions in yourself or in your yoga students that are preventing us from profound healing too?
We all meet yoga students who come through the door who decide to ‘get healthy’. They think that yoga is the answer. However, after a few weeks or months, they may yield to those unkind voices in the mind, “I don’t have time to do a yoga practice. I have a lot of stress in my life. Yoga is costing me too much. Plus it’s too hard to commit to it week after week. Besides, I’m not very ‘good’ at yoga. I don’t know how to relax. Maybe I’ll give it a try down the road after I lose some more weight.” Occasionally, students are resistant to change because there is an underlying seed of fear that needs to be rooted out. Yoga on and off the mat can bring up stored emotions. Soon students may skip class instead of explore the deep pain or hurt that is present. Often it’s easier for them to settle back into complacent unhealthy patterns, addictions, or behaviors that are familiar to them.
If we listen carefully, we can hear our yoga students blaming others for their present feelings or situation. We all do it. However, yoga is a wonderful tool and philosophy to teach us to accept ‘what is’ with grace and acceptance. When we hear our yoga students talking with a judgmental tone or resentment in their voice, we know that there is anger in the mind and also in the body. If we resent others for days, weeks, months or years, our body will hold onto it for us. Often our students will have a difficult time during final relaxation. Or students will find it difficult to let go and breathe during poses. Resentment will prevent any yoga student from healing until it’s acknowledged for it’s destructive power over the mind, body, and spirit.
Loss of Hope
Robert Brault questioned, “If you knew that hope and despair were paths to the same destination, which would you choose?” Life happens to both yoga teachers and students. If it’s a particularly painful season of loss, it is hard to imagine getting on the other side of depression and sorrow. If we spiral down too far, we become stuck in our victimization and feel hopeless. Unless we shine a light into the darkness of our emotional mind-state, we will not heal. Give yourself and your yoga student’s permission to safely grieve every loss and sadness on or off the mat without judgment. Remind them that it’s okay to have emotional-releases on their yoga mat. That grieving is a process and a state of grace.
This can be the hardest for anyone to personally admit. We crawled out from the rock we were hiding under from time to time, but we’re not ready to break camp yet and be in relationship with others. That would mean we’d have to be intimate with our spouse, family, our friends, or the person on the yoga mat next to us. It’s safer to keep people at a distance: “I have a headache tonight.” “Workman’s comp is taking forever.” “I want more space around my yoga mat.” I can’t come to the party.” Unconsciously we gain something in the short term like empathy, help from others, getting out of housework or a social function, or even finding a new job. It’s important that we don’t harden ourselves by settling for secondary gain. If this happens, healing stops.
Wrong Therapeutic Approach or Yoga Teacher
Sometimes the yoga class is contraindicated for the therapeutic approach. For example, many injured, de-conditioned, aging Boomers are coming out of physical therapy and going right into yoga classes at their local health club. That may not be the best thing for them. Even though they are standing upright and look fine, each student has a different health history that the teacher may not know about. There are many qualified yoga teachers who have hours of certifications and experience. Yet there are just as many yoga teachers who only took a weekend Level One yoga training and now can teach yoga classes to anyone that will show up. That is scary. It’s also important that yoga teachers don’t teach outside of their scope of practice. We are not counselors, chiropractors, or physicians. However, we can resource our yoga students with referrals when we see them struggling to heal in different areas of their lives. Encourage your yoga students to honor their bodies so that it can heal.
We don’t know how our students are feeling or how their past injuries affect them throughout class. Don’t tell them they can do a pose if they have a look on their face that says, “Um, really, I don’t want to go into reclining hero’s pose!” You are in a position of authority. Students will try it to win your approval (even though their body is screaming because they’ve damaged their knees in a car accident 2 years earlier). It’s imperative that we emphasize personal responsibility and awareness. Let go of your ego until students learn how to leg go of theirs (and not do what you do all the time). Tell your student that if they are taking a yoga class to trust their inner voice. If they don’t like the teacher, their body isn’t going to like the teacher either. It’s time to find another therapeutic yoga approach or class.
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