Things to consider when teaching from a Script
Could you share any insight or support that has given relieve and/or improvement for individuals with arthritis in hands?
This is a behind-the-scenes dialog between two Academy teachers on this topic.
From Viki Boyko
I went to sub a corporate yoga class and had got the wrong date and the teacher was there. So I thought – what the heck! – let’s take a yoga class. Will be a treat for me these days. For the first part of the class there was just myself and a complete beginner. This was a corporate class and the 50+ person that showed looked truly corporate in the shoulder girdle and tight low back. But it was summer solstice and time for a gazillion and one sun salutations for that week’s theme. Hell NO! The teacher didn’t ask if the new person had any injuries and should have totally dedicated this class to basic movement to check out what was available to this man’s body (I should have been an irrelevance as you would hope I can fend for myself!). Solid and repeated sun salutations for the first 15 minutes, chaturangas tumbling like dominoes! I don’t even do them myself so I was modifying with knees down and my own flow. This teacher was originally Anusara too, by the way. Then another guy, who regularly comes to my class came in and she ‘assisted’ him into wheel pose (barely warmed up as he missed the salutaions). Oh how great for his ego but truly spine-crunchingly awful for his back and shoulder girdle. He is super tight in the shoulders and upper back. Totally inappropriate but marvelous, I suppose, for the lady to practice her assists. I know I am in judgemental mode but this was not a beginner teacher. 500 hr and about 10 years experience. I press my nose to the window to peep at vinyasa classes and have remind myself to breathe calmly and let it go when I see the plethora of body contortions guided by ghastly cues. All in the name of health and wellness!
As you know, I’m not big on scripted – as it takes the creativity out of the equation and may be nowhere close to what is needed for the people who walk into class that day. I think there are 2 different types of ‘scripted’ I will address:
There is the scripted ‘protocol’ – and that would be a practice generally deemed safe for a certain population. Not my favorite again, as it may be a protocol for cancer recovery say (this actually I find to be a bit dangerous) – so the class is created to provide things like rebuilding strength, boosting immunity, calming the nervous system, etc. However, in one ‘sequence’ I am familiar with they practice lunge, Warrior I, 2, side angle, etc. An asymmetrical backbend may not be safe for everyone in the class, a supine twist in someone with lumbar bone meets could be catastrophic, etc. Now, I see why people do this – to make a ‘teacher’ feel comfortable teaching to a certain group. However, the class is the same every time, varied practices aren’t offering different challenges, and – do they know contraindications for things like bone mets, osteoporosis, etc. There is a sense that the students/patients will take care of themselves……but, it is our job to educate them as to what is risky. And here, the population can be very varied – stage 1 to stage 4, in remission, just diagnosed, some had radiation and chemo, some surgery, where are they in the healing process? Etc, etc. There is so much to take into account. I’ve even seen very well known teachers do a class for anxiety, let’s say….then the seem to forget the students still have a spine and possible injuries there….it is like, ‘nope, we are working on anxiety – so we won’t take into account your spinal fusion, high blood pressure and glaucoma. Oy, this is making me anxious!!!
Then we have the ‘scripted’ class a teacher creates for that day (or every day!) – did the teacher know who was coming to class, what their needs would be that day, if any injuries are in the room, etc. I am great with the fact that teachers prep and have an idea of what they want to do…..however, are they willing to throw that out the window if that sequence is not appropriate for the group that day? I used to take Anusara classes and the teachers would draw out what they wanted to work on that day…..say it is back bends – so they do a back bend extravaganza class regardless of who is in the room….what if half the class has spinal stenosis? What if they wanted to practice full wheel and 7 people had torn rotator cuffs, etc. There are teachers who teach what they planned on teaching no matter who shows up – very ego driven on the part of the teacher, in my opinion. We are there to serve our students’ needs and goals – not what we want their needs and goals to be any given day. And I wholeheartedly agree with Viki – mix it up, use the whole body, get creative, have fun! The teacher who does cactus arms the whole class? Not only boring, but adds to cumulative stress on the shoulders. There should be great care given to moving the whole body, working with the large muscles and the smaller muscles, etc.