I was recently teaching a class and one of the students left the room. This happens; people have to go to the restroom, want a drink of water or whatever. But I’m always aware of it and if someone doesn’t return after a few minutes, I always make it a point to check the lobby just to be sure they are okay. This harkens back to my original teaching days at the Baptiste studios here in Boston, when it was an occasional experience for a student to get a bit overheated.
When it happened recently, as I had the class in Child’s Pose, I peeked out into the lobby. The student was resting on a bench and I asked, “Hi, are you okay?” She looked at me and without hesitation said, “Yeah, I just got anxious.”
I feel you. Things are pretty rough out there these days. Even harder for folks that are sensitive. While yoga is a great tool from many aspects of overall health and wellness for managing stress and anxiety, we’re up against a lot and for those that already struggle with anxiety, sometimes, let’s face it.. we just need to acknowledge it.
As a teacher who focuses on anatomy, I also absolutely acknowledge the connection between structure and spirit. My next book, in the final stages of editing, is actually called “Structure and Spirit,” in part because I wanted to share about the connection between the two. I recently wrote a blog post called “Structure and Spirit Are Two Sides of the Same Hand,” where I shared an example from teaching that supported this idea.
Just as we don’t really know what’s going on in our students’ bodies when it comes to their physicality, we can’t know what’s going on when it comes to their emotional state either. Yes, sometimes, students will share with us and that gives us a window into what’s going on but we always are challenged by meeting the needs of one person while at the same time, presenting to a group. As we have these individual conversations with students, be it about that hamstring they pulled or that racing heart rate they’re currently experiencing, we need to find ways to help them manage what they are going through, in the context of not only yoga class but as they move about their day. I do this a lot when it comes to physical tips for students but we also can offer a lot as yoga teachers around bringing mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing and portable easy-to-do yoga poses that can settle an anxious student or relieve back pain or any other host of things that we are struggling with during our day.
Teaching yoga is a holistic approach to working with people, whether you choose to focus on bones, chakras, spirit, Sanskrit, biomechanics or alignment (among other things). We each choose our focus as teachers based on what we’re most passionate about but we all recognize the broader context within which yoga is presented.
I hope students continue to feel comfortable sharing in class how they are doing on all levels because it is through that sharing that growth happens; both for teacher and student.