Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Is Your Relaxation Practice Accessible?

by Sarah Garden

When I began teaching yoga I had a student who refused to lie down for Savasana (Corpse Pose used as the relaxation at the end of class). She would always situate herself in the corner of the room and when it came time to relax she would put her back on the wall and keep her eyes open. As a brand new teacher this felt unsettling and strange and it made me feel like I might be doing something wrong. Even though I felt uneasy, I was a new teacher, not to mention a Canadian, and I felt it was impolite to say anything. Two decades later I have done a complete 180 degree turn and now teach what I call a Choose Your Own Adventure-Relaxation.

Choosing your own adventure means a number of different things including choosing what position your body is in or even choosing to position your body outside the classroom or even the studio. This doesn’t mean that relaxation practices are not valuable, even for people who struggle with them, but it does mean prioritizing students’ agency over their own practice.

I work as a yoga therapist and each and every one of my students comes in with their own unique life experience and challenges. Some of those challenges may include pain, anxiety, trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), illness, depression, chronic disease, or any number of other issues. As a result of those challenges some people find breath work very relaxing and others find it very stressful. Some students find the idea of closing their eyes in a room with strangers a great time for a nap and others a nightmare-inducing prospect. This doesn’t just happen in yoga therapy classrooms but in yoga classes everywhere.

The variety of needs in a classroom can sometimes feel overwhelming and leave teachers unsure of what to say, and worried they will say or do the wrong thing.

So how do we cue Savasana, breathing practices, meditation, and other “down regulating” techniques in a room full of people who may all need a different approach to relaxation?

The answer is options. Ask questions and give students a number of different approaches and choices for relaxation. We need to go beyond simply offering different ways to position their bodies or to leave their eyes open or closed. We need to consider any factors that could make a student feel unsafe or unable to down-regulate their nervous system. This may even mean considering asking the student if they feel safe relaxing at all.

This may seem complicated and too difficult for the larger yoga classes you teach. But we all have students who we aren’t reaching in Savasana. We all have students who become more stiff when we start cuing relaxation, who just can’t stop moving, or who just don’t come back to your class because they hate Savasana. Start by getting to know people and creating a space where people feel that asking questions and not following your directions is not only acceptable but encouraged. Then give people options because even relaxation can be an adventure that you and your students can choose.

Sarah Garden
, C-IAYT, ERYT-500, has been a yoga therapist for almost two decades. Through her career, she has developed a thriving local yoga therapy practice, has trained hundreds of yoga teachers locally and nationally, and internationally. Sarah regularly speaks at medical conferences about the benefits of therapeutic yoga as a whole person modality to compliment conventional treatment or to treat when conventional treatment fails. She believes yoga can play a valuable role in the treatment of everything from persistent pain, to cancer treatment and recovery, to women’s health issues. She has forged relationships with many doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and other health practitioners to work co-cooperatively to better serve students. Sarah’s passion lies in deepening student’s connection with their body and empowering them to take their health into their own hands with simple accessible yoga and movement practices. Her teachings help students connect with and understand the best practices for their individual body and circumstances. Sarah believes the practice must be co-created with students to meet their needs. @connected_yoga_therapy

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

No comments:

Post a Comment