• February 14, 2016
  • Kathryn

Sensitivity in the yoga class is something that has been spoken about time and time again, these days there are full blown YTT programs specializing in building a safe space for people, this is wonderful. I think sensitivity in the movement and fitness industry are just as important but often times overlooked as coaches aren’t trained to notice the more subtle qualities of the body. Many times people go to the gym for the same reasons they go to yoga, they want to move, they want a deeper connection to their body and mind, exercise brings us back to our primal roots which is grounding and healing for many. As movement teachers, taking part in a more subtle practice and being sensitive to the energy and body language of our students and athletes will make for better coaching over all. 

When someone walks into my studio they have the choice to tell me what is going on in their body and their relationship to their body or not. Many of them have injuries which I am aware of, I’m sure a few have injuries that they haven’t disclosed, not to mention any emotional stress or past trauma that I may or may not be aware of. I think to effectively teach people to use their bodies we have to recognize the different ways in which people excel and the different reasons as to why someone has walked through the door.

I recently had an experience taking a class and feeling overly pressured to do something I didn’t feel comfortable with, a movement that can injure the practitioner if done incorrectly and something I didn’t feel qualified to attempt. Its been a long time since someone has pushed me to the edge of an anxiety attack, striking a major fight or flight reaction. It reminded me just how much power teachers have in different class settings, whether it is a yoga class, spinning class, weightlifting club etc.

I teach workshops all over the country and handstand workshops in particular. Handstands are a difficult movement that elicit fear in many students for different reasons. In empowering all levels of students I try to explain why the handstand is difficult and scary for many, there are a couple simple ways to break down the “psychology of the handstand”. In an attempt to take the pressure off and allow students different progressions, I do the best that I can to make everyone feel good about their experience. Its not about having a room full of people standing on their hands by the end of the day – its about meeting people where they are in their process. 

The first step is just paying attention to the subtle patterns in the bodies of our students. If you really pay attention you can tell when someone is hesitant, when they want to be challenged, when they are having a bad week, when they could use advice and when they aren’t receptive. Knowing how to connect positively with different students is just as important as knowing basic human biomechanics, good breathing and movement alignment.

In most of my work I speak about how to bridge the gap between doing yoga and strength training, and why this is so important. As teachers and coaches lets not only look at the physical body, but more the mental body as well. How can we create ways to bring yoga into the gym, and the gym into yoga. 

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