know-your-need-through-yoga
Photo: WarsawCheer

Yoga and A chair

One of my students, before starting his private online yoga class with me for the first time, he asked me to teach him “chair yoga”.

“I don’t have much space at home to put the mat” he added the reason of his inquire of chair yoga.

Normally, chair yoga class is designed for people to find mobility in a way that is soft, gentle, as well as supportive by using the chair. The reason of my student’s is quit common as well, i.g. you’re in a office or a school, but no place for you to move your body after sitting on a chair for few hours, then doing some yoga exercises is a good alternative way.

What I wasn’t sure is that whether is a good reason to design his class in chair yoga class set up. It was our discovery yoga class, as I’d never taught him yoga before, therefore I decided I would first of all have a look of his home environment and the equipment he has at home before putting effort on designing a chair yoga class for him.

At the moment we turn on our webcam, I’ve observed him carefully, he looked completely drained of energy.

“Yes, I just woke up from the nap. Last night I did not sleep well.”

At his location it was already 7:00 pm.

I asked him ” What did you do today? How long have you been working”

“Well, long. I was sitting on a chair with my laptop. “

He was dead on his feet, could hardly open his eye lid.

I asked him to show me the environment of his room, cautiously looked at his environment, then decided not to take his proposal – Chair Yoga. I want him to move his butts a bit, not just sitting on the chair.

“You were sitting for a long time. Let’s leave the chair now. Please stand up. “

The first exercise was with the support of a wall. He stand on the the ground stiff like a pillar (so called Tadasana in yogic term), but back lean on the wall behind, in order to feel comfortable and stable while standing with closed eyes. Then we added shoulders and arms movement while standing.

” Wow, just standing here is harder than I thought ” He was surprised that he felt tired after only nearly 5 mins.

Even thought I throw away his Chair Yoga idea, chair is still a good props for doing some yoga poses if you’re in a day that feels the need of support badly. So depends on how you define Chair Yoga, this could be chair yoga as well.

I asked him to hold the back of his chair while doing Warrior II pose (Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana II ), and the forward bending.

Finally, we came back to sit on the chair instead of on the ground with crossed legs since he had no mat nor blanket at home, and the floor was ice cold.

So the chair was in use during the yoga session, but he had enough strength to hold himself in a pose after boosting his energy.


How to find out what your student really needs?

So back to the question in the beginning – How to find out what your student really needs?

Firstly, it’s much easier to get to know your student deeper in a private session than a group class, as you spend all your time and engage all your energy in one single person. But there is always a way to do it, no matter it’s a group class or a private 1-1 session

Observe Carefully

First thing to do is observe EVERYTHING.

How they talk? What they ask? What’s the environment around them? Is he tired, talking too much, being too quiet, being sad, sleepy, having pain …etc.

Adjust the angle or the aspect if it’s necessary. In my story, as it was an online yoga class, I was limited to the sound from speaker the size of the screen. I had to ask my student to move around in his room with the webcam, in order to check his environment.

A smile of student’s face, a single step the students make, a yawn….all can indicate what they really need in that yoga practice.

Ask, Ask, Ask

Before your start the practice, always ask the students questions according to your observation. In the story above, I found he has a nice flat wall with carving behind. However, I had to confirm whether those carving makes him uncomfortable while leaning on the wall or not. I asked him gently putting his back on it. The wall is wonderful – comfortable and supportive. Then I used the wall in our first practice.

The chair he has as good as a support, but sometimes people have an office chair with wheels instead of 4 legs standing still on the ground. In this case, holding a chair in a yoga pose is not a good idea, as the chair may slide a way during the practice.

Sometimes the issues are not from the equipments, but from the students,

In the beginning of every class, I always ask my student how do they feel? Do they feel pain or have any medical/ surgical history?

Yet they don’t declare you all the details at once. Most of the time is not on purpose, they just don’t know this information could be important for you. Sometimes they tell you during the practice, lie complaining about their wrist pain while holding in Downward-Facing Dog. Sometimes they don’t say anything, but just frown or not following your cue.

ADD a picture for Downward facing dog

Those above are all indicators of the issues or needs of the students at that moment.

So ask questions!!! When you’re not 100% sure about the safety and the situation, ask them about it. Why don’t they follow the cue? Why do they frown? Why do they sit down when you ask them to stand up?

Ask questions to clarify the situation, then you will know what do they really need.

And don’t be ashamed if you cannot give the help to your students at that moment. Be honest with what you are able to do and provide as much help as you can, but you can never fake it if it’s out of your


how to know what do you really need from Yoga as a student?

If you’re not a teacher, how to know what do you really need from Yoga as a student?

A lot of students just do what their instructor said, without observing what they really need. If you are one of them, you’re not alone ! I was the shy student in yoga class as well, who was not dare to challenge teacher’s instructors.

But you don’t try to do your own way without thinking. You have to know first whether you really have to follow all the time what teacher says or you can do simple adjustment by yourself.

Observe Yourself

A good yoga instructor who has tight connections with you, can immediately notice your needs and your feeling. But your teacher will never knows your better than yourself – if you truly understand yourself.

At my yoga class, I always ask students to observe yourself :

Where do you feel is tight, which part of your body is helping you holding this yoga pose? which part of your body is relaxing? Do you inhale when you raise up the arms or exhale? Are your feet firmly touching the ground? Is your navel facing the ground or to the side?

it’s like asking question to yourself. Instead of waiting for the teacher to ask you how do you feel, you can always start to do so by yourself, especially during self practice without an instructor’s guidance.

Observing yourself is important in any kind of yoga practice, no matter you’re a beginner or a experienced yogi.

No matter what style of yoga you do – Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Niguma Yoga, Eye Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Hot Yoga, Dog Yoga, Cat Yoga and so on, self-observation is important for building the self-awareness.

Make a Note in Your Mind

After observation, you may (or may not, but don’t give up trying) find out:

Where is the pain? Where is the tense? Which part of the body is tight? Do you want more chellenger today or just want to relax? In which pose I feel good? In which pose I feel hard to hold?

If you find it, make a note in your mind about how do you feel. It’s a good way to get more insight about yourself and take it to next practice.

Say Out Loud

Now you know how do you feel, you made a note for yourself about that feeling, it’s time to tell yourself or the teacher about it!

Don’t be shy to say if you feel the pain, if you cannot hold for long time, if you want more challenge, if you feel “NOTHING AT ALL” … ask your teacher if you don’t feel the same as he/she said.

At that moment you feel wrong with the cue from your yoga instructor, tell him/her what do you really found during the practice. Never be afraid to ask for the help !

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