What I have Learned from Teaching with an Injury
If you've come to one of my classes lately, you've likely noticed that my right arm is all taped up and that I've been demonstrating most poses one-armed. You can ask me for the full (somewhat embarrassing) story later, but that's because I dislocated my shoulder recently and am working on recovery. I've suffered from a dislocated shoulder before, so I knew to expect the pain and the hard work of recovery. What I didn't expect was how much I'd miss my regular yoga practice and what challenges teaching while injured would present.
First, I was reminded to keep my sequences fairly simple. We talked about this in teacher training, and I've been sticking to it for the most part. However, when I injured my shoulder, I had this beautiful flow sequence with a fun new peak pose ready for the following week. I re-evaluated my flow and realized that I would need to be able to demo a few shapes, which I could no longer do safely. So I replaced my flow with a simpler one with asanas that my students would be familiar with. This took some of the pressure off my demo abilities, and allowed the students to continue to feel successful in their practice.
I also worked to improve my verbal cues. Several of the yogis who practice with me are visual learners, and it has been difficult getting them to listen to my cues rather than only watch me for visual cues. I teach quite a bit off of the mat, but I tend to synchronize my movements with those that I'm teaching and to demo more when I have newer students. At the beginning of my injury, i noticed many students mirroring my one-armed mountain pose or side stretch. To avoid this, I've been reminding students of my injury and to raise both arms rather than just one. I also have started becoming very clear as to which limb(s) to move and where to keep students in the correct alignment.
Finally, I have really learned to look at bodies and adjust my cues accordingly. I typically like to give a lot of hands-on adjustments for alignment and depth. With my injury, I've been more limited with the adjustments I can offer, so instead I've been noticing how different postures look in different bodies and applying this insight to my teaching techniques.
I'm sure I will continue learning in the next few weeks as my shoulder becomes more functional and this issue begins to just become a memory. All said, although this shoulder injury has been a (literal) pain, I'm grateful that I have been able to learn and grow as a teacher (and as a yogi!) as a part of my recovery. And a special thanks for my regular yogis for their understanding and encouragement! Love you guys!!