How to Build Contraindication Confidence?

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Dean Lerner's reply:

Dear Julie,

Teaching yoga is a complex art and science. To realize this can indeed be overwhelming and humbling. As a new teacher, be comforted in knowing that with more time, experience, and training, your understanding, abilities, and confidence will grow on all levels. This includes dealing with student injuries. However, there are no shortcuts. To improve on the path of yoga and as a teacher, we each have to work hard and be earnest in our approach.

To improve your capacity to work with students, do your homework. Study basic anatomy. Study and understand the basic principles of alignment in the poses. Then carefully observe what your students are doing to create their problems. Use this insight as a common-sense guide to correct them.

The biggest key to assisting your students is to deepen your own practice with alert discrimination. Use your own body to recreate your student's problems and mistakes. This will help you correct them by using a positive approach. A positive approach means you will be able to teach your students the proper technique and tools to correct their problems, not simply tell them what not to do. Know that through regular, judicious practice, many problems will correct themselves.

Although there are common things to look for when dealing with injuries, every situation is unique and should be viewed with fresh eyes. A general principle to employ when working with an injury is to observe the joints or areas above and below the injured area. Don't work directly on the problem area at first, but on the surrounding area.
Finally, show the student confidence, yet be humble, and seek guidance from a more senior teacher when the problem is beyond your understanding.

Certified Advanced Iyengar instructor Dean Lerner is co-director of the Center for Well-being in Lemont, Pennsylvania and teaches workshop across the United States. He is a longtime student of B.K.S. Iyengar and served a four-year term as president of the Iyengar National Association of the United States. Known for his ability to teach yoga with clarity and precision, as well as warmth and humor, Dean has conducted teacher training classes at Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana and other locations.