Ask the Teacher is an advice column that connects Yoga Journal members directly with our team of expert yoga teachers. Every other week, we’ll answer a question from our readers. Submit your questions here, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please address how to handle when a student feels nauseous. I had a lady who felt nauseous. I brought a trashcan, she vomited a little bit a few times, and then she said she was fine—she just needed to sit for a while. What else should I have done beyond observing her and deciding whether I felt she was OK on her own as she claimed?
—Nancy in Greensboro, NC
We turned to emergency physician Amy C Sedgwick, MD, E-RYT, for advice. In addition to being board-certified in Emergency Medicine, she also has extensive training in acupuncture, myofascial techniques, yoga, and meditation. In her work with urgent care patients as well as her private practice, Medicine Within, she applies her knowledge of complementary, alternative, and Western medicine for a holistic approach to wellness. She is the founder of Riverbend Yoga and Meditation Studio in Yarmouth, Maine and a senior teacher with Yoga Medicine.
The reasons for nausea range far and wide. Was the student newly pregnant? Was it a hot yoga class and the student chugged water? Had the student eaten something that disagreed with them? Most of the time, when a student says they are fine and they seem OK, they don’t necessarily need to leave class. Consider asking them to rest until the floor-postures part of the class. But, in this case, I really don’t know of anything else you could have done.
For nausea, I can recommend an acupressure point to help students as they rest and recover. Have them massage or press three finger widths from the inside wrist crease on the palm side between the two ropey tendons. That point is known as Pericardium 6. This can really be helpful if a student is recovering from a transitory experience of nausea.
Just keep in mind, it’s not our job as yoga teachers to diagnose or try to treat conditions. Even teachers who are physicians need to tread carefully in any situation when a student feels unwell in class. I’m a doctor, but when I’m teaching yoga I don’t have my diagnostic tools or my support staff to assist. Therefore, I am going to use my best, most conservative judgment to determine whether that student can continue in class. If they don’t recover with rest, breathing, and perhaps a bit of self-administered acupressure, I’d recommend that they seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Ultimately, it comes down to communication. Be clear in class that students have a responsibility to be aware of how their bodies are feeling and to honor that.
I also think students have a responsibility, not only to themselves but to everyone else in the room, to not put themselves at risk. This is a mind/body practice. It’s your responsibility to know when you’re not feeling well and not push through a class. That is the opposite of no-harm. The yoga class is a community, and that community has to take everyone into consideration. Most importantly, listen to your body and move accordingly. –as told to K. Anoa Monsho
Got a question about alignment in a certain yoga pose? Want to better understand an aspect of yoga philosophy? Need advice on how to approach a challenging situation in your class? Submit your questions here or email us at email@example.com, and we may answer it in an upcoming column.