Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga
Senior Positive Teaching in Mixed-Age Classes
Advice from Carol Krucoff and Kimberly Carson
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Susan Maier-Moul What is the most common misstep yoga teachers make when a senior is part of a mixed-age class? What is your advice on how to do better?
Carol Krucoff A common misstep yoga teachers make when a senior—or anyone with compromised ability—is part of a mixed-age class is to teach the “real” pose, then offer some modified version for the “less abled” participant.
While often well-intentioned, in my opinion, this creates an environment where the senior is likely to feel “less than,” or “unworthy.” We live in a competitive, judgmental society where people tend to be very hard on themselves, and everyone wants to do the “real” pose – no one wants to do the “wimp version.”
My advice on how to do better is to create an environment where all participants are encouraged to be present with what is going on for them in this moment and to teach postures in a way that focuses on how they feel—rather than how they look.
In addition, I typically teach an accessible form of the pose as the “real” pose, then offer a more challenging option for those who find that available. As the teacher, however, I model the accessible form, since most students want to do whatever the teacher is doing.
Kimberly Carson Mixed-age classes are tricky and the assumption can easily be made that there is a ‘norm’ for the class. This can come across overtly or subtly via our word choices.
A very important skill in working with a mixed-age class is to not alienate anyone regardless of whether they are more or less able-bodied. For example, rather than saying “Those of you in a chair, …” you might consider saying “For those of us exploring a chair variation.”
Also, to stay cognizant that we are not interacting with a condition, but rather with Being can be helpful.
Tips for seniors taking mixed ages yoga
Susan What’s the most common misstep seniors make when they attend a mixed ages class? What is your advice for senior readers on how they might go about things differently? How can teachers spot this opportunity?
Carol The most common misstep seniors make when they attend a mixed age class is to struggle to keep up with the younger participants.
But yoga postures, by Patanjali’s definition, should be steady and comfortable—so struggling to keep up is not yoga! Teachers can spot this opportunity and remind participants that straining is NOT part of the yoga practice. Reminding students of the importance of Satya, truth, extends to being truthful with oneself about what hurts and doesn’t hurt, and what is appropriate in this moment. Praising a student’s choice to do less can be one way to bring home this message.
Kimberly In addition to not trying to be something different than one is, I would also encourage senior students to enter into an open dialogue with their teacher regarding what their body, mind, or heart may be working with.
The best chance for everyone to have a safe yoga practice is for the teacher to have some orientation regarding what the student is experiencing and be able to offer appropriate and informed guidance. Teachers can make it a practice to check in every class with students so that they continue to be sensitive to the true pulse of the group.
Encouraging other women to pursue their dreams
Susan Many women dream of making a contribution, making a difference, when they are moved by the circumstances of an issue.
Do you have any encouragement or advice for women to begin their own businesses or take steps toward achievement? Have you had personal experiences of overcoming obstacles – internal or external – that could easily have held you back?
Carol When we first came up with the idea of offering a Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors teacher training, it seemed like an overwhelmingly daunting project. We worried that, if we created a program that combined Western evidence-based science with the ancient practice and traditions of yoga, would anyone come?
What helped me over come by doubts was having Kimberly Carson as my partner in this endeavor. Her strengths in the area of health education, scientific research and general “geekiness” (I call her Guru Geekta) as well as her strong meditation practice and skills have been critical in making the program a success.
Kimberly I don’t think this program would have made it without the complimentary qualities and skills of Carol and myself. We have found a professional partnership that allows both of us to bring our best service to bare without over shadowing the other.
For me, this has been the most amazing part of this endeavor… to be able to co-create with such an amazing, kind and fun yogini.
Co directors of Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors
Carol Krucoff E-RYT 500, is a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and has practiced yoga for more than 30 years. Carol was founding editor of the Washington Post’s Health section and is author of Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain. www.healingmoves.com
Kimberly Carson MPH, E-RYT 200, is a yoga therapist in Portland, Oregon. A yoga practitioner for more than 20 years, Kimberly taught and did yoga research for more than 10 years Duke University Health System. She teaches and researches yoga for special populations—including cancer and fibromyalgia—and offers Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Oregon Health Sciences University. www.yogaofawareness.org
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health Reservations 866.200.5203
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 16, Number 8, 2010, pp. 899–905 a Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0501
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