Over the years I’ve taught yoga in many different settings – fitness, health care, wellness, corporate. I wanted to make a career out of teaching yoga and so I knew I needed to avoid getting stuck in the common thinking rut that a yoga studio is the only (or the best) way to share the practice.
If you believe that more people need access to these transformative practices, then you have to climb out of the box. Yoga teachers can share yoga in various wellness settings, and they can also collaborate with health care professionals – or even go back to school for more training in a health profession so that they can have a steadier, more sustainable career.
I’ve learned a lot teaching outside the box.
Once, when I was teaching at a partial hospitalization drug and alcohol treatment center a few years ago, one of the therapists told me a new client, who had just been released from detox to our program, would be participating in my group. The client (who I’ll call Laura) was dealing with racing thoughts and felt like she had been on the verge of a panic attack all morning.
When Laura walked in to the room, she wore her fear like a shroud. The other participants must have felt it too because several of them looked away, as if it might be contagious. It’s easy to be triggered by the memory of how hard it is to be so new and so raw in recovery. Laura looked like a deer in the headlights as she mumbled a downcast “Hey” to everyone.
We started the session lying on our backs, eyes open, with a focus on willingness to recover and cultivating an attitude of curiosity about our bodies and minds, and letting go of judgment.
After a few minutes of slow movement, I could see that Laura’s breathing had started to smooth out. She even closed her eyes for a while. We came up to tabletop and did a few sunbirds. Then we stood up and did some warrior poses, feeling the strength and courage necessary to move through life’s challenges (like being in treatment).
After a few more floor poses we finished with legs up the wall, followed by śavasana, and then a check-in circle at the end.
In the circle, Laura said that she’d never done yoga before and she’d never felt so relaxed. Her therapist, who came to check in with her at the end of the session, was relieved to see her so peaceful. Laura asked if she could stay for my second group.
Laura was one of many clients who really appreciated having yoga available in treatment. But not all my clients had such profoundly positive responses to the practice. It may have been that, for some, an hour was too long to spend time being with themselves, in their bodies. It was too triggering.
Which is why I think it’s so important for yoga to expand beyond the yoga industry, to be available to health care professionals who are interested in being trained to share these practices.
When therapists have tools like accessible asanas and pranayamas, then they can better accommodate their clients’ needs by offering shorter mind-body interventions as part of individual or group therapy sessions. They can titrate the experience of being in the body, and help gradually build that skill without triggering clients.
Last Sunday, we graduated our eighth cohort of behavioral health professionals from the Mountain Area Health Education Center training.
I’m so proud of them!
When people who are reimbursed by insurance have yoga tools to help their clients, then we can get more yoga to more people who need it – it’s a sustainable way to get these practices out there.
Don’t get me wrong. . .
I am not advocating that licensed health care professionals take over the yoga industry! Yoga is an important profession in and of itself and yoga professionals can both share the practices in wellness venues, and also collaborate with health care professionals (it’s what I’ve been doing for nearly 25 years).
Yoga is incredibly versatile, but to be successful in sharing it, we have to find creative ways to collaborate and not limit our options to the studio.
Check out my 40 hour Subtle Yoga Revolution Online Teacher Training!