Friday, February 4, 2011

Instructor discussion - student needs

I wasn't sure how to title this post.  I also wasn't sure if I even wanted to bring this up, but if it has happened to me, perhaps it has happened to someone else out in blog world and I can solicit some advise.

How, as an instructor, can I accommodate a special needs or challenged student within the parameters of the class structure in which I am already teaching? 

The Class - I lead two vinyasa/power yoga classes a week at my local YMCA.  I have been here for three years, and on any given day we have mixed group (beginners, regulars, drop-ins, experienced practitioners) numbering between oh, 12 and 20 attendees.  Lately closer to 20. 

The Situation - I get new people all the time.  Some just try it out, some end up staying.  Sometimes I recommend one of the other yoga classes offered (Hatha, Sivananda, Yin).  Recently, I had a new student come, never done yoga but claims to have done ballet and jazz.  I realized immediately that they were very much out of their element, even with specific cuing, and hands-on demonstrating.  I talked to them after class and recommended a different session but due to bus schedules, it won't work.  

The Concern -  This individual has a difficult time listening and processing cues, very poor eye to body coordination (cannot look at the person next to them/across from them and mimic the pose), and is usually about two poses behind, which I strongly suspect is due more to thought process than ability.  I cannot give them the one-one instruction they need without compromising the flow of class and the other students.  

Lately I've been doing  "technique flow" (as I call it - my way of integrating technique into vinyasa class; always good to review basics) but it doesn't seem to be helping.  This past week I put the students into a wide stance forward fold, left hand on the floor under your nose, raise right hand toward the ceiling.  This student called me over because they "didn't get it".   They didn't understand the cue, even with 15 people to watch.    I'm not sure I could have made it any more clear? 

So, before I loose my patience (which I know is not very yogic of me), how can I accommodate both student AND the rest of class? 

Suggestions?  Tips? 

In gratitude....



Anonymous said...

Oh Kristin, this is so hard. First, before you do anything I would talk to your supervisors at the Y and let them know what’s going on. Have you asked their opinion? Make it clear that it could be a safety issue, and that your other practitioners are getting frustrated. See what your fitness director says…

Does this person seem upset that they don’t get it, or do they just go with their own thing? If not, maybe you have to just start to ignore them.

You’ve done what you can, talked to the person, cued and helped directly, changed your class format…

Have you considered offering a private mini lesson or something? Probably unpleasant/annoying at this point but might help in the long run, or at least you could say you tried?

Again, yikes. I’m really sorry you have to deal with this. Please keep us updated and if I think of anything else…

Kristin said...

Clare -

Thank you for your feedback. I haven't approached my contact at the Y yet - I've been hesitant on the grounds of singling this individual out quite yet.

During class and after class, the individual doesn't *seem* to be upset or frustrated. But on some level they must be? They are trying to do as instructed, but again, they are always about two poses behind and cues don't seem to help. At all.

Unfortunately, a private mini lesson isn't feasible at this time (I work full time and teach yoga 2x a week elsewhere in addition to the two classes at the Y).

I will give it another couple of weeks and see what happens - if they continue to attend, perhaps I will just have to let them find their own space/place and let my Y contact know. And perhaps the individual will move on and this can be filed away as a learning experience for next time.

Sabine said...


This sounds very familiar. Unfortunatily there is not much you can do about it besides giving tips for modifying and extra vocal& visual cues. In a groupfitnessclass there simple is no time to adjust every pose or correct every member of class. Last monday i had the same problem with exercises using the therabands (not in a yoga class)The classformat is rebound trampoline but I do only 30 min jumping and second half toning exercises. People had to work in groups:1 sitting on the trampoline doing abdominal exercises, partner doing standing legwork abduction/adduction etc... with the bands wrapped around 1 leg of the trampoline. I needed to split up because otherwise the trampolines are not heavy enough to stay on there spot) I saw bad form all over and was unable to correct everyone. Extra showing of good posture & personal correction was not good for the flow of my class & people hated it. these people and this format only work out with me since october and I guess this type of workout is not yet for this group. They still eed a lot of coaching on abdominals alone. So next week notherabands but extrafocus on good posture during abdowork.

Sara said...

Hi Kristin - This can be tough. I'm curious - is this person special needs enough to be living in a group home? If so, sometimes the staff can come in to a class with the client to help them. I used to work at a group home and I've seen a number of folks who continue to attend a class who will never be at the same level as others, but who are really doing good. They are working up to their potential. It may take a year or more for this person to "get it" but I'd let them keep on trying. I'd still talk to Tara though.

Good luck.

maggie said...

ok, i'm a little behind the 8-ball with my timing, but i can't resist, even this long after your post...
i get this all the time. almost every class, because i'm teaching in a studio that's less than a year old, in a town that's had nothing but bikram until we opened. i run the studio and teach ashtanga and a pretty advanced vinyasaflow. what i've decided is that students will find their own way. i give some subtle adjustments to ensure that they're not going to injure themselves, but i find that if i don't worry about where they are in the flow, they don't worry either. the more laid back and relaxed i am about it, the more they take the same approach, and the sooner they seem to "get it". i constantly say things like "do what you can and don't worry about the rest" and "see that you're working at your own edge".
if you feel like this student is dominating your attention, have a heart-to-heart and explain that yoga is a PRACTICE, that progress comes slowly, and that her own body is the real teacher. then comes the hard part...ignore her. she'll either stop coming to class, or consider you the best teacher she's ever had.
i'd be curious to read what's happened in the time since your post!