This past weekend I attended two yoga workshops – the first as a student/ participant and the second as a teacher/ host – it was definitely an interesting experience to observe and take in the presentation at the workshop I attended as a student knowing I’d be in the place of the teacher the very next day!
The workshop I attended as a participant was called Real Applications of Yoga in Rehab. As you probably know I’ll be starting physical therapy school in June and one of my long term goals is to incorporate yoga into my therapy practice – yoga is just such a great compliment to PT!
I was really excited about this workshop – 6 hours of someone talking about EXACTLY what I hope to be doing in the future!
Unfortunately I left the workshop feeling disappointed with the information provided and with the overall experience.
But, that being said, since I currently host yoga workshops myself and I hope to host yoga and rehab workshops in the future, I made a few notes to myself on what NOT to do when hosting a workshop.
Since I wanted to remember these few things I figured why not share some thoughts in a blog post and get some feedback on your workshop experiences as well!
So, here are my takeaways from the workshop I attended as a student and how I took these lessons and applied them to my workshop I was teaching the next day!
Have a clear goal for the workshop (and then teach to that goal!).
My understanding going into the Real Applications of Yoga in Rehab workshop was that we were going to learn how to appropriately incorporate yoga into a therapy treatment with a patient.
Did I leave feeling like I had any better idea of how I would use yoga in my practice as a physical therapist (in the future of course!) – nope.
We spent the first 4 hours of the workshop with the presenter going through different diagnoses and basically citing studies that have been done with yoga as a treatment for it. It felt like she was trying to convince us that yoga had benefits that could be applied in a rehab setting…
…personally, I would have assumed that because this room full of people even signed up for a workshop called “Real Applications of Yoga in Rehab” that they had at least somewhat already bought into the idea that yoga had benefits that could be applied in therapy – she didn’t need to waste time convincing us of that!
When I got home that night as I prepped for the workshop I was hosting the next day, I read over the class description I had provided (that I had worked hard on to make sure it was an accurate reflection of what I planned on teaching!) and then went through the workshop material to make sure I was delivering what I had promised – I hope everyone felt that they got what they expected out of the workshop!
Provide clear and useful information for participants.
When I first arrived at the workshop on yoga in rehab I was excited by the big, thick booklet of information we were handed – boy was this going to be a useful resource while I was in PT school and after!
And then I opened it up and saw this:
What the heck?!?! That is A LOT of words on a page!
Page after page after page of studies summarized. No real list of benefits of yoga for each diagnosis. No list of suggested poses to use for different diagnosis. No suggestions on how to actually incorporate yoga into rehab. Just summarized studies. It was a lot of information, and a lot of not very helpful information.
So, of course I went home and went over my workshop handouts to make sure the information I was providing was clear, concise and supported the objectives that I was hoping the participants would take away from the workshop.
Here’s a page of out of my 24 slide packet that participants got at my Yoga for Athletes Workshop:
Hopefully they felt it provided them with the information they needed to take home and of course I supported it with some lecture (although that sounds so formal for a yoga workshop!) and I invited participants to take notes and photos or to even record the workshop as I spoke.
Teach the students you have in front of you.
Here’s where I got really frustrated during the yoga in rehab workshop, towards the end when we finally got on the ground and did some yoga (for only 1 hour out of 6!).
At the beginning of the class we had gone around the room and everyone gave their name, job/ background and yoga experience. I was in the minority not having a formal therapy related background (yet!) and being a yoga teacher. Many of the folks that did work in therapy noted they worked with geriatrics and some personally had no yoga experience at all.
So, when we started doing some actual yoga you’d think the presenter would have taught as if she was teaching to a group of people who had little to no yoga experience, but I was shocked when she included some advanced poses that not only weren’t appropriate for a room that had several people with no yoga experience, but she didn’t offer modifications and variations for those with injury (hello, we’re supposed to be learning to use these in a rehab setting!) or for those who the pose may not be accessible to (ummm, geriatrics!).
My friend who I was with kept looking at me and laughing saying, “there’s no way I can use any of this with my patients!”
On top of that the teacher was then demonstrating even more advanced poses that probably not a single other person in the room besides her (and I, although I didn’t) could do. So basically, she was showing off.
To me, this is a HUGE no no when you’re teaching yoga.
The first time Jason came to one of my Yoga for Runner’s classes I noticed him sort of looking at me funny and I couldn’t figure out why…
After the class he said to me, “do you not go as far into the poses as you really can when you’re teaching?”
Of course I don’t!
Sure I can fold myself in half, do a split and even put my leg behind my head if I wanted to, but I’m working with a room full of super tight, inflexible runners and they can’t do that so why make yoga intimidating for them by showing off what I can do!
When I teach runners my forward fold is about halfway down with my hands resting on my shins. Do I feel a stretch? No. But I’m not there to get a stretch! I’m there to share the benefits of yoga with others and I want to make it a comfortable environment for THEM.
Whenever I walk into a room to teach a yoga class, I chat with the students and adjust my plan for the class based on who’s there and what their limitations may be. I also make sure to always offer several variations of a pose, suggest props and modifications. If you’re not teaching to the students who are in your class at that moment not only is there a chance they won’t have a good experience (you know, because they are intimidated by the yoga teacher who effortlessly puts their leg behind their head), but you’re also providing an unsafe environment and risk someone getting hurt!
Which, was why I was so shocked that someone that was not only a yoga teacher, but a physical therapist was leading the workshop through poses that I’d only teach in a higher level class (and even then, only offer it as an option!).
At the beginning of my Yoga for Athletes Workshop I also had everyone tell me their name, their sport and their yoga experience, so I right off the bat knew I had about one third of the room with little to no yoga experience. Everything I taught was taught under the assumption that this was completely new information to someone, and then as we went I’d offer options for those more experienced if they’d like to take a deeper variation.
I really hope that everyone left feeling that the class was appropriately taught for their level and paced so that they could follow along if they were a beginner, but that those who had previous yoga experience still felt challenged and that they got something out of the experience!
While it was frustrating to attend an all day workshop and feel like I left not really getting much out of it, it was interesting to be observing the workshop itself and leaving with some takeaway lessons that I could apply to my own workshop the next day.
I haven’t done a workshop yet, but I am eternally grateful that I wound up with the instructors I did for my first few yoga classes. They were patient, supportive, and made sure to get an idea of everyone’s level before they even started. Modifications were always offered, and they probably spent as much if not more time walking around to assist those who needed it then actually doing the poses themselves. Like you said, that class isn’t for you, but for the students. And a teacher who keeps that in mind, is the one who keeps his/her students coming back for more.
I’m so glad you started yoga with good teachers, it’s so important!
Such an insightful post and kudos to you for taking the time to think all of that through. It would have been so easy to have just felt frustrated by the workshop you attended and continued on with your day…but thinking through all of that and making sense of it is what makes you an awesome yoga instructor and soon to be, PT!
Thanks Christine! Throughout the rehab workshop I just kept thinking to myself, this is terrible, this can’t be what everyone in this room was expecting! And then I started getting nervous that what if my workshop wasn’t what people were expecting and they felt the same way I did about this one! So I sort of panicked and wanted to make sure no one left feeling like my workshop wasn’t worth their time/ money! : )
Hey Dani… it actually sounds like you got more out of the class then you originally thought…. I applaud your keen insights and your desire to become a valuable and safe instructor for your future patients and students. Heck, one of them might be me someday……. dad
Thanks, hopefully everyone in my workshop enjoyed the experience!