Sometimes students will approach you before or after class and share something about an ache or pain they’re experiencing. On the spot, it can be difficult to answer their question unless you get some background first.
This background is not needed in order to treat the student; we’re not physicians. But it is helpful in order to establish a greater understanding of what’s going on so that you might suggest modifications, poses to avoid, or poses to try in order to help the student research further if these things help.
So, in keeping with that approach, here are 11 questions you can ask:
1. Where Is The Pain/Tightness/Tingling You Are Experiencing?
Have them describe where they feel the pain. Have them also describe what the pain is like. Sometimes “pain” can be more muscular or nerve related; this can generally be distinguished by the nature of the pain (pull, stretch or tingling/loss of sensation).
2. What Poses Create This Sensation?
Don’t just ask them to tell you the names of poses, have them show you poses where they feel the unpleasant sensation.
3. Do You Feel It Outside Of Class Or Only When You’re Practicing Certain Poses?
Find out if yoga class is the only time they feel this sensation. Often, students will have this pain throughout the day while typing, running, driving or sitting. This can also help you identify lifestyle/activity of daily living movements that could be the primary source.
4. What Other Things Are You Doing For Exercise?
Find out what else the student does for exercise and how frequently they do it. I had a student once who was training for a marathon and coming to yoga once a week and complained of hip pain. I had a student doing an online fitness program 6 days a week and was complaining of back pain. This just helps you get a better picture of other possible contributors.
5. Do You Notice It Gets Worse When You Practice Yoga?
I like to ask this question to get a sense of what makes the pain feel worse. If practicing yoga feels reasonable in the moment, but then creates an increase in pain afterwards, this could suggest that decreasing frequency of practice might lead to a decrease in pain. It might also suggest that using ice after stretch to the affected area could reduce inflammation brought on from movement.
6. When Did It Start?
Find out when it started. Many students have been dealing with the pain for years. This can help you get a sense of if it’s acute or chronic.
7. How Often Are You Practicing Yoga And How Long Have You Been Practicing?
Sometimes new students will experience aches and pains that can be a sign of using muscles that haven’t been used in a while. But sometimes, even experienced students practicing 5 or 6 days a week might be feeling muscle fatigue or general fatigue that makes them susceptible to injury. Suggesting they take a day off might be something to try.
8. Are There Poses That Help Relieve The Pain?
Find out what poses they do (yoga poses or something they’ve created themselves) to relieve the pain. When you see the shape of the pose, think of other poses that mimic that shape.
9. Have You Seen A Physician About It?
It’s always helpful to know if they’ve seen a physician or any other medical provider or alternative therapist. Find out when and what they suggested.
10. Have You Been In Physical Therapy?
Many students are referred to yoga by their physical therapist. Some students will have tried P.T. with no success and now are practicing yoga as a last resort. If they are in P.T., find out the kinds of exercises that have been suggested and share yoga poses that stretch in the same way.
11. Have You Received A Diagnosis?
If the medical provider gave them a diagnosis, have them share that, if they wish. Keep in mind that sometimes, students will self-diagnose and it might not be correct. Also, as with all diagnoses, they can be somewhat of a label and what really matters is how the student presents physically when you are working with them.
This might seem like a long list but if you have 10 minutes with someone after class, you can run through these to get an overall picture of what their experiencing. Many times, I might capture all this information and ask them to check back with me after the next class. You can use the time to do some research and come up with recommendations for them.
This helps build the relationship, increases the learning on both sides, and gives you real-life examples to use to build your knowledge of anatomy.