A yoga class is the perfect opportunity to observe bodies in motion and bodies at rest. These observations can offer you a huge amount of information about the people you are leading through a class and what yoga practices might best serve their needs.
Observing the body or person in movement and at rest are both very useful. But, learning what to look for might seem a little challenging. Here simple ways to watch your students for cues on what might be going on with their body, and what tools you can offer to help them.
1. Notice their energy when they enter the classroom.
Do they come in looking uncertain, scattered, nervous, and go to their mat without engaging with others? Do they enter the room confidently and engage in conversations?
When they sit on their mat, does their back round and their knees float well above the ground, making them look hunched and uncomfortable? Maybe they spend a lot of time trying to find a comfortable way to sit on the floor.
Alternatively, do they come in and pop down on the floor with no effort and their legs and hips obviously open and able to sit on the floor for extended periods?
Looking for those who might have tight hips, unhappy knees, or back pain, or the other end of the spectrum such as those with overly open hips and hypermobility, is a great way to understand what you might offer in class to address these issues.
2. Observe how your students breathe during centering.
Notice if they are breathing just into their chest, into mainly the abdomen, or both the chest and abdomen. Are they breathing rapidly? All of this information is an excellent opportunity for you to offer them pranayama and breath awareness that will create almost immediate and noticeable changes.
We are teaching our students to slow their breath rate if it is too rapid, and to make the breath more full if it is shallow. Both of these are common things to encounter with students. Your pranayama offering that day might need to change a bit based on what you are seeing.
3. During Savasana look around at people’s positioning and ability to be still.
If they have a hard time allowing their arms to rest on the floor, do you notice that their shoulders are rounded forward? Do they need something under their head because they have a chin forward position which does not allow them to comfortably rest their head and neck on the floor?
Does one hip sit higher away from the floor than the other? Do they struggle with keeping their legs straight and often bend and straighten them? Does one foot drop further out to the side foot does? Do they clench their hands?
There is so much information contained within these observations about both a student’s physical and mental state.
All the information you are taking in about your students during these observations can help you tailor the practice to the needs of the bodies in front of you.
That is where the magic happens in a yoga class—when we can see the people in front of us and create a practice that meets them where they are and offers them tools for enhancing their wellbeing.