by Kelly Fisher, Urban Yoga
Kelly is our resident yoga teacher mentor, answering questions from readers about how to teach and what to do when issues come up. You can email Kelly your question here.
The Yoga Teacher’s Question:
“I’ve got my RYT 200 and have been teaching once a week for about a year.
I’ve got a family member who could benefit from some yoga. She is not able to attend classes because of physical limitations resulting from surgery and ongoing health conditions so I think ‘therapeutic’ one-to-one sessions would work best.
Any advice on things I should consider when I start to work with her?”
Kelly our Yoga Teacher Mentor Gives her Answer:
“I would be very careful of offering therapeutic sessions to family members. Ethically, it a bit of a grey area for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, due to the closeness of the relationship with family members, our judgement as teachers can get clouded. After all, we’ve got an emotionally charged, vested interest in wanting to help our loved ones out of their discomfort. Emotions can override reason.
The effectiveness of what a yoga therapist (or any therapist) offers comes from clarity and boundaries. Professional boundaries are almost impossible to bring to bear in family situations.
Secondly, it seems that her health concerns may exceed the level of training you’ve got to deal with them. Bear in mind, most RYT 200 programmes do not prepare you to take on yoga therapy clients. There are lengthy, in-depth, specialised trainings for that.
Those things being said I can understand wanting to offer her some relief if you can. If you decide to work with her at all, I would say to keep sessions informal and brief to avoid getting in over your head.
Begin by getting an idea of how surgeries and the conditions you know about affect day to day tasks. Be aware that if she’s been coping with ill health and compromised function for a long time, she may not be aware of her own limitations as ‘limitations’. Many people think it’s perfectly normal to be in pain or uncomfortable most of the time.
Also, because of the nature of your relationship with her, there may be things she’ll never tell you that could be very relevant but embarrassing to tell someone so close.
No matter how much information you collect, the best way to proceed when working with her is to go very slowly, watch her carefully and ask lots of questions about how something feels, where she feels it, what the nature of the sensation is, etc.
Your best tool is your ability to respond to what you see and hear.
Stay present to your own experience and if you are out of your depth, be honest about that. You will not do her any favours by guessing or making things up.”
She is the owner of Urban Yoga, the co-founder of Yoga Unlimited,Wellington’s first upmarket yoga and wellness retreat and the catalyst behind Wellington’s offering of the first couple of years of the Global Mala event.
Over the course of her yoga career, Kelly has studied with many teachers from various lineages including Iyengar, Astanga, Satyananda, Prana Flow and Anusara and has investigated related sciences Ayurveda, Acupuncture and Craniosacral therapy. She is grateful for the support and advice she has had on her journey.