It was a fine Spring morning in New England. After 2 hours in the classroom, my teacher trainees and I were taking a short break and heading to the practice room, where we would be reviewing teaching techniques for the next 3-4 hours. We timed our arrival at the yoga studio to coincide with the end of a late-morning class. As the owner, I liked to see what the other teachers were doing, and to shmooze a bit with students I wouldn’t normally see. As our small cluster of someday-teachers mounted the stairs and walked into the studio I had one of those ‘WTF’ moments where I simply could not contain the gasp that issued from my mouth.
There was a man hanging upside down by his ankles at the wall directly across from me, and my studio was not equipped with a rope wall. He must have been well over 200 pounds. He was tall. His neck was at a funny angle, his face was red, and two women were HOLDING HIM BY THE ANKLES! And it just so happened they were both YOGA TEACHERS!!!
I dropped my notes, ran to the man, grabbed him around the pelvis and hollered ‘DROP!’ Luckily, he did drop his legs towards the floor~ or at least tried to. For some reason the two women felt compelled to hang onto his ankles while I struggled to take pressure off his cervical spine. After seeing to his comfort and ascertaining that he was none the worse for wear, I had to go cool off. Smacking another yoga teacher isn’t considered a proper method of discipline, at least not in Massachusetts.
I couldn’t have staged this event, but it turned into an excellent teaching moment for my trainees. It is one thing to read about ‘What Not To Do’, and it made it very real to see improper assisting techniques happening live. They got to see me respond quickly, get the student to safety… and not lose my cool. It also allowed us to have terrific ~ and lively! ~ discussions about trusting our sense of what a student can do vs. what a student should be allowed or encouraged to do.