Handling clients with medical conditions: a guide for yoga teachers

Handling clients with medical conditions: a guide for yoga teachers

The best yoga teachers can help beginners get up to speed quickly whilst challenging more experienced students with more complex routines. But they also need to be aware of how to help people with medical conditions.

There’s nothing stopping people with limited mobility or other medical conditions from taking part in yoga – but yoga teachers need to provide careful guidance if they are to avoid over-exerting their client.

Communication is key

The first thing to stress is that communication is key. Students ought to declare any conditions to their yoga teachers in advance so that their programme can take this into account. Don't rely on them coming forward with this information; ask them to complete a health assessment form in advance of the first session taking place.

The more you know in advance, the more you can do to be prepared. This is especially important for rarer conditions that might require some research.

Yoga poses to use and avoid in common scenarios

While you need to be able to tailor routines to the needs of your clients, there are common scenarios that they will all come across – and some best practice to adopt in these cases.

Here are three medical conditions for yoga teachers to consider:

Yoga for people with heart disease

What to know: Yoga has been shown to help lower blood pressure and promote calmness, which makes it ideal for people who have had issues with heart disease and want to avoid exacerbating their condition. The breathing and meditation side of yoga can be highly beneficial to students with heart disease.

What to avoid: Strenuous stretches such as the boat pose, extended triangle or, indeed, the hand and head stand are not suitable in this instance. 

Yoga for people with wrist, neck or back pain

What to know: It’s easy to cause wrist pain when practising yoga if you’re not careful, so it’s especially important to consider this when it comes to people with joint conditions. Yoga can, however, help to relieve low level neck pain – especially with poses such as the child pose, reclining twist and cat pose.

What to avoid: Those with back pain should avoid attempting the camel, full wheel and boat poses, while people with wrist complaints should ensure that they are careful with any poses that rely on putting weight on the hands. 

Yoga for pregnant women

What to know: Many pregnant mothers like to be able to tap into the relaxation that yoga offers – but many poses can feel restrictive and uncomfortable once you are carrying a baby, and will need modification. It’s also important to be careful of lower back pain.

What to avoid: In this case, it’s best to avoid any strenuous or challenging poses for pregnant clients. Keep exercises gentle to ensure they are suitable for pregnant yogis.

Protecting yourself and insurance cover

Yoga teachers have a duty of care to their students and need to be able to tailor classes to their needs, so whatever the medical condition of your client, you should always stay on the side of caution. Use your common sense and knowledge to know what they can safely achieve.

It’s also important that yoga instructors protect themselves. Specialist yoga insurance can help to provide support in a number of scenarios. So, if a student feels they suffered an injury as a result of poor advice or has a trip or fall at your premises, you can fall back on this cover.

By planning ahead, yoga teachers can ensure they protect their students and themselves and run their business in a safe and profitable way.

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