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Research & Study Guides

Introduction

Delving deeply into the many topics related to yoga teaching is a joy. But the dilemma we all face is an overabundance of information.

If you are researching ways to continuously improve as a teacher, we offer the most organized resources you’ll find. But still, even on our site, there’s more than you could get through in this lifetime.

We recognize that the challenge and opportunity of our lives is mindfully choosing how to spend our precious time and energy, and we are dedicated to helping maximize your time.

So if you’re wondering where to start or which direction would be best for you, here we offer brief guides to help you choose where to focus to most efficiently meet your particular needs. Whether you “know what you don’t know” or “don’t know what you don’t know,” we can help you efficiently grow your knowledge and skills! : )

In most cases, the links are for content provided to members only, but we include the guides here in Free Resources to give any interested teachers a sense for the topic and how you might think about it.

Please don’t hesitate to write us if there’s more we can do to help.

Warm-Up Practices

Introduction

We offer a library of what might be called Warm-Up Practices. It includes stretches, asana variations and flows (or mini-vinyasas).

Audio Guide

In this 4-minute audio guide, you’ll get a quick overview of the type of tools available and how to efficiently find what you’re looking for.

Purpose / Intention

  • These practices can be used to warm-up or to prepare for particular target actions.
  • They may serve as preparation for more physically strenuous asana.
  • And they can be used to prepare for or support Restorative Yoga and Meditation.
  • Some of these practices may also serve as alternatives to asana during injury or other conditions.

Library of Practices by Target Anatomy

The practices are organized by target anatomy:

Stretches & Flows: Hips & Legs

Stretches & Flows: Neck, Wrists, Ankles

Stretches & Flows: Shoulders, Upper Torso

Stretches & Flows: Back & Side Waist

Core-Strengthening Practices

Related Resources

The Anatomy of Flexibility & Stretching

Audio Guide

In this 6-minute audio guide, you’ll get a quick overview of the type of content and tools available and get advice on where to start. And, then, based on your interests and needs, learn how to choose an optimum path of study and focus.

Where to Begin

See below for more information on what each includes.

#1  Anatomy & Physiology: The Musculoskeletal System

  • Review here first to make sure you feel confident in your understanding and teaching of muscles and connective tissue.
  • Know how to describe the form and function of fascia, the significance of the myofascial meridian theory, plus some interesting related information on proprioception and Energy Medicine.

#2  Flexibility & Stretching: Issues & Teaching Techniques

  • Despite this section beginning with Introduction and Related Reflexes, you may wish to begin with the application of the learning, which you’ll find here.

#3  Flexibility & Stretching: Related Reflexes

  • Be confident in describing the three related spinal reflexes and how knowledge of them has informed our understanding of effective stretching.

#4  Flexibility & Stretching: Introduction

  • Delve into terminology, including different uses and meanings of the word, “stretching.”
  • Get clear on the various naming approaches, and meanings of types of stretches.

More Specifics on What You’ll Find Where

Anatomy & Physiology: The Musculoskeletal System
  • What is connective tissue?
  • What is a ligament? A tendon?
  • Describe fascia using descriptive phrases that help the student to visualize and get a clearer sense for this pervasive tissue.
  • What are some functions of fascia?
  • Fascia is full of sensory nerve endings that are in constant communication with the brain. What is this communication about?
  • From an Energy Medicine perspective, what is a function of fascia?
  • What is meant by the term “myofascia?” What is the significance of this term?
  • How does the “myofascial meridian theory” differ from the traditional anatomy model?
  • Anatomy & Physiology: The Musculoskeletal System
Flexibility & Stretching: Introduction
  • Define flexibility.
  • Flexibility may be limited by muscles that are shortened, tight or in a contracted state. Name four or more other factors that may limit flexibility.
  • When anesthetized, what happens to a person’s muscles? What is the significance regarding our knowledge of flexibility?
  • What happens when we reach our personal ROM limits?
  • What are the three states that a muscle may exist in?
  • What are the effects of stretching?
  • Jules Mitchell defines stretching as ” a tensile load.” What does that mean?
  • In addition to the basic effects, what are the benefits of stretching?
  • What is a static stretch? A passive stretch? An active stretch?
  • What is dynamic stretching? Resistance stretching? Facilitated stretching?
  • Give two examples of ways to practice PNF stretching.
  • Flexibility & Stretching: Introduction
Flexibility & Stretching: Related Reflexes
  • The reflexes relevant in stretching are spinal reflexes. Why is that significant?
  • What are the names of the three spinal reflexes related to stretching?
  • What are some other names for the Stretch Reflex?
  • What is the muscular effect of the Stretch Reflex?
  • What is the purpose of the Stretch Reflex?
  • What learning can we take from knowledge of the Stretch Reflex to apply to practice?
  • What is another name for the Golgi Tendon Reflex?
  • What do Golgi tendon organs do?
  • What is the muscular effect of the Golgi Tendon Reflex?
  • What is a way to stimulate the Golgi tendon organs?
  • What is Reciprocal Inhibition?
  • How can we use knowledge of the process of Reciprocal Inhibition to deepen a stretch?
  • Flexibility & Stretching: Related Reflexes
Flexibility & Stretching: Issues & Teaching Techniques
  • With very flexible students, they may need to guard against pursuing “flexibility for its own sake.” With these students, how can their focus during stretching be redirected?
  • Name six signs that could indicate overstretching.
  • What condition makes students more prone to overstretching?
  • Jill Miller has been transparent about the issues resulting from her history of overstretching. What happened from overstretching and what was her diagnosis?
  • What are some stretching practices that don’t work to improve flexibility?
  • Describe how muscles are not elastic, and why this important.
  • Name two safe, efficient and effective ways to improve flexibility.
  • How do mindfulness and visualization contribute to effective stretching?
  • Although doing a vinyasa or short static hold of a pose can warm you up and make it easier to stretch, why isn’t this enough to improve flexibility? Why are long holds necessary for addressing postural tension and making flexibility gains?
  • Describe progressive deepening techniques.
  • What other expert recommendations—that are often naturally accomplished in a well-rounded asana practice—will contribute to effective stretching?
  • What are some examples of myofascial release techniques?
  • Is myofascial release recommended before, during or after your regular practice?
  • Flexibility & Stretching: Issues & Teaching Techniques

Foundational Anatomy & Injuries

Audio Guide

In this 7-minute audio guide, you’ll get a quick overview of the type of content and tools available and get advice on where to start. And, then, based on your interests and needs, learn how to choose an optimum path of study and focus.

Foundation: Anatomy

Begin with the study of foundational anatomy that is necessary to fully understand teachings around injuries and conditions:

  1. Nervous System Overview
  2. Yoga’s Impact on the Nervous System & Stress
  3. The Anatomy of Breathing
  4. The Anatomy of the Spine
  5. The Spine: Function & Issues
  6. The Spine: Teaching Considerations
  7. Musculoskeletal System
  8. Muscles & Their Movement
  9. Joints & Their Movement
  10. Spinal Movement

We want this section to guide you through some simple steps to increasing your proficiency—not be overwhelming. And so we’re a little dismayed to see that our anatomy recommendation list is quite long. But here’s the deal: we’ve worked very hard to make those topics digestible and applicable. And we think you’ll agree that if you understand the teachings there, learning about injuries and conditions will come naturally, based on an understanding of these foundational teachings. That means you’ll also have the perspective that will lead to your being more capable of forming hypotheses and teaching plans based on your own observations and experiences.

However, we know you have limited time plus your own unique combination of experience, knowledge and interests; as such, we can absolutely help you adapt your study as needed for your situation. For instance, if you have limited time and your priority is to increase knowledge of how to adapt practices for students with sciatica, you will greatly increase your confidence and ability to support students by jumping right to Sciatica. In the case of general low back pain, you might begin in About Low Back Pain and Yoga for Low Back Pain but once you have a sense for the issues, you may then find a need to jump to Anatomy of The Spine, Anatomy of Movement, Anatomy of The Pelvis and/or Anatomy of The Core.

Injuries & Conditions: Where to Begin

See below for more information on what each includes.

#1  Injuries & Conditions: Introduction

  • Start here to review the opportunities and challenges related to teaching students who are experiencing injuries and conditions.

#2  When to Refer Out

  • Study this brief section thoroughly in order to feel confident in deciding when to refer a student out for diagnosis or individual therapy.
  • Review options for how to respond to students who report an injury or condition that is outside your qualifications and experience.

#3  Therapeutic Principles

Where to go next depends on your personal experience and existing knowledge, and your priorities. We believe that a reasonable expectation is for yoga teachers to be prepared to support:

  1. Chronic Pain
  2. Sciatica
  3. SI Joint Pain
  4. General Low Back Pain
  5. Pregnancy
  6. Wrist Issues

For other interests and needs, we offer many more study and teaching tools:

More Specifics on What You’ll Find Where

Injuries & Conditions: Introduction
  • According to a 13-year study of yoga-related injuries in the United States that was published in January 2017, the majority of injuries occurred in what category of students?
  • In some cases, it is vital that students have an individual session with a physical therapist, yoga therapist, or other qualified professional prior to engaging in a group class. What is an example of such a case?
  • How can a teacher address some of the inherent challenges of teaching an individual practice in a group setting?
  • What are some challenges and considerations related to learning about individual students in a group class?
  • What steps can help newer teachers who are not feeling confident in their understanding of various conditions, and of teaching practices to support students with such conditions?
  • Name six injuries and conditions for which it may be reasonably expected that a yoga teacher is prepared to support.
  • What may be an unspoken assumption regarding the health and ability of students in drop-in asana classes?
  • Injuries & Conditions: Introduction
When to Refer Out
  • How can you minimize the numbers of students arriving at a class that is not a good fit for them?
  • Provide sample content targeted to students with injuries to help them choose a proper class and to arrive with information that will help guide practice choices for their condition.
  • When determining which conditions can safely be accommodated in a group class, how can differentiating between structural issues and pathological processes be helpful?
  • Name five conditions for which it is advisable to refer students to expert care.
  • Describe three options for ways to respond to students who are experiencing an injury or condition outside your qualifications and experience.
  • If a yoga student has had surgery or is experiencing injury or another condition, what questions does she need to ask her healthcare provider in order to guide decisions about safely practicing yoga?
  • When to Refer Out
What & How Yoga Helps
  • Describe four perspectives from which yoga can be described as supporting health.
  • In what ways can yoga serve a preventative role?
  • Give examples of how yoga provides symptomatic relief.
  • Name five or more categories of bodily system for which yoga provides support.
  • In what ways does asana support muscular and skeletal health?
  • Describe yoga’s impact on stress and stress-related diseases.
  • How can yoga affect the circulatory system?
  • Which yoga practices may help improve lung function?
  • What & How Yoga Helps
Therapeutic Principles: Unhealthy Sensation & Working with Pain
  • Give two expert definitions of pain and note what is common to both definitions.
  • Describe the thinking that explains that pain is always subjective, always unpleasant, and also an emotional experience.
  • What is acute pain? What is chronic pain?
  • Aside from the length of time they are experienced, how are acute and chronic pain different?
  • What are two general types of sensation?
  • What is compression?
  • How might you describe healthy sensation in asana?
  • What are the signs of unhealthy sensation in yoga asana?
  • What conditions can change how a student experiences pain or may cause them to seek pain?
  • For what reasons may a student be unable to examine her experience of sensation and/or to communicate it?
  • What is a fundamental tactic for addressing pain?
  • What other strategies can help in working with pain?
  • What are some examples of approaches that are often effective in utilizing asana therapeutically?
  • Why might you differentiate between “working around” and “working with” chronic pain?
  • Working with Pain
Therapeutic Principles: More
  • Describe the concept of teaching using a focus on what a student can do vs what she can’t do.
  • Which yoga tools are often effective in therapeutic use?
  • How might teachers help students to experience their injury as their teacher?
  • How does trauma-sensitive yoga inform teaching of all populations?
  • Why is it important to distinguish chronic pain from acute pain?
  • What is a fundamental consideration when working therapeutically?
  • Describe principles for movement when the student is experiencing pain.
  • Why is it important to know if a student is on pain-killers?
  • What is compensation as it refers to spinal curves and why is it important?
  • Therapeutic Principles: More
About Chronic Pain
  • What is acute pain? Chronic pain? How are they different?
  • What additional negative effects can be a result of chronic pain?
  • What are some common symptoms of chronic pain?
  • Describe potential causes of chronic pain.
  • While most chronic pain has its roots in physical injury and illness, what factors are related to pain becoming chronic?
  • How is the teaching on suffering vs. pain relevant for those with chronic pain?
  • About Chronic Pain
Yoga for Chronic Pain
  • Why and how does yoga help those who suffer from chronic pain?
  • What are the teaching objectives when using yoga to address chronic pain?
  • Which yoga techniques tend to be effective with chronic pain?
  • What strategies can help in designing an effective class to address chronic pain?
  • Yoga for Chronic Pain
About Low Back Pain
  • How prevalent is low back pain?
  • How do medical expenditures compare for people with low back pain vs. those without?
  • Why are individuals from low-income and minority backgrounds disproportionately impacted by low back pain?
  • Which parts of the spine are most vulnerable to injury and why?
  • What is meant when doctors use the term “low back strain?”
  • At what point is back pain considered chronic? What is the most common medical classification of those with chronic low back pain?
  • Name 10 or more potential causes for low back pain.
  • Name five reasons why yoga is recommended for addressing many cases of low back pain.
  • What has research by Boston Medical Center shown about the effectiveness of gentle asana in the treatment of chronic low back pain?
  • About Low Back Pain
Yoga for Low Back Pain
  • Describe up to eight cautions related to using asana to address low back pain, noting particular considerations for chronic pain.
  • Describe up to 14 specific objectives (such as strengthening back muscles) that you may consider for students when using yoga to address low back pain.
  • What poses are typically avoided in the case of back pain?
  • What poses might help?
  • Where can you find sample sequences for addressing low back pain?
  • Yoga for Low Back Pain

For much more, please see the Injuries & Conditions Hub.

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