070: Teaching Yoga for Seniors: Is Age Nothing but a Number? with Shannon Crow
On today’s solo episode Shannon shares her experience with posting a question on The Yoga and Movement Research Group on Facebook where she asked:
Who is teaching yoga for students who are 50+ and what are you calling it?
A general All Levels or Gentle Yoga are not what we are looking for. Instead something new and fun.
Also, to clarify -- I am looking for a name that isn't offensive (such as yoga for seniors would be).
Shannon was asking on behalf of a client who had been approached by a group of 50+ women requesting their own yoga class without mentioning the term “senior”.
The question set off an intense debate resulting in over 500 responses in the thread. It was certainly a hot button issue with words like “ageist” and “offensive” being scattered throughout the responses. A very interesting conversation developed and many asked if a class geared towards seniors was even necessary. A significant number of responses were something like “just call it yoga.”
Many important points were discussed, bringing in a wealth of insight. Through this thread we were able to compile a list of possible class names that were shared by respondents with great humour and wisdom. Other important considerations pulled from the thread included defining “senior”, the gift of teaching older adults, and marketing considerations.
Shannon is grateful for the insight she gained from this passionate debate. Aging in the context of yoga is a topic that clearly needs to be explored. What is your opinion about yoga for seniors? Has this episode sparked any insights? Do you have any class names to add to the list? We would love to hear from you.
10:20 Shannon’s post that sparked the debate
15:10 Compiling and sharing the wealth of responses
17:30 How to we define senior?
18:25 Yoga teachers that are firmly against senior specific classes
21:25 Yogini Flame on ageism and her own view of aging
25:25 Yoga students that want to be grouped by age
28:00 The beauty of teaching older adults
29:45 Marketing considerations
31:35 List of class name suggestions
33:35 Shannon’s final thoughts and gratitude for the insightful conversation
Yoga for Seniors article (written by Laura Cameron)
Austin Ince’s Website: Shanti Power Yoga
Flame’s Facebook Group: Yogis and Yoginis
Louise Bloom on Tumblr: Bloom Yoga Coaching
Autumn Anderson’s Facebook Page: Wellness for Busy Women
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069: Yoga with Pelvic Organ Prolapse with Dr. Sarah Duvall
After meeting physiotherapist Dr. Sarah Duvall through a webinar, Shannon knew that Sarah, through her expertise and passion for pelvic health, would make a great guest for an episode of The Connected Yoga Teacher, complimenting the series of episodes on pelvic health (links below).
In addition to her work as a physiotherapist who specializes in helping women recover from pelvic health issues, Sarah has experienced first-hand how emotionally and physically draining it can be to suffer from pelvic health issues when, following the birth of her child, she was diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
Sarah mainly works with women, specifically athletes and mothers, who need help with pelvic health issues including Diastasis and Pelvic Organ Prolapse. She was tired of seeing injuries that were entirely preventable; prolapse that worsens after birth, abdominal separation that just didn’t heal, and back pain from women lifting their infants.
Dr. Sarah Duvall’s goal is to help women exercise better. She sees many trying to back into shape after having a baby through jumps, crunches, sit ups, and other physically damaging workouts that impact both the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. Sarah wants to empower women to build strength without getting hurt. She runs online courses for moms who are recovering from pregnancy and childbirth as well as those tailored to professionals who are working with pre and postnatal students.
Sarah defines Pelvic Organ Prolapse, the importance of breath awareness in relation to pelvic health, prolapse prevention, and advice for yoga teachers on how to support and accommodate those with prolapse.
4:30 Sarah’s journey to becoming a Pelvic Health Specialist
5:40 Sarah defines Pelvic Organ Prolapse
8:20 Breath and pelvic health
14:00 Using your sitz bone to check-in with your breath and pelvic floor (a good exercise to teach your students)
18:10 Who is most susceptible to Pelvic Organ Prolapse
23:00 What it feels like to have Pelvic Organ Prolapse
25:40 Different types of prolapse
26:30 Other breath practices Sarah recommends for teaching yoga, including breathing through transitions
30:45 How yoga teachers can help students in class who’ve been diagnosed with prolapse
33:55 Is breath holding damaging to pelvic health and the importance of giving women hope they can resume their physical activities
37:00 Sarah’s personal experience with Pelvic Organ Prolapse; the challenge of healing, relapses, and the emotional impact the diagnosis and treatment
43:15 Other considerations when you have a student with prolapse
44:05 How to recognize if you’re straining or bearing down through kinesthetic awareness and the importance of checking in throughout the yoga class
47:15 What Sarah wants to tell yoga teachers and those teachers who are dealing with Pelvic Organ Prolapse themselves
48:15 How to get in touch with Sarah and her other offerings
49:20 Shannon’s key takeaways
Relevant TCYT Episodes:
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068: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga with Amy Hoare
Today’s episode opens up a difficult but important issue in the yoga world; the abuse of power. Shannon has invited Trauma Treatment Specialist Amy Hoare who has recently completed her 300-hour at the Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga program.
Amy conducted a survey as part of her final project which focused on hands-on-assists, power dynamics, and abuse in yoga.
Amy began her yoga practice with the intention of working through trauma and decided to become a yoga teacher for her own healing. Amy took her YTT at Karma Teachers in Vancouver, BC, finding the program focused a lot on transformation and healing. Karma Teachers is a not-for-profit community-based program focused on working through trauma.
Amy compiled data for a survey she created about the abuse of power in yoga classes. There were 146 respondents (all of whom have participated in a yoga class), answering a series of questions that would help Amy unearth the overt and subtle abuses of power. Amy notes that there is an inherent power dynamic between the student and teacher- especially in guru settings. Amy shares that her intention was not to shame or cause division but rather to help her identify power imbalances so she could shed light on this for students and teachers.
Shannon and Amy discuss the oftentimes unsettling results. Amy also shares how her training and final project have influenced how she now teaches, defines terms such as complex trauma and trauma-sensitivity training, and gives tips on how you incorporate a trauma-informed perspective into your teaching.
5:45 Amy’s yoga journey
8:30 Amy’s understanding of trauma as she’s grown in experience and education
9:10 Complex Trauma- a trauma that is repeated (a duration element to it)
Always relational- always happens in relationship and therefore trauma is healed in relationship
10:35 Background on the survey
13:55 Survey question: Have you been physically abused by your yoga teacher (11.6%)
16:15 Survey question: have you been verbally abused by a yoga teacher? (24%)
18:45 Survey question: Have you ever found your yoga teacher value your experience over yours? (68%)
20:10 How the study influenced Amy’s teaching
22:25 Amy’s choice to back away from public classes and her focus moving forward in the trauma-sensitive yoga field.
25:15 How Amy’s language has shifted in and out of yoga classes e.g. asking vs. telling
Question for yoga teachers: Is there a possibility to be more aware of subtleties like language, cueing, and offering hands-on-assists?
31:25 Working within the scope of your practice to help students and the benefit of therapy in conjunction with yoga classes
34:40 Authentic connection and its relation to attachment theory; facilitator is doing the movement with the student and how that can create an authentic connection with a healthy attachment
35:45 How Amy practices non-attachment in her teaching by not being attached to a rigid idea of the form- the point is a shared authentic experience, the practice of making choices and bringing in interoceptive awareness, all of which is based on trauma theory, attachment theory, and neuroscience
39:00 Interoception in trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed classes, normalizing “feeling nothing”, avoid telling students what they need to feel and what the pose should look like
41:40 Functional movement vs. precise poses
43:45 Answers to hands-on-assists questions influenced the biggest change in Amy’s teaching:
Have you received a physical assists or adjustments without being asked (65%)
Have you ever felt pressured to receive a yoga assist adjustment even when consent was given (37%)
46:20 Survey question: Have you noticed that certain advanced poses or forms are valued as more spiritual than other forms by your teachers through statements such as “go deeper”? (66%)
This response relates back to attachment to the form or that we need to take people somewhere in particular
47:30 What Amy wants to say to yoga teachers about the results of the survey and moving forward
52:40 Shannon’s closing thoughts and key takeaways
Interoception: Interoception is our ability to “internally-sense”; such as the feelings of hunger, feeling the need for a “bio-break”, feeling our heart racing, or feeling ourselves getting anxious. Interoception can be compromised by negative conditioning. This conditioning can come in the form of verbal cues “only babies cry” resulting in a shame in expressing deep pain with tears. Other verbal cues such as “you’re not sick, you’re just faking it” resulting in a conditioned distrust of our somatic symptoms. It can also be compromised due to trauma and toxic stress. The good news is through contemplative somatic and cognitive techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga (contemplative movement) we can improve our connection with what is going on inside ourselves!
From the article: Interoception: Our Felt Sense from Trauma Recover Yoga.Com
Complex Trauma: Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving sustained abuse or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic.
Excerpt from: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Wikipedia Article
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: “Trauma-sensitive yoga goals are quite contained, evidence-based model for effective treatment for trauma survivors. “ -Amy Hoare
Trauma-sensitive yoga helps them learn to calm their minds and regulate their physical responses and, thus, their emotions. They're able to learn to recognize and tolerate physical sensations and thereby regain a feeling of safety inside their bodies.
From Trauma-Sensitive Yoga on socialworktoday.com
Trauma-Informed Care: Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.
From the Trauma Informed Care Project.Org
Amy’s Email: Amyrobynagnes@gmail.com
Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga program- great resources on the site
Related TCYT Episode:
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067: Yoga for Every Body with Amber Karnes
If you’ve ever wondered how to make your yoga classes more inclusive to those with larger bodies, our guest Amber Karnes, founder of Body Positive Yoga, has an abundance of insight. She’s a ruckus maker, yoga asana teacher (E-RYT 200), social justice advocate, and a lifelong student of her body. Her commitment to inclusive, adaptive yoga practice empowers thousands of diverse practitioners around the globe.
Amber was hooked after her first yoga class. She noticed that the negative self-talk that overwhelmed her at times subsided after her first yoga class. She became curious about this effect and went back to repeat the “experiment”. Amber noticed she felt grounded and calm in her body for the first time. The physical aspect mattered to Amber but the internal regulation and tools yoga provided were especially powerful. She found the practice to be immensely helpful in her struggle with depression and anxiety, finding a peace of mind that kept her coming back.
Amber decided to take a yoga teacher training 7 years into her own practice to deepen her personal practice and learn “the rest of yoga” outside just the poses. She had no plans to teach but after immersing herself into the program she saw the need to provide space for women who felt their bodies were all wrong for yoga. Amber has been now been teaching for over 15 years.
Amber feels that it is important to recognize that there are systems of oppression, such as the patriarchy and racism, that try to take away a woman’s power. The pressure women feel to conform their bodies to a narrow societal standard distracts women so “we can’t do amazing things like change the world and make art or help people that really need a voice, that we can stand up and use our voice to help support and uplift them.”
Amber wants to emphasize that women need to feel that it’s NEVER their body that’s the problem. If a student struggles with a pose their body is not to blame. There is incredible power in offering modifications and props and being aware of the languaging around cues. She also offers that teachers are “there for our students and hold space for inquiry to allow the processing of emotion behind the desire to change the body.”
Amber offers workshops, retreats, courses (including Yoga for All Teacher Training with Dianne Bondy) through Body Positive Yoga. Amber is the creator of the Body Positive Clubhouse, an online community dedicated to building unshakable confidence and living out loud.
3:45 Amber’s first yoga class
8:15 How yoga teachers can be aware and respond if students express dissatisfaction with their body
Good Principles to Bring into the Classes:
9:55 1) The Body is Never the Problem- It’s the asana that’s the problem NOT the body, employ modifications or props
11:05 2) Languaging- Embodied or positive physical experience vs. striving and achieving, remove the hierarchy of language avoid saying “full expression of the pose”
12:10 Misconceptions around props: that they’re a crutch or cheat, that if you use them you’re not as good as the other students. Teachers have the opportunity to remove this stigma and help students see props as positive or neutral.
13:15 Progressive teaching- giving students the opportunity to stay in pose or progress, for example:
Start in Table Top
Feet behind, rest toes behind mat
Lift leg at hip
Offer the student the opportunity to stay at that level or progress, depending on their level of comfort.
16:00 Shannon and her client’s experience with coming to the mat to check in. Amber calls it “neutral ground”, a place where she avoids body criticism or shaming with a focus on inquiry and emotional exploration.
17:20 Body neutrality- it’s okay to feel neutral about your body without the pressure to love your body and aligns with practicing non-attachment
20:25 Advice for teaching bigger bodies when you don’t live in a larger body and how specialized training is very helpful
26:05 Marketing for classes for larger bodies or all bodies
32:50 Yoga images in yoga marketing- including photos featuring a variety of bodies, ethnicities, abilities, etc. will attract a more diversity
35:25 Modifications, props, and cuing: it shouldn’t be assumed that any pose it basic for anyone. Questions to ask yourself: What is the point of the pose? How can you make poses more accessible to your students? Can we change the orientation of the pose or change the relationship to gravity? Sometimes it’s something as small as adding blocks under the hands, using the wall or chair, etc.
A lot of students don’t have body awareness coming into yoga- you can help them move into over time
41:20 Two steps to help students with larger bodies:
1) Widen- Feet two fists width or maybe wider (width of the mat) automatically puts students in a better position which helps them access their breath, avoid feeling compressed or pinched, bodies are more flexible than the body can often express
2) Move stuff out of the way- Take hands to low belly, fold forward and bend your knees, pull your hips back, tuck belly up and back- also great cue for someone that isn’t in a larger body (great cue for hinging hips)
43:55 How to assist a larger student without putting them on the spot: speak matter-of-factly and make cues relevant to the entire class: no one wants to be put on the spot whether they’re injured or in a larger body, etc.
Make it clear that no one has to be in perfect shape to practice yoga.
48:25 Tools for teachers to offer modifications:
Empower your students so they can trust their instincts, experiment until they find a position that feels good, and ask your students how does their breath feels in this pose. Subtle things like language help your students feel good so they can access an embodied experience.
55:10 Issues around consent: do some self-study: Why I am or am not offering assists or adjustments to my students? Is this necessary? Is it clarifying or nurturing? Cueing over adjusting. Help students make the adjustment for themselves and adjust your student only if they are in a position that may cause injury. If you do make sure to ask for consent and let them know what you are going to do.
1:06:35 How to reach Amber Karnes
Amber’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amber’s website: Body Positive Yoga
Amber’s article: Yoga Turned My Body into a Place I Could Call Home
Relevant TCYT podcast episodes:
Gratitude to our Sponsor Schedulicity
“Offering modifications offers students agency over their own yoga practice and gives the locus of control back to the students. We want to guide our students into a place of inquiry where they can have an experience in their own body...both on the mat and into areas of their own lives.” ~ Amber Karnes