One of the things sensibly impressed upon us in teacher training was about recognising the limits of one’s knowledge, not to get caught up in wanting to help, or wanting yoga to help, and therefore over-promising or trying to over-deliver. We are not training to be physical or mental therapists (or magicians!), just yoga teachers.
I am mindful of this. I mostly teach people I already know to some degree so I sometimes have awareness of issues even if we haven’t ‘formally’ discussed them. And then there’s darling Hubby whom I want so much to be physically robust and pain-free, but who is battling various pains for too long. He listens to me a bit, but the line between nagging wife and professional advice is a wavering one!
Recently he’s been asking me to watch him move through some asanas and in doing the exercises his osteopath gave him. He feels as though he’s constantly irritating his weak points. Interesting for me to have carte blanche to stare at someone’s body and really observe from all sides. I haven’t had such a chance since TT asana lab — and those were more obviously proficient bodies where we were observing the subtleties more often than not. And fascinating to hear someone talk so intimately about the experience of inhabiting their body — that’s also not a regular opportunity. Though I’d rather it was under different circumstances, of course.
With Hubby I was able to see a few things that I thought wouldn’t be bad enough to worry about in anyone else, but might contribute to his pain: a bit of hip instability, an unevenness in stance, some backbending where I’d prefer not. He heeded my gentle suggestions about lengthening the tailbone down, about weighting the feet equally and evenly, engaging the adductors to level out the hips. I tried to show him stuff that I’ve been working on — activating different muscles in the legs by lifting arches and kneecaps — and when he was getting physically tired we talked about subtle listening in for the relationship between back body and front body, strengthening one plane to allow the other plane to open, the importance of breathing — especially when you’re scared.
Mostly this is stuff that I would (try to!) teach under ordinary circumstances, but I’d not willingly offer it to someone reporting such complicated and chronic pain patterns as him. It felt very much on the boundaries of transgressing into physical therapist territory. But it’s different in our relationship; I can read him well and know how to nuance my message, and I felt we were exploring together.
And now that he’s heeded my other bit of advice (go and see my physio), he’s come home with a new professional opinion and a different set of therapeutic exercises. But thankfully he got nothing that totally contradicted the suggestions I was making to him. In fact he says I was really helpful. I’m glad — and ever so slightly smug, since he makes a lot of comments about NQTs not knowing anything! 🙂