Thursday, August 15, 2013

my first private yoga session

One of my career goals as a yoga teacher is to have private clients as well as teach corporate yoga.  (OK, so that's TWO goals...) I have had a little experience teaching corporate yoga through a few free classes at StoryCorps but that was a short lived and poorly-attended introduction to it.  Ideally I would go to big businesses and office spaces and teach a few classes a week to employees in their space, paid for by the corporation.  I'm really attracted to the idea of bringing yoga to people who work in highly stressful jobs, and see this offering from their employer as a major perk, and one day I hope to be part of that world.  So far I have not had the chance to consult yoga one on one...until recently.

I send out a weekly email listing my class times and locations that sometimes includes a little update on my progress if something exciting has happened on my yoga journey.  Through this weekly email blast, a friend of mine, Ursula, who owns and runs a printing press (and makes beautiful cards!!!), contacted me for advice on what type of class to take for some work related pain she is experiencing and expressed interest in having a private class. While I recommended my restorative class, as it would be beneficial for pretty much anyone and requires no muscular effort or any previous yoga experience, restorative poses wouldn't necessarily target the areas that are bothering her and bring her the type of muscular relief she is seeking.  Restorative yoga could bring her energetic and emotional relief in addition to relief from stress and would help to rejuvenate her, but I couldn't guarantee it would help her specific ailment, because that is not the focus of restorative yoga.
I was hesitant to recommend another class since I didn't know her yoga experience or what was going on with her pain, so a private seemed the best idea.  I was very excited to be meet the challenge of assessing her needs and creating a practice just for her.  I made a list of some questions that I thought would be useful not just for her situation, but for future private clients as well.   I didn't want to get too clinical or impersonal (or personal) on our visit so I didn't ask every single question, but we discussed quite a few of the following and I was able to make an assessment of her situation:
(not Ursula's press, I just liked the image)

-what kind of space do you have/ do you have a space available to practice at home?
-who is home/around/in your space when you can practice? (babies, pets, spouses, roommates)
-how much time are you able to give? (15minutes? an hour?  10 in the morning, 10 at night?)
-what time of day will you practice?
- do you do repetitive motions at work?  what are they like?
-do you sit or stand all day or walk around? 
-are you seeing/have you seen a doctor/chiropractor/therapist?
-are you going through a stressful situation/life change?
-how would you describe your sleep habits?
-what is your goal with this private yoga session?  is it physical, emotional...what do you want to get from this?
-what is your diet like?
-what is your experience with yoga so far?

this is the type of press she uses!
Ursula showed me her workspace and demonstrated running the paper press so that I could see the repetitive movements she makes.  I even tried it a couple of times to get a feel for it myself.  She described a shooting/sharp pain originating in her left hip, more towards the back than the front, and also complained of occasional but increasing wrist pain. Looking at the press, I was surprised that Ursula is not feeling any shoulder discomfort -probably because I feel so much shoulder pain that I am constantly aware of and empathetic to it!  But because she is experiencing hip pain, usually there is some compensation in other regions, and for me it is always the shoulders, so I was surprised (and relieved) that she feels fine there. I looked at her shoulders and I noticed that one did seem to be sitting just barely higher than the other.  It was something that nobody would ever notice at all, unless they were looking for it, which I was.  This is totally common and not necessarily related to what's going on in her hip, but I thought it was interesting to note. As a costume designer and an (out of practice) figure drawer, (and a student of anatomy) I love it when I turn on my observant artists eye and I notice things like this!  People's bodies are so interesting to look at, to really observe and see all of the little things that make us so unique!  In my world of costuming, one of my favorite parts of the process of building costumes is taking measurements.  Two people can have almost the same measurements yet their bodies look nothing alike because of things like posture, muscle development, where fat sits on the body and the effects of gravity.  It's so cool!  -My observant yoga teacher eye notices not so much if someone is short-waisted or has long fingers, but how their body (diaphragm and chest) moves when they breathe, or if they are holding their shoulders up to their ears or if their face is super clenched up.  It's neat for me to use all of these qualities of observation...I am thankful to all of those years of figure drawing for developing my eye... but anyway, I'm getting side-tracked...

So after meeting with Ursula, I went home and started researching.  I had a hunch that she is having an issue with sciatica.  I'm not a doctor, but based on my little bit of anatomy training, and books that I have, my sources pointed to that.  My therapeutic yoga books all warned to be cautious with doing yoga (particularly forward bends) if there is an issue with the sciatic nerve, so I thought it best she see a doctor before we proceed. Since neither of us really know what's going on, I wouldn't want to risk her hurting herself more or doing more damage, so the major yoga prescription is on hold for now.  In terms of the wrist pain, I think we can work with that and I can show her a few simple exercises that would help to alleviate that irritation.
Pepper Press!

While I could be upset that my first private yoga session wasn't fully executed in that I wasn't able to develop a practice for her, demonstrate and teach it to her (yet!), I don't feel like it was a waste of time or a loss in any way.  She is going to see a chiropractor (I recommended Dr. Grant of course!) and perhaps also try some acupuncture (on my suggestion, since it has been so helpful with my shoulder pain management), so I am glad that she is taking steps to heal her pain.  And that is a very yogic way!  Yoga is about listening to your body, respecting what it is saying to you, and honoring that.  While she may not be doing asanas (poses) yet, she is certainly practicing ahimsa... "non-injury".. the act of not hurting one's self or others :)  And in the end, I feel good because I too am practicing ahimsa by not choosing to push her to do yoga for my own selfish reasons of wanting to teach!

1 comment:

  1. How did Ursula’s visit to the doctor turn out? Is it really sciatica? I hope not though. I commend you for not forcing the issue on your friend. Anyway, I believe your passion and dedication to teach yoga will eventually bear fruit. One day, you will be able to impart your impressive knowledge on others. ;)

    Jonathon Kelly