As an Occupational Therapy Assistant in a rehabilitative settings, I have seen far too many individuals suffer in pain due to work-related distress that have snowballed into a chronic life changing injury. In fact, a survey of Occupational Injuries & Illness performed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics discovered “nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2014”. 3 MILLON! Interestingly, “Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 32 percent of all injury and illness cases.” Knowing that most MSDs can be prevented through awareness of body mechanics, maintenance of body blind spots and applying ergonomics to activities, it would seem that the movement healers should take heed to this statistic for the benefit of their clients and their own careers’ alike. Despite our diverse training and teaching backgrounds, we all can relate to the reality that the health of our physical body is a huge component to the success and longevity of our teaching careers.
Much like the cultivation of your unique teaching qualities, you must also nurture the way you move both in and outside of class. Our work demands not only a few moments of impeccable demonstrations, but economical positioning when you are preparing for your classes, while you are demonstrating poses, and most definitely required when you are adjusting your students.
It has been said that character is defined by how an individual treats people or situations when no one is looking – the same can be said for body mechanics. How you move behind the scenes when no one is looking defines how you will move in the spotlight. Your students are not only watching the way you move, but also mirroring it. It’s the classic monkey-see monkey do effect and it occurs more often than we think. A majority of the population are visual learners, some are auditory learners and a small percentage are kinesthetic.
So what are you visually projecting? What does your body’s position say to the world right now? As functional movement educators we have the responsibility to not only accurately demonstrate our concepts in front of the class, but also to integrate those “moments” of impeccable mechanics into the everyday activities outside of our teaching environments. If you want to be an effective and influencing teacher of any movement style, take advantage of the fact that a majority of your students are visual learners and lead by example.
Start telling your story of mindful movement through your body language from the moment you walk into the classroom, the way your carry your bags, props and even your YTU balls are a representation of how you allow your practice to influence your everyday movement. When lifting or picking up items, widen your base of support (your feet), bend both knees, hinge at your hips, keep your spine neutral, shoulders engaged and keep the object(s) close to your body even if it is just your foam yoga block.
While this sounds like common sense, how often do you actually move this way? Be a constant demonstration of the importance of body mechanics.
Come back later this week for my next article to learn how you can combine your Yoga Tune Up® practice into your yoganomics specifically during hands-on adjustments in order to teach smarter, not harder.
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Great reminder for sure to project exactly what you teach/preach in the yoga studio. I’ve used the example in class that we say and move with breath connection on our mats, but leave the studio, a car cuts us off and we swear at them! Yikes! Totally lost our yoga for sure. It’s a continuing practice to come back, stand tall, breathe well and project again how we show up on our mats.
This concepts in this article are up there in importance with breathing. We need to be mindful of modeling correct body mechanics while teaching. How we as teachers apply the principles away from the mat is indeed witnessed. Are we congruent?
Thanks for the great advice! It can be so easy to miss in ourselves what we see in others. If we want our students to move, think and breathe with attention; we must set the example. Social media has nothing on real life experience. Great reminder to set the example with the small stuff.
Thanks for the reminder about mirroring. Being self aware is important, not only when I’m in front of people, but when I’m alone.
It’s so easy to get stuck in the slump position over my computer/phone or forget to take a deep breath and pause.
Thank you (I just improved my posture as I’m tying this 🙂
I’ve been thinking lately about how the way we behave, the way we treat our own body, or in other words, our habitual pattern, influences not only our lives but also people surrounding us, especially if one is in the position to teach people. I guess the posture might not be the only case, but it’s a primary element that we can work with. This article is such an inspiring one. Thank you!
Considering how little time is spent in the yoga studio compared to time in the real world, yes…translating the messages of yoga is imperative to create more efficient muscle memory.
This is one of the reasons why context grids are so valuable to understand that yoga isn’t confined to just the four corners of the yoga mat.
I like to say that yoga is conditioning for life. And it can be a message that carries us throughout our lifetime.
Thank you for this reminder. Sometimes I will see myself walking by a large store window and notice that my head is forward instead of above my shoulders and hips. I’ll stop, look and take a moment to think tall, adjust my shoulders and then move on, noting how much better I look as well as feel. You are right, our students mirror our movements and it’s up to us to make sure we move correctly.
“Be a constant demonstration of the importance of body mechanics.” -I love this as it encourages us as teachers to practice good form even when no one is watching. Only good can come from that.
Great article, I can really relate to this as I have often noticed at the end of class when everyone is in shavasana that sometimes I slump and lose my posture, then catch myself in the mirror and immediately perk myself up! I am sure your words will be with me the next time I walk into class, as i try to lead by example on an off the mat.
I am often in a rush and find myself slinging my heavy backpack over my shoulder and racing from one place to the other. Your article is the perfect reminder that we not need to walk the talk to set an example but to continue to have better health. Thank you.
So. Much. YES! Our movement could even be seen as a living, breathing, business card – how we move strengthens and backs up how and what we teach! If we want our students to carry what they learn in our classes over into their day to day lives we need to set that example ourselves – I could not agree more!
Posture tells others how we’re feeling. It also tells them how we usually feel (our habitual posture shapes our range of motion and resting alignment). And posture can change how we feel about ourselves. Check out Amy Cuddy’s life changing TED talk on our how posture shapes our lives:
Yes! After reading the Roll Model® Book and the section extra reminding me of the downfalls of the way we hold our bodies throughout the day. I started to consciously retrain my neuromuscular habits. I am feeling the “growing pains” of realigning my body and using new muscles. I now see people’s pain so much related through their stance and gait.
Thank you, Baylea! I do not want to become one of the 3 MILLION! I don’t like being a sheep, so that means more meaningful movement throughout my day. I start in the shower mapping a neutral spine and not rib thrusting while washing my hair. I am very mindful about my work posture since I sit at a computer all day…I always have a set of balls at my desk. I know that being aware of this day-to-day posture will soon be a healthy habit and I can tell my yoga students that I practice what I preach.
Being mindful of our movements is great advice not only for setting a good example as teachers, but to reduce the risk of injury.
Great reminder! It’s good to embody what we teach and be a good Roll Model (pun obviously intended). Also – the MSK information is astonishing! So many injuries are because of underuse and misuse of our bodies and their tissues. I always try and encourage my students to “take their yoga off their mat.” When they’re washing their hands at the sink, bending over to tie our shoes, reaching down for something, getting in and out of the car – all of these movements we do all day every day. Without mindfulness in these positions and movements, we risk loading our spine over and over again and risk of injury. Pair that with sitting all day, and we can become a walking time bomb waiting for an “injury”. Great post. Thank you!
I loved this one good things to keep in mind as I progress in my yoga career.
It’s very important topic. I’ve just wrote in my notebook “Be constant demonstration of the importance of body mechanics”. Great point. Thanks
This is a great reminder to apply what we teach to our daily actions. It also deepens my belief that to teach concepts (may it be postures or ideas) clearly and in a way that will truly help our students, we need to first practice and completely integrate those concepts into our practice and our habits to efficiently transfer the knowledge to others.
Thanks for this great reminder. Its definitely easy to forget our own bodies when we are taking care of other people. I liked it when you said “Be a constant demonstration of the importance of body mechanics.” Teach by example.
Everything speaks of life. And maybe the biggest take-away from this article is that before we go racing off to teach others, we’d be well-advised to take the time to teach ourselves. How much weight does it carry when we tell a student not to internally rotate their shoulders while we ourselves are internally rotated? The teaching starts with ourselves first.
What a great reminder that every move we make in front of a classroom, as teachers, is a demonstration. I am just now starting to be more conciousness of how I move my body outside of teaching as well. It makes such a difference in how my body feels at the end of the week…much more happy and less worn out!
As a massage therapist I am very self aware of my body mechanics while working on clients so as to protect my joints and muscles and hopefully maintain a healthy body for the long haul. My challenge is remembering to do this outside of the treatment room in my every day life! Thank you for the great article and reminder to walk the walk in all aspects of my life.
Great article! It’s so easy to forget about our own bodies when we are taking care of others. I have been working on self awareness while teaching for some time and am still amazed how quickly and easily my knees will hyperextend, doing wonders to the rest of my body. Thanks for the reminder!
We are a roll model for our students in everything we do. They are inspired to change because they see the way we as teachers move, practice, and take care of ourselves. So important to keep in mind in and out of the classroom.
This was one of the most applicable lessons we learned during YTU teacher training. It is great that you wrote this blog to share with those who haven’t had the opportunity to take the class and a better reminder for those of us who have. We should never miss a time to influence those around us. Thanks Baylea.
“posture always matters”…YES!!!!! I’m totally stealing that line =)
I had to laugh at myself for slouching in front of the computer to read YTU blogs!
Thank you for the reminder of maintaining good posture when no one is looking or we think no one is looking. I look forward to reading your other blog entries about how teachers can protect their bodies to reduce their risk of injury and being smarter about how we move correctly biomechanically when we teach so that we can teach for the rest of our lives.