Working with Students with a Medical Condition: Five Guiding Principles for Yoga Teachers

Kripalu School of Yoga

As research around yoga’s myriad mind/body benefits hits the mainstream, yoga classes are attracting increasingly diverse populations—including those with specific health issues. That’s why it’s crucial for yoga teachers to meet their students where they are, without overstepping.

Kripalu Schools faculty Sudha Carolyn Lundeen offers five guidelines for working with students with a medical condition.

  1. Be proactive. Before class starts, ask your students if they have any concerns or health conditions that you need to be aware of. After the class, you might ask them if the class fit their needs. Follow up to see how they might continue to feel supported in the next class.
  2. Be willing to say “I don’t know,” or that you are not trained to diagnose and treat health conditions.
  3. Show appreciation for sharing vulnerable information. Thank any students who let you know about their condition. This is privileged information that your student entrusts you with.
  4. Ask students if their doctor knows about their condition and is also aware that they are practicing yoga. If a student reports that their doctor does not know that they are practicing yoga, encourage them to talk to their doctor in order to optimize their safety and ease.
  5. Encourage your students to use modifications, be gentle, and take care of themselves in class. Remind them that pushing too much could actually aggravate their condition. Let them know that you are there to support them as much as you can.

Addressing the needs of special populations honors and supports them on their journey, particularly within a group-class context. 

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