Yoga: What is it not? Part 1. Diagnose and Prescribe by Ross Dixon

Based on someone's description of what they are experiencing, a library of Yoga postures in our mind can't be used like a pharmacy, from which we can take a posture that we think will help, and then prescribe it. This is not Yoga.

I've noticed that this is a thing, because when I'm out there teaching, if I do an OK/confident job of it people ask things like 'what can I do about …...?'. It's really good to remember at these times that while as someone's Yoga Teacher; I may have the ability to provide a good opportunity for inquiry, I've got no business assuming that based on somebody's description, I have the specific answer for them regarding the resolution of any personal phenomenon. Even if I had the medical knowledge, how could I investigate that in a 1 hour or 90 minute class if that person is one of twenty; and the 'consultation' is a couple of unpaid minutes at the end of class? Silly things happen out there and that's OK. I don't blame anybody for having an annoying issue that they can't resolve, trying Yoga and then noticing 'ah this feels a bit better' or something. I have to be ready though if they leap from that to 'that means this guy can help me right now with a specific answer to my issue'. While that's a compliment in a way, it's also a crossing of wires; most times the answer is 'That isn't Yoga' or 'I am not a Doctor'.

Even if I did know the specific piece of the Yoga library that this person most needed based on what they were describing; people's descriptions of what they are experiencing and what they are actually experiencing can have little correlation. For perspective, I have had at least one example of it happening in reverse: A student who regularly came to class right up until a few days before she died. She was a really good student and watching her do Yoga, you would have thought she was in perfect health. Nobody outside her personal life knew how much pain she was in. One thing was clear; the Yoga was bringing her lots of value. I could speculate and say that maybe she was appreciating being in her body more than anyone knowing what she knew; but not being her, all I can do is speculate. She would quietly smile and thank me each week on her way out, and then one week, she wasn't there. I only found out a few months later how much pain she had been in. 'Was I not being responsible?' 'How could that happen without me knowing?' were my thoughts. Well however careful I may be with health questionnaires or asking before a class; people don't disclose everything. Also, they may be using the Yoga inquiry for reasons that are so personal that the reason doesn't fit the structure we are part of. For whatever reason that lady chose not to disclose some info. She did great Yoga and found it valuable.

So there I find my real responsibility as a Yoga Teacher. Something like 'How can I provide Yoga that is general enough to have value to a random population sample?' Well, it's back to that living process of being the student who uses practice to sort the personal from the general and the general from the nonsensical. I tried to describe this in more detail in my previous blog 'Finding Value: Yoga Teacher Economics'.

Conclusion; I don't know people well enough to know how accurate their descriptions are and even if I did I am not qualified to diagnose and prescribe. Even in offering an opinion on what people might do about their specific issues- I must take care not to rob them of agency when they are considering their options; 'If YOU feel it's a health concern then I would mention it to YOUR doctor', 'If YOU think YOU want to try some specific rehabilitative movement, seek out a good physiotherapist' for example.

Thanks for reading. My first solo workshop 'Yoga: Engaging the Process' is next February at Whittle-le-Woods village hall details can be found here My class timetable can be found here I also support Debbie with the bigger general project of Feel Now Yoga, you can find that easily on facebook and instagram.

Ross DixonComment