Elysa Answers “What is Safety?”

February 21st, 2008

Elysa DeMartini, RYT
Safety: noun
The condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, pain or loss

Yesterday, after taking a class at a studio I had never been to, I talked to the teacher and told her how much I enjoyed her class. As we talked, I mentioned I was a teacher and that’s when it happened. You may be asking “what’ it is?” It is one of the things that bonds teachers. It is probably the most important thing to all teachers, the first rule in my book….that rule, the reason I teach, like a doctor who has take the Hippocratic oath: FIRST DO NO HARM!

She could not believe there was a woman in class chewing gum! Yes, folks, chewing gum! Now isn’t one of the reasons we practice yoga is to focus on our breath and ourselves?! How may I ask, can you focus on a pose and allow yourself to drop into it, when your jaw is molesting a piece of Bubble Yum!??! Not to mention your breath!? How can you breathe and chew gum? I know this may sound easy to some of you, but in a yoga class, doing deep breath work, it’s not. Trust me! Think kappalabati…..need I say more?

That’s when the war stories came out……

The one about the pregnant woman who was 7 months pregnant doing belly down work, the woman who was paralyzed 3 years ago on her right side, the guy with rotator cuff surgery last week, the woman with the steel rod in her spine, the knee/back surgery last month, the every day pains and aches. Dare I go on?

We ask, because we care! We ask, because we don’t want to harm you and we don’t want you to harm you. Yoga is a non-harmful discipline. One that can spread into life off the mat. For as we live on the mat, we live off. Why would want to do anything to yourself or others that causes injury, harm, pain or loss??? Life should be lived joyously and without harm. It should feel good and when it’s not, you can make a decision to keep harming or change the situation. It’s really that simple. Look at your own lives. When things were not in a good place, you made changes. I did. Sometimes, I stayed with the pain until it got to F@#*ing painful, other times, I didn’t stay as long. Sometimes, I stayed because I liked the pain, it was a known, anything else was painful and scary. Same with the physical practice of yoga. A stretch should feel good, not awful. You know the kind where your face squinches up and you turn red……or your shoulders reach your ears as you are reaching for your toes for dear life. We see that and guess what, you are hurting yourself. Where’s the safety in that?

I am serious folks. The next time you are in a class and the teacher ask “Is there anything going on in your bodies I should know about? Injuries, situations, or anything I should be aware of?” PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE speak up. You don’t have to tell us out loud if you don’t want, call us over discreetly. You can also arrive early and talk to us before class. We aren’t asking because we are being nosey, we are asking because we care. If it was serious to you, than it should be something for us to be aware of especially if we offer adjustments.

Those of us who teach, really enjoy teaching and want you to feel safe, share your experience with us. If for any reason you don’t feel safe or if you had a questions, please let us know. We are here for you.

Elysa DeMartini is a Kripalu Yoga teacher in Stamford, CT. Read more about her here.

One Response to “Elysa Answers “What is Safety?””

  1. Jen says:

    Well said! I too can relate to the concern for student safety. I might add that for those students who care more about not ‘bothering’ us then they do for themselves, we are responsible and liable for what happens on the mat. Students can help keep teachers safe by keeping us informed.

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