If you are a yoga, dance, 5 Rhythms, Feldenkrais, meditation, and/or any kind of Teacher that guides groups of people into their body and mind via movement and mindfulness, this is for you!
I’ve been a teacher of movement and mind-body awareness since 1997 so I definitely know a few things about this topic and I’d love to share with you what I’ve found to be the ten most important practices to implement to make sure your students feel safe so they can get the most out of your teaching.
I first started teaching in the fitness and exercise rehab industry, but I was quickly steered into the work of Feldenkraisian learning (the work of the late mind-body pioneer Moshe Feldenkrais) and its unique methods for rewiring movement patterns and self-awareness. The catalyst? I had injured myself numerous times and had to undergo many knee surgeries as a result of my skiing addiction in my late teens and early 20’s.
Soon after I started my Feldenkrais practice, I realized that many of my students (maybe 50%), were struggling to sense, and feel, their bodies. Their awareness was either dulled or the opposite was true and they felt too much. What they learned wouldn’t stick. They’d forget key foundations even though they “appeared” to understand and embody them each class. It’s like they had mind-body ADD and while we made headway in the classes, during the following days they’d bounce back into their old patterns like elastic bands.
This conundrum led me to the work of Peter Levine, author of the groundbreaking book Waking The Tiger and founder of Somatic Experiencing, a form of somatic psychotherapy that helps to heal trauma at the level of the body and nervous system. I was instantly hooked.
I started to realize how many of us who had “good childhoods” were still a victim to some form of social and cultural brainwashing. Common sayings, like “children should be seen and not heard”, leave scars for life and have been connected to an increased risk of autoimmune disease later in life.
Then there are the numerous ways we punish and inflict toxic shame on kids for not doing a “good job” or being “too fat” or “not pretty enough” or “being clumsy” or “not very smart” — just to name a few. This kind of toxic stress, and early trauma, runs rampant in more affluent and middle class societies, and leaves a child with a nervous system that lacks internal safety and security – the perfect breeding ground for anxiety, depression, low self-worth and addiction.
This kind of toxicity, not to mention outright abuse, also breeds a lot emotional numbing and in more severe cases mild to severe PTSD. It became apparent to me that I had to address this reality face on in my group classes so I started to blend my learnings in fitness, Feldenkraisian learning and healing trauma into one big beautiful practice. The results were remarkable.
Over time, my students started to have experiences in class that they’ve never encountered in a group setting: their awareness deepened, they started to feel safety (for some it was the first time ever), they started to open up and express their true life force. They were healing. They weren’t just coming to class to shake off the weeks stresses and get their blood and joints moving.
They were evolving out of their held beliefs about themselves. Their traumatic imprints were lifting.
Here are my ten most sacred practices for ensuring your students get the most out of your teachings so they can find their own internal compass and become their own guru and their own medicine.