Being attuned to your students is a big part of teaching yoga; ensuring your students have proper form and breathing is the foundation of teaching yoga, and being able to assess your students level of comfort and body language can take your teaching a step further. Whether you are hoping to better understand when you are challenging students and when you are pushing them too hard, or are simply looking for some tips, here are four tips on reading body language.

4 Tips on Reading Body Language

Here are a few pro tips on reading body language:

1. Analyze Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can be a great place to start reading body language: a person does not need to be speaking for their face to communicate what they are thinking. A few key indicators of how a person is feeling according to their facial expression include:

  • Eye indicators: A person’s eyes showcase a huge amount of emotion; you can often gauge a person’s interest simply by analyzing their gaze. For example, if someone is making eye contact, they are probably interested and engaged in the topic. If a person is stressed, confused, or anxious, they may scrunch their eyebrows or blink more than normal. Taking a moment to analyze your students’ gaze may indicate if they are engaged in the practice, are confused about the sequence, or anxious about the class.
  • Mouth indicators: A person’s mouth can also indicate thoughts and feelings. For example, people who bite their lips or cover their mouths may be indicating discomfort, worry, or are try to hide their emotions. Pursed lips can indicate disapproval and other negative emotions. Looking for these indicators while teaching yoga can help the teacher gage if a student is anxious with class or does not favor the workout.

2. Pay Attention to Posture

Yoga is all about changing your posture; this makes assessing posture during yoga practice more challenging than reading posture while someone is stationary. However, you can still glean a sense of how your students are feeling according to their overall posture – even when they are moving throughout a yoga sequence.

Try looking for “open” versus “closed” posture in your students. These types of posture can be strong indicators of how a person is feeling. Someone displaying open posture will typically sit up straight with their shoulders back and chest open, whereas closed posture includes slouching, crossed arms, and a body that is angled away from other people. Open posture typically communicates openness and preparedness to listen, whereas closed posture often indicates disinterest or discomfort.

3. Look For Signs of Body Fatigue

If you are hoping to read body language to determine if your students are being pushed too hard, looking for signs of body fatigue during your classes can be highly beneficial. Challenging your students can make them stronger, but it is important not to push too hard to avoid injury and discouragement. Some indicators of body fatigue include:

  • Breathing and heart rate: Breathing and heart rate are key indicators of how tired a person is. If you can visibly tell a person is breathing very hard and not catching their breath, this person may be doing a workout that is too strenuous.
  • Look for involuntary movements: Body movements such as shaking or twitching can be signs of fatigue. If your students are shaky on their feet or in poses, it may mean their muscles are too tired and they need a break.
  • Look for differences in movement from beginning to end of class: Assessing your students’ body language at the end of class as compared to the beginning is another body language tip. If your students were looking strong and flexible at the beginning of class but are out of breath and noticeably weaker in their movements later in the class, they need a break.

4. Check Your Own Body Language

Reading your students body language is important, but equally important is to be aware of your own body language. Studies show that a teacher or coach’s body language can have a big impact on their students; being aware of how you present yourself to the class can be highly beneficial. Try implementing some of the following positive body language strategies to help your class feel positive and energized:

  • Keep your posture open throughout the class
  • Make eye contact with your students
  • Stand tall
  • Travel throughout the whole room during class
  • Smile!
Megan Herndon

Megan is a Seattle-based writer who covers health and wellness. She has worked in content marketing and journalism for a number of organizations including The Seattle Globalist, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and The Jakarta Globe. She has a BA in journalism from the University of Washington and is currently working on her second UW degree, a Master of Communication and Digital Media. Born and raised in Hawaii and currently embracing the Pacific Northwest lifestyle, Megan loves all things active and outdoors including hiking, camping, outrigger canoe paddling, and yoga.

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