How To Assess Yoga Students | A Complete Guide

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How To Assess Yoga Students | A Complete Guide

Students attend yoga classes to achieve a specific result, such as to lose weight, attain mental clarity, or alleviate pain in a particular part of their body. For teachers to help their yoga students meet those objectives, they must assess yoga students individually. 

So, what are the best ways to assess yoga students? The top 4 ways to assess yoga students include the following: paper assessment, verbal assessment, exercise assessment, and academic assessment. 

In this article, I will discuss the assessment methods in great depth. If you are a yoga teacher looking for help with how to assess yoga students, then this article will give you all the guiding principles you need. 

How To Assess Yoga Students #1: Paper Assessment

Paper assessment

The best way to assess students before meeting them personally and having verbal discussions is to ask for a written assessment. 

Many yoga studios hand out a piece of paper instructing students to write down necessary information about themselves once they sign up for classes. Such a questionnaire can also be part of the waiver which students sign before they begin any yoga or fitness class. 

Start by drafting up your own “Assessment Test,” which you hand out to every new student when they attend your class. The test should have multiple parts, covering the essential information about each student:

Personal Information

The personal information section is the introductory part of the assessment test. It has to have the necessary information about the person, giving you an idea of who they are. 

Personal information includes things you would learn about a person if you had a 10-minute conversation over coffee. This information will give you a general idea of who the student is. Such information helps in personalizing your teaching to the specific student. You can use a yoga studio management software to track this information.

Information to request: 

  • Name
  • Age/date of birth
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Number of children

Their Daily Life

Information about the student’s daily life will reveal a lot about their stress levels as well as whether they require special care in a specific area. 

You want to find out if they’re suffering from a condition or taking medication. You also want to inquire as to personal information such as the student’s sleep patterns and nutrition.

Information to request: 

  • Medical conditions/medicine they’re taking
  • Sleep patterns
  • How many meals a day they consume
  • What nutrition they consume
  • How many hours they work
  • How stressed out they are
  • Which methods they use to alleviate stress.

Yoga Experience

The final part of the written assessment is to learn about their past yoga experience and learning goals. 

Ask students to identify their expertise level in yoga to learn whether you need to explain the basics, or if you can skip to more advanced exercises.

Here you want to find out about their learning goals and what they’re trying to get out of yoga.

Information to request:

  • What motivated them to sign up for yoga classes
  • Past yoga experience
  • How they feel yoga could help them 
  • Their personal beliefs about yoga

How To Assess Yoga Students #2: Verbal Assessment

Verbal assessment

Verbal assessment is an efficient way to assess students because you engage them individually and feel out how they respond to specific questions. 

If they have hardships due to a medical condition or anything related to yoga practice, they will express that more completely verbally than they would on a written assessment.

The downside is that yoga teachers don’t have the time to assess every student individually, and this is why written assessment is more common. 

However, if you want to assess a student verbally, there are many questions you could ask in a short time that would reveal everything you need to know.

The average time for a verbal assessment should take 10-20 minutes. Ask the student to join you after class for a short evaluation and ask similar questions to what you would on the paper assessment.

Medical History

The first step is to determine if the student is healthy or suffers from a medical condition. Many students bring prior injuries to class and take medicine, which means you have to be extra careful in assigning specific exercises.

Past medical history is also the reason that you need to have every student sign a waiver. StudioGrowth provides simple waiver templates that your students can sign digitally, and you can store securely.

Ask them the following questions:

  • Are you suffering from a medical condition?
  • Have you had surgeries in the past?
  • Are you capable of performing exercises?
  • Which yoga exercises feel the most comfortable for you?
  • Which movements make you feel good or bad?

Lifestyle

The next step is to inquire about the student’s lifestyle. In-person, you can ask questions that you wouldn’t ask on a paper assignment because people can be more expressive when they have a face-to-face dialogue.

Ask them the following questions:

  • What is your occupation?
  • How many hours do you spend working in a day?
  • Do you work any extra jobs which add to the stress?
  • How many meals do you eat a day and what kind of food?
  • Are your sleep patterns healthy?

Yoga Knowledge

When you’re past the personal questions, you can switch to yoga and ask them detailed questions about yoga, such as what they like about the practice. These questions can reveal things that you could improve in your classes by focusing on the things your students enjoy during class.

Ask them the following questions:

  • Have you practiced yoga in the past?
  • What is your favorite part about yoga?
  • What attracts you to yoga?
  • Do you feel that you could improve in any area of yoga, such as mobility and stretching?

The verbal assessment might take 20 minutes, even if you only ask basic questions because the answers can get extensive and lead to new conversations. The oral evaluation will allow you to find out how your students feel about yoga and whether you need to switch up your teaching style to help them improve.

How To Assess Yoga Students #3: Exercise Assessment

exercise assessment

Exercise-based assessment is the most sophisticated form of assessment because the teacher witnesses the physical limitations of the student first-hand. It can be quite challenging for the student to pull off some of the basic exercises the teacher requests, which immediately lets the yoga teacher know the level of the student.

Exercise assessment is arguably the best form of assessment because learning about your student’s capabilities tells you more than written or verbal assessments. 

Many basic exercises can show you the prowess a certain student possesses, and you can replicate those exercises for every student you want to assess individually. Start with the following exercises:

Plank Exercises

Planks are core strength exercises where the student has to elevate their body using their hands, similar to a push-up movement. Using planks, you can determine how strong your student’s upper body is. 

Start by testing them on the “Gate pose” and the “Child’s pose” while stretching.

Lunge Exercises

Lunge exercises require the student to stand up with one leg stretched forward and one kept in a back position. This exercise targets the lower body primarily and allows you to learn about their lower-body capabilities by making twist movements.

Supine Exercises

Supine exercises start by lying on the yoga mat. There are many movements a student can make in the supine position, which lets you know their flexibility. 

Ask students to perform the following Supine exercises:

  • Twists
  • Bridges
  • Arm movements (reaching ahead, upward and backward)

Snow Angel Exercises

Snow angels are in a similar position to supine, and the student has to keep their arms down on the floor in the move. At the same time, you observe their limitations and flexibility capabilities.

Lizard Exercises

The lizard position is one of the toughest positions for yoga beginners, and this makes it ideal for assessing students when they’re starting. 

The idea is to maximize flexibility by stretching one leg forward up to the arm level. In contrast, the other leg remains stationary and grounded.

Pro Tip: All assessment exercises combined should take you 10-15 minutes to process per student. Once you’ve completed the exercises, you learn a lot about the student’s capabilities.

Each student might struggle with a certain pose, and this is an indicator that they need to slow down to work on that pose progressively. This way, you can point them in the right direction and teach them how to achieve those individual poses successfully.

How To Assess Yoga Students #4: Academic Assessment

Academic assessment

If you want to keep a rigorous learning regime at your yoga studio and stand out, you can academically assess your students. 

The academic method is not a very popular teaching method, as many people casually learn yoga at yoga studios.

However, there are ways to encourage students to go above and beyond by testing them academically and assigning projects. 

Treating your yoga studio like a college course might be a smart marketing strategy if you sign up beginner groups of students. You can teach them the theoretical aspects of yoga in addition to the practical exercises.

Start by writing down your expectations from students. Develop your assessment style using a point system that rates students based on their performance on the tests, including additional points for extracurricular tasks. Give your students reading work and tell them to write essays to complete the course.

You can develop your curriculum by teaching students about the basics of yoga and having them learn the theoretical aspects while they practice asanas. Once a student has completed the course, you can give them a certificate that testifies they’ve passed your studio’s academic requirements.

Developing a Points-Based Assessment

Start by developing a way to assess the students academically. Example: If a student requires 100 points to receive their course certificate, you can assign 20 points for a test and 40 points for an essay.

This way, you can split the requirements among a series of tasks that motivate your students to perform better and complete their course in a timely fashion. You can also develop your assignments based on what you consider the students would be motivated by the most

Yoga Diaries

Start by requiring students to maintain their yoga diary. It’s also recommended for teachers to maintain a yoga diary, documenting their experiences teaching students on the daily. 

The diary has to keep track of their personal learning experience, hurdles, and successes. It will encourage your students to perform better by writing down any problems they’ve experienced along the way, whether it’s breath, meditation, or exercises.

Yoga Tests

Devise tests in a mid-term fashion that ask students basic questions about yoga, such as how to achieve certain positions. 

Once you’ve held 2-4 weeks’ worth of classes, you should tell your students they’re going to get their first test and schedule a time to conduct this test. Give them 1 hour to complete the test and asses their ability. If the students pass the tests, mark this in your points-based system.

Yoga Essays

Require students to deliver an essay about yoga philosophy that helps you evaluate their understanding of the art and philosophy of yoga. 

You can also ask them to write about their understanding of yoga, including any personal opinions or stories that motivate them to engage with the practice.

Exercise Tests

Assign individual exercise tests where you rate the student’s yoga ability based on how well they perform different asana modifications and other exercises. 

Give them immediate feedback and analyze how proficient they are according to their performance on the yoga mat. Schedule each exercise test, weeks earlier, to give the students time to prepare.

At the end of the course, once students have successfully accumulated the number of points they need to pass your course, reward them with a certificate or a trophy prize. 

You can also give away cash prizes or free annual lessons for top students with the most points. This process will motivate your students to become more competitive and perform better during their tests.

How To Assess Yoga Students With Injuries

Injury

The hardest aspect of being a yoga teacher is dealing with students who have prior injuries and medical conditions. 

Many students attend yoga classes following a recommendation by their doctor to use yoga for stretching purposes, and they treat it as a therapeutic exercise. 

To accommodate those students, you have to follow a 3-step process that involves learning about their injury, refreshing your knowledge about anatomy, and getting to the root of the pain by targeting the areas that are causing pain.

Note: Although a yoga teacher is not a physiotherapist, they still hold a responsibility towards the students to help them with movement exercise, as this is one of the core tenants of yoga.

1) Learn About Their Injury

The first step of the assessment process is to analyze the injured person’s medical history. 

Many times your students will come forward and admit they have an injury before you even start class, and this will allow you to discuss their injury in detail. Before you can give any recommendations or exercises, you have to know the full extent of this essential information.

Consult your students about their medical condition and do further research when you’re off the mat. Learn about the type of injury, what caused it, what their doctors prescribed, and whether they experience pain. 

This part is the stage where you ask questions:

  • What caused your injury?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • Did your doctor recommend yoga, and why?
  • Do you feel any pain, and if so, in which area?
  • How much does it hurt on a scale of 1-10?

Those questions will help you make an informed decision about your student. In essence, you’re not only their teacher, but you’re their care-taker during the time they spend in your studio. If you get acquainted with each student individually, you can develop a personal relationship with them and gain their trust.

Pro Tip: Sometimes, you have to discourage students from practicing yoga. If you feel that their injury is too severe, you might have to tell them to avoid yoga and seek further medical help. Learn when it’s time to say to students that yoga is not for them.

2) Re-Take Anatomy Classes

Anatomy classes are an integral part of each certification course. Before a teacher receives a certificate (usually yoga teachers take 200-300-hour courses), they learn a lot about the inner workings of the body as well as the way that relates to yoga. 

You will need to refresh your knowledge of anatomy, not only for students who come with prior medical conditions but also for students who injure themselves during your classes.

Yoga injuries are commonplace, and having a detailed knowledge of anatomy can help you reduce the number of injuries in your studio and help students with existing injuries. 

How can this help your students? Well, you will know how to analyze whether your student’s joints and muscles are working properly or if they are damaged. This knowledge will help you determine if the student needs to take it easy or if you can continue a regular practice.

Yoga classes require a lot of flexibility and muscle-movement, which means injury can happen during the class. Understanding the injury process will allow you to calm your students down in the event it happens. 

You will also know a lot about the rehabilitation process and how many weeks/months the student will need before they make a full recovery. 

Basic Anatomy Knowledge For Yoga Teachers

The following are the most important things a yoga teacher needs to know about anatomy:

  • How muscles connect with joints to enable movement
  • How the shape of the student’s joints dictates the yoga positions and movements that they’re capable of making
  • Which joints and muscles can be affected by yoga practice

Pro Tip: Even if your students act normal, this doesn’t mean they’re not feeling pain. Many students conceal the pain they’re feeling during exercise to avoid attracting attention. You might have a student who has a prior medical condition struggling in your class without being aware of it.

Teachers also aggressively push their students to exceed their limits, and this increases their chance of injury. Although good pain exists to push us further, it’s hard to differentiate from bad pain that spirals down to injury.

To address exactly how your students are feeling, you need to constantly communicate with students through each step of the way by asking questions. 

You’ll find there’s a mix of reactions: Most students will be able to bear the practice without any pain or discomfort. Some express a slight discomfort, while others might feel severe pain. You have to keep your eyes on each student and notice how they react to the exercises you’re teaching them.

Injuries or prior medical conditions do not always cause pain. Other mechanisms can cause pain, namely things that induce stress chemicals in the body such as nutritional deficiency, stress from work, and other factors such as family. 

Trust other medical practitioners. If your student has a severe case of injury, consult their doctor or other medical experts to find the best possible solution for their health condition. Doing so will allow you to get to the root cause of their pain and help the student.

3) Get To The Root Cause Of The Pain

The final step of dealing with injured students is to get to the root cause of the pain and eradicate it. 

Many students are unaware of what caused their pain in the first place, as pain is due to numerous things unrelated to medical conditions. 

If the student knows what caused their pain, however, it is much easier to get to the bottom of the injury by targeting the surrounding area of the muscles and joints causing it. If the student suffers from chronic pain, they are aware of the origin of the pain, and they can pinpoint the exact location on their body.

The body functions as a whole and each part of the body, such as the muscles, joints, tissues, skin, and ligaments, operate as a single entity. As a yoga teacher, you must become an expert in assessing the root cause of an injury.

You have to know how to observe the student’s body to determine what causes the injury. 

The main cause of pain for most students is usually a misalignment of joints and support muscles. To align them together, you have to make every bit surrounding the joint – such as the muscles, ligaments, and soft tissue – work together. This way, no part of the muscle becomes too dominant, while others become unable to carry the load and further destroy the structure.

As you work with more students, you will notice patterns that lead to breakdowns in certain parts of the system. Then you can apply assessment exercises based in asana that teach your students to observe their movements and avoid adding unnecessary strain on their injuries.

3 Steps To Become A Better Yoga Teacher

Teaching yoga to hundreds of students is difficult, and the best way to become an excellent teacher is to embrace the growth opportunities that come with the challenge. If you want to be in a position where you assess yoga students and their practice, you will need to adopt the mindset of a teacher.

You’ll be directly transforming the lives of hundreds of people and be tasked with bestowing the teachings of the ancient art of yoga onto hundreds of students.

Yoga is not a practice; it’s a lifestyle. Your passion for yoga is how you’ll strike a connection with your students. 

To become the best yoga teacher possible, try to implement the following three steps in your daily routine:

1) Explore Different Studios In Your Area

Yoga is everywhere. If you live in a major city, there are probably a dozen studios in a 5-mile radius from your studio. Therefore, you should try to visit other yoga studios in your area. Learn from other yoga teachers. This process is similar to getting mentored by many teachers at once.

Attending other yoga classes will give you a glimpse as to how other teachers practice yoga, and it will refresh your mindset and fill you with ideas. Most yoga studios offer walk-in classes, and you can simply pop-in and check out a class for an hour. Attend at least one new yoga studio every week and use it as a learning opportunity.

Shifting studios is important because it keeps your perspective fresh – don’t get stuck in one studio only because you resonate with the teacher at that particular place. Take a look at various studios and learn from them, even if you dislike the teachers.

Yoga is expensive, and attending many different studios can get pricey. Still, you only have to do this once a week or once a month. 

Alternative: There are many ‘nonprofit’ yoga studios that you can attend for free or for a small donation. Check out the yoga community center in your area for lessons. Don’t focus on the price but focus on the experience each teacher gives you. If you are interested in the concept of nonprofit and donation-based yoga studios, check out my detailed article on the topic.

Write down the memorable classes and what you learned during those classes. You will find new ways to teach your students and preserve them over the long term. You’ll experience different styles of teaching, and this will make you a better teacher yourself.

2) Keep A Yoga Journal

Many teachers require students to keep a yoga journal to track their progress, but do teachers keep journals themselves? The answer is yes!

As a yoga teacher, you’ll be practicing yoga for years, and this is an opportunity to track your progress and your opinions about the practice in general.

Why not look back at what you wrote down five years ago and see how you felt about yoga? This process might give you a new lease on life and help you remember what you loved about it in the first place if the practice gets too monotonous. 

You’ll carry different energy in different parts of your life, and it’s important to memorize it. Writing down your experiences in a journal will help you digest and remember your experiences over your lifetime.

When making an entry in your journal, write down the most critical information about your classes:

  • What you did during the classes, and how did your students react?
  • How long was the class, and what was your teaching style?
  • How did you feel before and after the class?
  • What resonated with your students the most, and what did they like about your style?

Writing down essential information will help keep you sane because you’ll realize you’ve been doing this for years, and it’s something you love. Use it as a learning opportunity and look back on your memoirs as you age. This practice only takes 5-10 minutes a day, and the memories remain for eternity.

3) Get Your Life In Order

The most important part of injecting healthy energy into other humans is to possess that energy within yourself. Always work on your mental health to keep your emotions balanced and your physical and emotional sides in order. 

If you’re not perfectly in tune with your energy and have your life in order, your students will pick up on this, and it will make connecting with them hard. 

Therefore, you should always work on your mental health by eating good food, meditating, forming healthy relationships, and soaking in new experiences.

The happier you are, the more your students will feel this and feed off your energy. This happiness drives them to your classes because they feel refreshed and positive after learning from you. 

Have you ever met a teacher who was oozing with positive energy and willing to help out everyone? This energy is what you need to model in your yoga teaching journey. 

Conclusion

If you want to assess your yoga students, there are a few easy ways to go about it:

  • Ask questions in a written questionnaire. 
  • Ask questions verbally. 
  • Look at the student’s form during class. 
  • Hold academic assessments throughout the year. 

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