We all have beliefs about our bodies. (And beliefs, by the way, are just an opinion, a thought, that we have held for a very long time. Read more about them here.) We may see ourselves as flexible, tight, injured, weak, strong, unable to go upside down, unable to balance, etc. My guess is if you sit for a moment you will come up with half a dozen beliefs you have about your own body. What is most interesting about our beliefs is others usually see through them before we do. And, as teachers, we often see that our students are capable of so much more than they think they are.
As teachers we need to honor other people’s realities, how they see themselves, and at the same time, hold the door open for something more. Beliefs create the reality in the body, not the other way around. If you think you are tight, you will be tight. If you think you can’t do a handstand, guess what? You’re right!
We can best help our students by first helping the student feel safe by honoring what they think about their body. I think we have all experienced at one time or another a teacher who led us to feel less than or even stupid by not understanding what he/she was trying to teach us because we weren’t ready or were still too mired in our belief and therefore too afraid to try. We need to be there with the student in the place the student is, not where we want the student to be.
Then, at the same time, you can hold the door for the student for something more. You can gently guide them to use different language to describe their body, to see that anything can change, that they are capable of anything. Gently remind them they are strong enough, flexible enough, whatever. Then they will fly!