Putting together your first class...
Putting together your first yoga class, learn tips and advice if you are a new yoga instructors just stepping on to the mat
Starting out on your teaching path can be very daunting!
However, just being at this stage in your journey is a great stand alone achievement, so give yourself a well earned moment of gratitude.
I’ve been there… It’s very like just passing your driving test, and being let out on the road alone for the first time. Excited, but just that little bit panicked that you’ll crash your parents car!
This post is based on my own teaching experiences, and is for inspiration only to help you with structuring your first lesson.
Unless you are teaching friends, it is very unlikely that you will know much about your students let alone the class’s full ability before you begin. Your students consultation forms will give you some insight, but for you to really understand a group/person’s ability, a practical assessment is essential.
A consultation form may state that a new student has been doing yoga for many years, but when in their company, you may see that most of their asanas are badly (and maybe unsafely) executed.
You may also find that, although you wish to teach very able bodied people, the people that are actually willing to join and pay for a class, may be more senior or complete beginners.
If you have new students join you after a few months, firstly make sure that they understand that they are welcome, but that it is an established class.
If they are an absolute beginner, but are very physically able, this may not be an issue. However, if they are not able, you won’t be able to start your class from square one every week, and you don’t want to introduce a new student into a class that is very difficult for them.
It is a tough call, but maybe take their details and suggest that when you have enough interest for a new class, you will contact them, or offer them one-to-one classes to help them catch up to the class’s current ability level.
Just remember: You can not please everyone, yoga is deeply personal to each individual. If someone does not return after a class, try not to take it personally.
People will often drop in and out of the practice. You may find people disappear for long periods of time and then appear again. This is when you must consider whether the class may have progressed past their abilities. You must trust what your intuition tells you when in this situation.
However, ask your class every so often for feedback, this is their opportunity to ask for certain lesson content. Listen carefully; not everything has to be taken on board, but your students are your business.
Always remind yourself that you can already do yoga, so if you devise a plan, it needs to be of benefit to your class. You will improve your own skills when you teach, but you are not there to show off, or make them feel uneasy because they can’t do what you do.
Save what suits your own yoga practice to your own personal practice time, but always bring that passion and fun to the class room.
Putting together your first yoga class… So, start with an ‘assessment class’
Treat the class as though they were patients and you are their doctor.
- Assess their full movement range and strength
- Give them a few challenges to see where needs work
- Devise a prescription
Do this also if you are taking over an established class from another teacher. You will be surprised how many bad habits have been formed. Also it is a great way to see how well students respond to the more spiritual aspects of yoga. You may want to briefly mention chakras, and that you will cover them more in future classes.
1. Assess their full movement range and strength. Warm up then bring in more defined asanas
An initial warm up will gently connect you to the class, students will relax more, they will take their mind and thoughts inwards, and although they will be watching you, their main focus will be on themselves. This takes the pressure off you.
The warm up:
Start at the head and make your way down. This approach is perfect for any mood or energy in a class, because it can be done standing, sitting, calmly, with energy…
Ask them to move their head and necks, the range of motion with their necks will also indicate to you problems with their posture and how strongly the muscles are working in the spine and shoulders
Introduce shoulder stretches and arm movement to assess range of motion, Gentle spinal flex extensions, twist and lateral movements. Ask them to lift their knees and bend their knees. A knee lift (as though slowly marching on the spot) will help you to identify if there is any issue with hip mobility and strength.
Treat the whole body the same all the way down to the toes.
Now introduce some asanas that they can hold for longer to assess, balance, and strength.
Try to use static balance positions and balance with movement. A short flow through the warriors will not only reveal a lot about their hip and leg strength, but also how strong the shoulders and arms are as they keep them lifted. Ask them to squat down to see how well knees respond.
2. Give them a challenge
You are inevitably going to have a range of abilities in the class, and they’ll be some students that are itching to do a few moves that are a bit more challenging.
You will now be aware of how far you could take them, their initial movements will give you a lot of information. So test them, but do it gradually, and be mindful of all the students.
Even for the most experienced students, a back to basics class is a valuable thing.
3. Devise a prescription
It will be at this point where you start to realise which moves you want to give more exclusive attention to next time you meet. So you already know you have a loose theme for your next class that you can build on.
This is a great opportunity to devise a ‘Physical Technical’ class.
Use these classes to focus on a set asana or handful of asanas. You can even incorporate a technical slot into a class that focuses on a particular chakra or body part.
If you are working on shoulder strength, you may wish to give an exclusive amount of time to chaturanga (full pose, transitioning in and out etc).
Always try and remember to include more attention to the desired area during your warm up section.
I have included the video to show you a simple seated warm up. I have a particular style of teaching which I am very confident in. This video is just for inspiration.
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Best of luck… You’ve got this!
Love & light
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