I’m currently teaching a 7 week series, Introduction to Vinyasa Yoga. This is the third time I have taught the class, and I have loved each “semester.” My goal is to get the group to enjoy yoga, experience the benefits, stay safe, and hopefully continue a practice. I want to get the students interested in yoga without intimidating or boring them, and with such a wide range of fitness levels it can be a challenge.
It’s a nice refresher to lead an intro class and a great opportunity for me to enhance teaching skills. Beginning yoga students are eager learners and blank slates. There are no bad asana habits to correct or egos to bruise. It is also a great discipline for me as a yoga instructor. I can’t take for granted that people will understand yoga jargon, nor permit myself to bark out a sequence of poses nor simply say,” take a vinyasa.” Rather, I have to deconstruct the poses and offer more variations and detailed instruction.
There is a delicate balance between communicating the right amount of information to send a clear understanding of a pose and overwhelming students with too many directions. Of course this includes being sensitive to using yoga terminology and body awareness. In yoga, the subtle adjustments to the body in a pose can be difficult for a new student. Yoga involves physical perception that a seasoned practitioner can discern, but for a newbie this requirement can seem foreign and maybe even hokey. Phrases such as “lift the pelvic floor,” “send the breath to the sacrum,” or “spiral inner thighs back” can sound very odd and confusing.
A few helpful things I have discovered:
- Do the sequence with the class. For many of the students, this is the first time they are seeing poses so having a visual demonstration from which to work is helpful.
- Get familiar with the sequence before class; not just reviewing the order of poses but going through it with the perspective of a new student.
- Include child’s pose liberally. Many new yogis are following instructions to a T. Therefore, if you don’t incorporate resting poses, they won’t take them on their own when they may in fact really need one.
- Offer lots of variations on poses. This will help balance the range of students.
- Infuse a bit of sanskrit throughout. The words sound melodic and provide a sense of authenticity to the class. When the students take a higher level class, they won’t be thrown off by teachers casually tossing out Chaturanga or Virabhadrasana.
- Offer a casual atmosphere to foster communication. Encourage questions since many of the other students will often have the same ones as well.
We were all new to yoga at some point. My first yoga “class” was during high school – an Ali MacGraw VHS set in the desert (very few people can pull off a white unitard like Ms. MacGraw).
How did your yoga practice unfold? When you started yoga, what elements of the class did you enjoy the best? What aspects of the teacher did you admire?