Tips on Teaching Your First Class



You’ve been practicing daily and attending your teacher training class. Teaching your first class will probably happen while you are in training, and you’ll teach to the other trainees. This is a golden opportunity, though it’s more than understandable if you experience some anxiety contemplating your first solo yoga class. There are a few principles and one or two tips that can help this be the exciting, expanding, foundational experience you hope it will be.

Planning and practice are key to having a successful inaugural class.  Not only will having a plan help to overcome any stage fright, but this will begin to set your model for the tempo and arc of a class. You must plan classes in order to understand how they are structured, in much the same way that you can know the parts of speech, but if you haven’t made a sentence with them, your understanding is limited. Additionally, at this early stage you’ll benefit tremendously from actually teaching the class to anyone who will be your guinea pig before the big day. You’ll work out some voice squeaks and hesitation and realize where you need more precise descriptions.

You’ll learn quickly enough that having a plan doesn’t always mean you teach according it. You may plan for a class with seventeen Downward Facing Dogs, but show up and find half your class have wrist injuries. But if you hadn’t planned at all, you would have no basis for improvisation and modification. You can always modify a plan you can’t use. You can’t teach a well-sequenced class with clear instructions without having planned and learned through your own body and your own voice how you’re going to lead your students into their poses.

Always practice your practice from your plan as if you were taking it before you even teach it to your best friend. You’ll learn things about how transitions feel that will help you be precise in your descriptions.

Decide on your theme. You probably set an intention for your daily personal practice, and creating a theme for your class is similar. You can be as philosophical or as practical as you’d like. Would you like to teach a class focused on shoulder flexibility, or hip mobility? Are you crazy about the principles of lower body alignment in standing poses, or geeking out on inversion practice? Who is your audience, not only for this class but for your teaching in general? Do you dream of teaching office denizens or mommy and me classes? Are you a poet? Use one of your favorite poems as a reading for the beginning of class.

Find out how long you are scheduled for and then decide how long you’ll have your class in each pose. Allow five minutes at the beginning for opening and dedicate this to breath awareness either seated or reclined, possibly standing. Set your theme and invite your students to set their intention. Allow fifteen minutes, or at least ten percent of the practice time at the end for Savasana, or final resting pose. For a thirty minute class, the minimum time in Savasana is three minutes, but remember you’ll take a couple of minutes transitioning into the pose and usually 3-5 to bring them out and conclude class. Then decide how many poses you can do in the interim. An hour class is usually 12-20 poses, depending on your pace.

Give about three cues instructing each pose. More than three can overwhelm and confuse a class, and you’ll hopefully have more than one opportunity with a class to show off your breadth of knowledge. Plan your cues for your first several classes, so you establish a pace and a rhythm, but remember to respond to your students’ poses with verbal cues. Include the cue “knee over the little toe side of the foot” in Warrior II when you note a student with a collapsing front leg. Reserve physical adjustments for after you’ve given verbal cues and give them seldom with a firm but never forcing touch.

Arrive at least 15 minutes before class time and create the atmosphere you want in the room. Spend some time meditating and establish the location from which you’ll be teaching. Instruct students on which direction to place their mats, and set up music if you’ll be using it. Allow for some time between checking students in and starting class so that you are clear and centered. Most of all, give yourself to the process and allow the yoga to teach itself. Share your passion and your heart and trust the yoga.

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