Last night found me teaching my first yoga class! I’ve been promising people at work that I would start teaching as soon as my YTT course started and I felt confident enough to do so.  I wasn’t sure when it would happen in all honesty – I love yoga, I want to teach it and make it my life, but I wasn’t convinced I would be able to stand up at the front of a room and tell people what to do after just one weekend!  However, after my first YTT weekend I felt so much more comfortable making adjustments and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I was a little nervous when an email went out to 13 people advertising my class, but I had nothing to worry about.  In the end 4 people turned up, which was a perfectly sized class to start off my teaching career!  The class was a mix of yoga regulars and yoga newbies, and 3 people had injuries which made it nice and challenging!

I had written out a lesson plan a few days before, but ended up changing a lot of it at the last minute to accommodate for the different levels of people in the class.  We did a 5 minute seated meditation, followed by 3 rounds of Surya Namaskar A, then a fun flow involving lots of virabhadrasana (Warrior) variations to open the hips.  I then led them through some core work (navasana – I left out the evil planks/knee-to-nose poses I had planned), some seated folds and then before I knew it we were at the closing sequence!

I hadn’t planned out savasana at all, thinking I would just say what I felt was appropriate for the time.  How do you prepare for teaching savasana anyway?! I simply spoke a few brief words to (hopefully) help them relax, dimmed the lights, and then left them to it for 10 minutes.

What did I learn in my first ever yoga class as a teacher?

  • It is ok to mess up words.  The number of times that I mixed up my left/right, hand/foot, arm/leg etc was ridiculous but I made sure I either just ignored it or made a joke and definitely didn’t apologise every time (a bad habit according to the internet!).  After class, when I laughed about this, the students all made it very clear that it wasn’t a problem and that most teachers do this all the time anyway.
  • Don’t stay on the mat the whole time.  I spent the first rounds of Sun Salutation A and the flow firmly on my mat, but forced myself to get off it after that.  It is, of course, important to show what you’re talking about, but I found myself demonstrating at the expense of looking up at my students and checking that they were doing ok too.
  • Engage! With that in mind, once I started using verbal cues rather than physical demonstrations, I was able to watch what everyone was doing, and offer advice on how to adjust themselves, e.g. drawing your heels further towards the ground in downward dog, tucking the tailbone etc.
  • Adjust adjust adjust.  At first I was a little nervous about making physical contact with my students – but sometimes it’s easier (and more reassuring for the student that they are doing it correctly) to just get in there and make adjustments.  I helped people in their post-backbend paschimattanasana, halasana and downward dog.  Before the class started I said if I do adjust them and they’re not comfortable with it, to just let me know.  Nobody complained so I assume I did an alright job!
  • Jokes are ok (I hope!) I’m a pretty jokey person, especially when I’m nervous.  I like to lighten the atmosphere, and although I’m aware that there is a time and place for this, I don’t think it was out of place last night.  Saying things like “I’m sure you’ll all be happy to hear this is the last vinyasa of the evening” may be inappropriate in a proper yoga studio where people tend to be more serious about their practice, but it made people laugh last night when they were all getting close to the point of exhaustion.

All in all, I honestly loved every second of teaching.  It just felt like I was sharing my knowledge about something I love, and I was pretty relaxed and comfortable with it – especially considering it was my first time teaching anything! I got really positive feedback, and there will be an email going out to everyone (over 500 people) at work to advertise next week’s class, which I’m already really excited about.

Have you ever taught anything? What was your initial experience with it?

Tali xx

2 Comments

  • Jean Freeman-Allen says:

    Years ago I taught Pitmanscipt shorthand at evening classes. About a week before my first class at one particular venue the head of section asked “told” me I would have to teach Pitmanscipt as well – a system I didn’t know, in addition to the beginners and speed members of the class. So I learned to do it and just kept myself one week ahead of the class. One week I got to the class early and put some Pitmanscript on the board for those learning it to be occupied while I started off the beginners then dictated some speed. When I turned to the Pitmanscript students, one of them asked what the third outline on the board was – and when I looked at it I couldn’t read it myself!! From out of my psyche somewhere came the response “Well let’s try and work it out shall we?” No one noticed that I was floundering, so a lesson well learned.

    The moral of this story? Always ask a question in response to a question you can’t answer!

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