First a shameless plug: If you’re interested in learning more, check out my online course, The Art of Teaching Beginners. This course provides a complete blueprint for teaching new students and includes the ultimate four-week beginners’ series that you can teach in your local community.
Think back to when you were a beginning yoga student. You may have felt awkward or overwhelmed at least part of the time. And confused by some (or most!) of the instructions you heard.
For beginners, there’s a fine line between getting thorough instructions and getting way too much information. For teachers, striking the right balance can mean the difference between fostering a student’s long-time yoga practice and sending her home feeling like she just doesn’t belong. (We talked about this on episode 138 of Yogaland Podcast — you can click here to give it a listen.)
That’s why it’s so important for yoga teachers to take the time to learn some best practices for how to introduce this complex practice in a way that will set the foundation for a lifetime of practice.
Here are a few guiding principles I use when I teach beginners.
Choose your focus wisely.
You can’t teach everyone everything about every pose in every class. So, don’t try to do this. You’re not trying to teach your beginners everything, you’re just giving them solid, effective fundamentals to build on over the years.
Trust in the power of consistency.
It’s normal to feel like you need to entertain new students with new poses each class. And, yes, it’s important to be engaging and vary your content slightly. However, it’s essential to trust in the power of consistency and repetition. Your students are learning new skills and the only way to build depth and proficiency is through consistency and repetition.
Have a lesson plan and syllabus.
Teachers of nearly every subject matter use syllabi–except yoga teachers. As a community, it’s time to shift our mindset and become more methodical, consistent teachers that are grounded in a syllabus. (The second half of my new online program, The Art of Teaching Beginners clearly defines our syllabus of postures and techniques for every postural category.)
Share your teaching objectives before each class.
It’s much easier to learn something if you know what you’re trying to learn. Unfortunately, teachers rarely lay out their learning objectives for their students. Let’s turn this around. At the beginning of class, take a moment to briefly tell your students what they are focusing on in class today. You can say something like, “Hi everyone, we’re going to have a balanced practice today; and, we’re going to focus on creating strength in our glutes by making sure to engage them effectively in backbends.” Briefly telling your students the highlights of class will help them hone in on the most important details of class.
Use plain, easy-to-understand language.
Sometimes we get lost in our own clutter. And, sometimes we’re afraid of being direct with our students. Other times, we don’t trust simple language, so we mask it in unnecessary jargon. Let’s let these challenges go and always teach in the simplest, clearest, most direct language possible.
When you teach, use the English and Sanskrit names for postures when possible. Don’t stress about this. But, seek to keep things simple for your students while educating them about the yoga tradition.
Don’t dumb things down.
We’re teachers. And, teachers need to believe that our students can learn. This means that we can challenge them by talking up to them instead of down to them. Feel free to teach them details and nuances. Help them grow their Yoga IQ as early as possible.
To learn more or to sign up for my newest online course visit glo.com: The Art of Teaching Beginners.