Yoga is for Everyone

07-Sep-2013

Yoga is for Everyone

As yoga instructors, it's important to know how to take a class full of students through the various poses. You need to know how to lead them, how to spot poor postures and correct them with kindness and support. A good yoga instructor will know how to embody the spiritual and physical practice of yoga, and communicate that practice effectively. However, it's not all about boat poses and meditation sessions: the best yoga instructors will know how to make everyone feel welcomed in their class.

It seems obvious, but it can be difficult to realize just how intimidating yoga can be for new students. As an instructor, your passion for yoga is great enough that you've decided to make it your career; the advantages and wonders of yoga are a no-brainer. But for some, the thought of unrolling a mat is enough to send them running off in the other direction. There are several reasons for why some people are unhappy with yoga, and their opinion often stems from a bad first impression. Some of these factors may not be the teacher's direct fault; however, every instructor should watch for a few common issues that may crop up in their class. With some diligence and compassion, you might even win over a few yoga haters!

It's Not a Competition

Yoga is supposed to be about the individual's own journey. The physical movements promote a spiritual and emotional journey, and the meditative practice allows a student to contemplate their own inner life. Nonetheless, North America is a very competitive culture, and the need to win is tough to leave at the door of the yoga studio. Even students with the best of intentions can end up worrying that they have to “win” the yoga class; they have to perform the poses better than everyone else, stretch their split just a little bit further, and prove that they're the most experienced at yoga. In beginner classes, this sort of atmosphere can be intimidating enough that some students will never return. Even worse, straining your body past its comfort point can cause serious injury. As an instructor, emphasizing that everyone can go at their own pace is very important; encourage newcomers and remind visibly straining students not to push themselves.

Make Beginner Classes For Beginners

Yoga is everywhere nowadays. Comfortable yoga pants are regularly worn in casual situations, and there are niche classes for everyone from expectant mothers to people with depression. However, yoga still comes with a learning curve: not only does a beginner not know how to do the basic poses, but they also need to learn the Sanskrit names of each pose, the breathing and meditative techniques, and whatever chants may be part of your practice. Don't assume that people have any prior knowledge; it can help prevent any shy beginners from feeling behind the curve. A beginner's class should be just that: for beginners, who have had little to no experience in yoga.

Correct With Compassion

Teaching yoga isn't just about instructing a group on the Sun Salutation; you need to follow your students' progress, and occasionally correct their stance. This isn't about nitpicking; an uneven foot or awkwardly twisted knee can lead to sprains, pulls, and muscle tears. It might be easy to call out to a student who is wobbling out of their Half-Moon Pose, but for them it can be utterly humiliating. It's tough to balance your attention between leading the class and giving individual support, but learning how to walk that fine line will make you a much better teacher. Never physically push students into the proper position; demonstrate the desired correction and use verbal instructions, which will keep everyone safe. With a few considerations, your yoga class can truly become a positive life-changing force in someone's life. 

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