For new teachers, there are many things to consider when planning the first yoga class. Despite your extensive Yoga Teacher Training, you might feel overwhelmed by the task. These 10 tips will help you teach your first class successfully from the opening ‘Namaste’ until the final Savasana.
Some teachers can just step into a class and start teaching without ever glancing at their notes. As a new yoga teacher this scenario – most likely – doesn’t describe you. So, make sure you have your entire sequence planned out and written down in your notebook.
Usually, one of the biggest challenges for new teachers is time management. To avoid running out of time for Savasana or enduring awkward moments of silence while you try to come up with a pose, use a timer and talk yourself through your sequence. Tip: Practicing by yourself usually goes by a bit faster than the actual class. Add a few minutes to the measured time and you’ll have a good estimate of the duration of your sequence.
Depending on the style of yoga you teach, you might also want to put together a playlist with relaxing tunes and your favorite mantras. The music will not only calm your students, but also help you relax and connect to the feeling of your class.
Promote your Classes on Social Media.
You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with teaching my first class?”. Well, every teacher needs students. Even if you start teaching at a reputable studio with a large student base, you might want to put some extra time into advertising.
Don’t be shy to share your services online. Instead of seeing it as “shameless self-promo”, recognize that it will allow more people to experience the benefits of yoga. Remember how you first heard of yoga. Maybe you saw an ad on TV or a poster at your local gym. Nowadays, social media allows you to reach a much larger audience – for free!
The more students attend your classes, the more likely it is that studio owners will recognize and appreciate your efforts. In addition, you automatically start to build your following – students that specifically show up for you!
Get to Class early.
Don’t be late – respect your students’ time! Arriving early will also allow you to set up the space: light some candles, burn your favorite incense and play calming music. Make sure you know where the props are stored and how to connect your phone to the loudspeaker. You’ll thank yourself for figuring out these things beforehand to avoid embarrassing hick-ups during the class. Maybe you even have a few minutes to meditate and get centered. When the students arrive, they will have a great first impression of both the atmosphere and their new teacher!
Get to know your Students.
Your job starts as soon as the first student walks into the room. Greet them and introduce yourself. Ask them a few questions about who they are and their experience with yoga. This will create an instant connection and help your students feel at ease. Who knows? Maybe this is their first yoga class and they’re just as nervous as you are!
Try to read the overall energy of your students. If they are chatting and buzzing with excitement, you can start the class with a short meditation to let them calm down. If the energy is a bit low, bring in some extra dynamic sun salutations to get their blood flowing.
Find your Voice.
During your YTT you probably had inspirational teachers whose teaching style you admired. As you are starting out, you might unconsciously mimic your favorite teacher. Find your unique voice by reminding yourself why you are sharing the essence of yoga with your students, and what you want them to feel. Simply speak from your heart.
Use Clear and Concise Language.
Remember that you cannot share everything you learned during your YTT in one single class! Bringing in all seven Chakras as well as the ten Namas and Niyamas will only confuse your students. Instead, focus on one theme only. Going more in-depth gives your students the opportunity to understand the concept not only logically but also on a deeper level.
While bringing in a few Sanskrit terms can be a beautiful way to honor the yogic tradition, it’s important to remember that many students won’t know what to do upon hearing yoga lingo like “Urdhva Mukha Svanasana”. Use simple English terminology instead.
Be comfortable in Moments of Silence.
New teachers often tend to think they have to talk nonstop throughout the class. A few seconds of silence can feel like an eternity. Try to overcome this fear of stillness. Avoid using filler language (okay, like, right, um, …) and say only things that are truly meaningful. Give your students the opportunity to go inward, to be present with their mind and body. They will thank you for these precious moments of stillness and introspection.
Step off your Mat.
Your yoga mat is your familiar safe space inside the classroom, your comfort zone. Remember that popular saying? Yes, the magic truly happens outside of your comfort zone. Step off your mat and make use of the space. Connect with your students and, if you feel comfortable, give hands-on adjustments and assists (only after asking for consent, of course). Most students really appreciate a good adjustment because it makes them feel seen and cared for.
Learn to Laugh.
While it can be tempting to apologize for every little mistake, try to hold back the countless utterings of “I’m sorry!”. Instead, learn to laugh about yourself, then take a deep breath and move on.
Remember that even experienced teachers forget postures or stumble over their words – everybody makes mistakes! You might not believe it now, but most students won’t even realize that you mixed up Warrior One and Two or told them to raise their right hand instead of their left.
Little extra tip: If you have a complete blackout anytime during the class, simply ask your students to close their eyes for five breaths, or to go into Savasana or Child’s Pose. This will give you enough time to regain your composure and glance at your notes. Your students never have to know what happened!
Even after spending hours planning the ins and outs of your sequence, you still have to be prepared to change it on the spot. You might have expected an intermediate class and created a challenging sequence, building up to Bakasana (Crow Pose). Instead, the students in front of you are complete beginners who get lost halfway between Chaturanga and Downward Facing Dog. Instead of trying to stick to your original sequence at any cost, follow your instincts and improvise!
Our final – and most important – tip is to connect to your breath. While there are hundreds of things you have to keep in mind (the order of your sequence, instructing and demonstrating the poses, adjustments, etc.) your presence matters most. By taking deep, conscious breaths, you take yourself out of your ‘inner library’ and into your heart, enabling you to speak from a place of connection and oneness, a place of yoga.
Inhale, filling your body with life force energy. Exhale and let go of all tension. Trust yourself. You are ready!