"In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities; but in the expert's mind, there are few." -Shunryu Suzuki, Zen priest.
Teaching a beginner Yoga class is a heavy responsibility. There is a good chance that people in the room have never practiced Yoga before. New Yoga students may be uneasy and fear awkwardness or failure.
You may become the first teacher they have ever had, and their impressions of Yoga as a discipline, art, science, sport, lifestyle, or however they regard it, will be based upon you and your behavior. Here are a few tips for Yoga teachers on teaching a beginner class.
1. Introduce yourself and tell the students how long the Yoga class is. An overview of the class format is appreciated. For example - tell them that there will be warm-ups, pranayama, a variety of seated and standing poses, followed by moving poses, known as Sun Salutations, and that the last 10 minutes will be spent practicing stage-by-stage relaxation in Savasana, or a resting pose.
2. Always emphasize student safety from the beginning to the end of practice. Safety is a key factor, for our students to be mindful of, at all times. Students should be warned against forcing and learn their "personal edge" in regard to safe range of motion.
3. Ask if anyone has any initial questions. Suggest a quiet method, for anyone who needs help during the practice, to signal you - such as by raising their hand.
4. If props will be used, explain their purposes at the beginning of class, and have the students collect all that will be needed for the duration, at the beginning. They should not need to break a pose to run to the closet and get a block.
5. Introduce each pose by its Sanskrit names and its translation; for example, "Let's move in to Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Bend." Referring to poses by their Sanskrit names, exclusively, can be intimidating; and referring to them only by their translations, may not help beginners appreciate the rich history of the Yoga tradition.
6. Ask each student for permission to assist before performing any hands-on correction in the asanas. Beginners may be surprised if they are adjusted manually.
7. Emphasize to the students that practice is about performing each asana fully and in harmony with one's own body and breath. Racing to keep up with the teacher or classmates is not necessary.
8. Ask the students to set an intention before they begin the class, and thank them at the conclusion for taking the time to deepen their connection with their own spirit.
9. Always remember to integrate pranayama techniques into the class. For new students, the first connection between mind and body is usually during pranayama practice.
10. Provide loaner Yoga mats, if at all possible. Many beginners will not have their own equipment.
Remember - by introducing these students to the wonderful practice of Yoga, you may be helping them lead happier, healthier lives. Teaching an expert class may be physically exalting, but the true continuation of Yoga lies with teaching those new to it - to love it, as you do.
Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. To receive Free Yoga videos, Podcasts, e-Books, reports, and articles about Yoga, please visit: http://www.yoga-teacher-training.org/