First Yoga Class I Ever Taught: All-Star Yogis Tell All
For yoga teachers out there, do you remember the first time you taught? Were you nervous, excited, or both? Kathryn Budig, Elena Brower, Sara Ivanhoe, Dave Romanelli, Ally Hamilton, Dana Flynn, Amy Ippoliti, and Faith Hunter all share their first-time yoga teaching experiences with us below.
MBG: What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever taught?
Faith Hunter: To answer this question, I had to pull out my old teacher training journal (pictured, above). My journal included a few thoughts of anxiety building up to my first real NYC teaching experience, and a complete list of postures for the class. Like most new instructors, my heart was beating fast, sweaty armpits, and my monkey mind was jumping from tree to tree.
The first sound of Om was steady and sweet, but I did hear a few cracks at the end of my voice. Fear, that’s all. I began teaching the flow I had written and memorized, smooth sailing so far. About 10 minutes into class, the butterflies took over and I couldn’t remember a single posture. I couldn’t even remember alignment principles. However in cosmic divine fashion, a few words flooded into my head:
“Teach from your own practice.”
“Watch the bodies.”
“Speak from your heart.”
Deep inhale, exhale, and all was fine. I continued with no concern of what I had memorized, and I gave my first class the practice they needed.
After that day, I never memorized another class. That’s when I started to ask in every class I teach, “What would you like today?” With that simple question, I know I am fully being of service to my students, and completely providing them with a class that comes from my heart, not my mind.
Amy Ippoliti: I was extremely nervous because it was actually an audition class at a spa in Soho, NY. Plus the only "class" I had actually ever taught was to my 85 year old grandmother and her best friend. The minute the audition class started, I felt strangely capable and at home in the seat of the teacher, and I was also having the time of my life sharing what I knew and helping people feel good in their bodies. I was hired on the spot, I think from the sheer good time I was having!
Not all teacher trainings are created equal either -- I feel like I was trained extremely well initially by Cyndi Lee who facilitated the first TT program I ever did. That did a lot for my confidence in the early days.
Dana Flynn: I was right out of Sivananda Bootcamp in the Bahamas, where I had been living in a tent, soaking up the intense schedule.Sure, I had nerve and nerves, mostly excitement. I first taught at the NYC location on W. 24th Street. I had a loose script to follow of like 12 or so poses, even early on I would slide a variation into the sequence and the yogis said they dug it. It was a great learning experience, you learn while you teach and teach while you're learning. This was nothing compared to teaching my first class at Jivamukti with Sharon in the class, dem some nerves, LOL!
Ally Hamilton: The first class I taught was an accident. I had been struggling with the idea of teaching because I had a huge fear of speaking in public. I showed up to take class, and the teacher didn't show. And all these people were in the room waiting to take class, and the studio manager asked me to teach. I had to leave the room to wrap my head around the idea and get myself together. My hands were shaking and my heart was racing, and I thought there was no way I could do it. But then I had this very clear thought that it would be pretty awful if all these people missed a yoga practice because I was nervous. I realized it was just my ego, insecurity, fear. And I basically thought this whole thing really wasn't about me, it was about these people getting some yoga. So I just got out of my own way and went in there and focused on the yoga. And ninety minutes flew by, and I looked around and everyone had that glow, and I thought, what could I possibly do with my time that would be better than that? I still haven't found anything :)
David Romanelli: We had opened a chain of yoga studios in Arizona (At One Yoga) and I was doing the marketing while mentoring with our most senior teacher named Moon. So the students were accustomed to my being in class, adjusting, etc. But I was nowhere near ready to teach. Moon was really sick, so her students sent her home. The front desk called me and said the ladies in the class wanted me to come teach. I remember thinking NO FUCKING WAY. Now, having taught for 12 years, it would seem like such a part of my life but back then it was a massively big deal. I remember so so clearly, i was driving on the corner of Camelback Road and 24th Street at around 10am in Phoenix Arizona in March of 1999.
I was nervous, scared, unprepared. But it went great and I never felt such a natural high! I always love taking a new teachers class because there's a raw, fresh, authentic energy that is transmitted and it's really uplifting.
Sara Ivanhoe: The first class I ever taught was at a gym in Hollywood called "The Courtyard Club" back in October of 1995. Looking back, the funniest part of the experience was that I had to convince the management that having yoga classes at a gym was a good idea. "Why would we have yoga at a gym? No one wants to relax and stretch here -- they are here to work out." I remember bursting with the enthusiasm of youth, trying to explain that "yoga could be a workout", "would they give me just once chance?" and here's the best one -- "I know that someday yoga is going to be really big -- just trust me on this!" It makes me crack up to picture my 24-year-old self literally jumping up and down trying to sell corporate management on this "crazy" idea. Of course, now yoga is taught in every gym in the country. Within weeks -- the classes were packed!
Elena Brower: First time I ever taught was during teacher training with Cyndi Lee at OM. I was meant to teach one pose, but I was so nervous I couldn't even look at my fellow trainees; I was staring out onto 14th Street listening to myself talk, just barely keeping my thoughts together. When I finished, Cyndi hilariously pointed out that while the instructions were good, I was teaching to the window. I remember being mortified - but we had such a laugh and it was a really crucial understanding.
Kathryn Budig: My very first class was at the Westwood Yogaworks studio. It was Monday night and I was a 'student teacher' or something along those lines. I had the entire class mapped out in my journal which sat at the front of the room with me. It was just like being on stage....total adrenaline rush before I started then pure enjoyment and thrill from there on.
Thanks to all the amazing teachers who participated!