10 Steps to Take Before Teaching Your First Yoga Class

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With the large number of yoga teacher training programs out there, many people are graduating from training each month. I met a recent teacher trainee and she was expressing concerns about starting to teach, for fear of not being ready. This is not an uncommon feeling, especially because there is so much information presented in training. The thought of getting started and actually implementing all you’ve learned can be overwhelming. It can also cause a sense of “analysis paralysis;” when we over-analyze something and it gets in the way of us actually taking action.

There are some key things that you’ll need before you teach your first class. Here’s a quick list: 

1. Make sure you have teaching insurance. Before you step into a studio, make sure you have your teaching insurance set up. This protects you as well as the locations in which you teach.

2. Have a go-to sequence that you’ll use for your classes. As a new teacher, you’ll have a lot to manage, in addition to your own feelings of fear and nervousness. The last think you’ll want to be thinking about is the sequence. Have one you can use regularly and stick to it. You’ll become more proficient at it as will your students. Make it highly accessible and offer modifications throughout. Get used to using essential language so it’s understandable by anyone, regardless of yoga experience. Practice it yourself, ask your friends to meet you at your home and do it with them for free.

3. Clear your schedule at least one hour before you teach: When you start teaching that first weekly class, you’ll be nervous and you’ll want time to prepare. You’ll also want ample time to get to the studio, park (if needed) and relax. Set yourself up to be connected to your body by giving yourself enough time. Make sure you do this each week; not just before your very first class.

Things to reconsider before you start teaching: 

4. Music: Music can be a wonderful addition to your classes but it is another variable to manage. The less you give yourself to do, the more energy and attention you can give your students.

5. Readings: Readings are another addition to your classes that can be really wonderful. It can inspire, inform as well as educate. However, again, this is another variable. It’s time you’ll be taking before class to select a reading when it might be more helpful to practice yoga yourself so you can be connected to your body.

6. Themes: Classes built on themes can help students learn new poses and alignment. Some themes for class build on a particular physical concept, such as “Poses to Open the Hips” or “Arm Balances.” Other themes may be more spiritual and the teacher may present a string of related thoughts all around a particular idea, such as non-violence or practicing with compassion. While these kinds of classes can be wonderful for both students and teachers, as a beginning teacher, it can be helpful to stick with the same sequence to become more proficient at it (as stated above).

7. Complex Poses such as Arm Balances and Inversions: While these can be fun to teach, they’re not always accessible for many students. Also, to support students as they try more challenging postures, it can be helpful if you have an assistant in class.

Things to be ready to do: 

8. Stay after class: Just as you want time before class to prepare and come into your body, you’ll want time after your class to be available to answer questions. Answering student questions is a great way to get to know them, support them and become a resource.

9. Be a help to set up and break down: Taking a few minutes before and after your class to help set up the room and put away props afterwards will help you be seen as a team member who is willing to help out on many levels.

10. Most of all, have the courage to speak from your heart. It doesn’t have to be complex or heavy insight; it can be just be clear, honest statements that are meant to build connection through more than the physical level. So, in addition to saying, "Stand up tall, press your feet flat and reach up!” you might add, “Be strong!” or “Be Inspired!” or “Reach for your dreams!” Just as with the physical instructions you give, the more essential you are in your language, the clearer your instructions will be. The same can be true for your inspirational thoughts. Keep them clear and concise but speak from your heart. It’ll inspire your students to do the same.

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