5 Things Yoga Teachers Need to Know About the Mamas in Class
Before I had a child, my approach to teaching yoga was very different from the expectations I now have today as a student. I realize now some mistakes I made, such as taking everyone's time for granted and letting class run over, and hope to share my advice with other teachers.
1. The class really does need to end on time.
To some it might sound like we're overscheduled, but there are certain realities. The YMCA has been my salvation in that they have a child watch center where my son can play while I take classes. This has been such a tremendous gift that I respect the babysitters' needs for me to pick up my son on time so that someone else can have the chance for parental sanity. So, if the teacher runs past the scheduled end time, expect some people will dash off before or during savasana. You can't have it both ways—you can't go over time and expect people to stay for final rest. Show some empathy, and do not chastise people who have to leave when the class was scheduled to end.
2. Shorter classes are better.
I used to love 90 minutes classes as a teacher—we could really explore themes and advanced poses and have a long savasana. As a student whose child has a tiny bladder, the 60-minute classes mean that every so often I can make it through a whole class without getting called away by the babysitters because my son needs to pee (without going into detail, New York City has some very strict laws on just about everything). So, when looking at a schedule, I gravitate towards the shorter classes because that's what my life allows at this point in time. This idea that we might need to leave the class to deal with our child is also why the back row is the domain of the moms in the daytime classes I attend at the Y. I am not being timid or afraid—quite the opposite—I am trying to be respectful. If I need to dash out in the middle of class, I will try not to disrupt the class experience as best as I can.
3. It's harder to calm my monkey mind.
When there's silence, I go into analysis mode. It's not that moms are being defiant yogis, it's that we have so much on our brains. We will worry over paying our bills each month, new research on vaccines, remembering to call back the mom you met last month, trying to remember the last time your child peed (yes, there's a theme here), etc. And our first thoughts tend to be about our children, especially when they are small. It's in our biology—our brains fundamentally change when taking care of a young child. So we need lots of guided meditation: give us visuals, direction, and guidance, especially if you use meditation to start class. By the time we get to savasana, we probably will enjoy the silence. But even then, give us one suggested meditation, and we will better reap the benefit of final rest.
4. It's harder to calm my monkey body.
Moms, particularly those who stay at home with their kids, spend their days in a constant swirl of motion—wiping up spills, picking up toys, wrestling kids in and out of clothes, etc. We don't stop moving all day, which makes it harder to hold poses for a long time. I took a wonderful class recently and the teacher had us moving and breathing in each pose. For example, in utkatasana (chair pose) we inhaled our arms overhead and exhaled the hands down with fists. It was strong and energizing and kept us holding chair.
5. I might be depressed or isolated.
Being a mom, particularly one who stays at home, can be very isolating. The woman in your class came to your class instead of just renting a video and practicing at home because she wants a sense of community. She needs to be around other adults. Infuse some joy, some humor, maybe even some interaction into your classes. One of my teachers has us introduce ourselves to the people around us at the start of class. This is not "dumbing down" yoga. It's staying present with your teaching, meeting your students where they are, and attending to their spiritual needs.