More thoughts from a new yoga teacher, one thing they didn’t cover in TT was “winging it.” The first class I taught, I walked in all prepared with a well thought out sequence of asanas – warm up, vinyasa, open hips, closed hips, balance pose, floor poses, savasana. Just like my TT homework.
Well, I got through about 15% of the standing sequence and I’ll be darned, it was time to move to arm balances. Changing the game plan mid-stride. Something I wasn’t really prepared for. So I winged it. And I’ll be darned again if the class didn’t turn out better than I thought, because I taught to the class that was there, not the class I wanted to be there.
Changing the plan mid-class is something every new teacher should be “prepared” for (like that one?). I learned early on how to read the class – sort of, because as most yoga instructors will tell you, you can’t really judge how people are doing based on the expression on their faces. But you can read body language and appearance.
Body language: Are two or more people in child’s pose? Are people just resting instead of moving through the asana? Lot’s of red faces? Lots of resting with hands on knees? These are some indicators that the sequence is too difficult or too easy. Change it up – slow down or speed up, depending on what kind of class you’re teaching.
Appearance: Is everyone sweating profusely, or not? Who is in your class? Let’s face it, a level 1 class full of 50-somethings probably doesn’t have the stamina or strength as a class of 20-somethings – time to punt on handstand and maybe do tripod headstand or even legs up the wall. Similarly, you can tell the new guy because he’s already sweating in cat-cow, can’t straighten his legs, and probably has his socks on. And my personal favorite, is the student looking at you, the teacher, instead of their drishti? I’ve found beginners really tend to watch the instructor for visual cues as to what to do next.
It’s my role as a yoga instructor to guide the students through a complete, healthy and safe class, to the point where they want to keep doing yoga; not to bully them through a set sequence, like it or not, just to serve my ego for having written out a sequence that I think kicks ass.
So be prepared to wing it. I’ll be darned if it hasn’t made me a better teacher.