Teaching Yoga

Focus on the students’ needs, not how you perform

The first few times I tried teaching a class (I relief teach for my yoga teacher whenever she goes overseas), I was pretty self-conscious. So many thoughts were going through my head: Am I speaking perfect English? What if I say the wrong things? What if I can’t balance myself when I demonstrate half moon? What if the students do not like me? What if I forget something?

Then, it hit me one day that a good yoga teacher needn’t be flawless in performing the poses. A yoga teacher has only one ultimate purpose: to focus on helping the students improve, so that they enjoy the session, and they feel good about themselves.

That was indeed a breakthrough. I immediately felt more at ease while teaching, and have students telling their teacher ( ie me), “You’ve improved!”

Observe the students’ level and adjust teaching accordingly

Students have different levels of experience, and different expectations of a yoga class. How do you meet all their needs? To me, this is oftentimes the most difficult part of yoga teaching.

The best solution is of course to offer different classes catering to different needs, from beginner to advanced, stress-relieving classes to strength-building ones, and more.

However, when you have students of varying levels in class, the best way is to still demonstrate each posture before the students do them, at the same time demonstrate the advanced version of the posture to challenge the higher-level students. Demonstration is for the benefit of the beginner students, and it serves to remind the experienced ones of the little details they might have forgotten. Challenging the latter with advanced versions will also ensure that they do not become bored with the class, thinking that the postures are all “too easy”.

Learn to be a teacher by remembering how you were/are as a student

When I learn yoga, I always appreciate it when the teacher gives me feedback, be it positive or negative. After getting into a posture, I tend to expect the teacher to come around to correct me, or even just to give me a simple instruction for me to improve, or just to say that I have improved.

It takes experience to tell how a student is doing a posture wrong, or how the student can further challenge herself should the posture be “too easy”. There’s no shortcut to this, only conscious persistence and focused observation can do the work. But for now, a simple complement or a slight adjustment of the arm or foot direction is all a teacher needs to do to be appreciated. Addressing the students by their names will work even more wonders.