Teaching “ultra” beginners

The first class we were asked to teach during our 200hrs YTT was an “ultra beginner” class, and “ultra beginner” meant no downward dogs or warrior 1. 

How could we teach people how to focus on their breathing or stretch for a full 60 minutes practice? Wouldn’t it be super boring? 

The evening before I decided to use my husband to design my ultra beginner sequence. I was quite surprised to find out that, downward facing dog to him (a true yoga newbie, constantly complaining about back pain) was like doing headstand without any other support than the crown of the head to me!

I reshuffled things a little around to focus mostly on deepening the breathing, playing around with some balancing poses, including a fair amount of stretching and including downward facing dog and warrior one as the two most advanced postures of the sequence. Here’s how it went: 

  1. Sit in a comfortable position (ideally legs crossed, can be on a block)
  2. Start focusing on some breathing exercises to become more conscious of ones own breath:
    1. Deeply inhale in 1,2,3 (tummy goes out) and 3,2,1 (tummy comes in)
    2. Start Ujayic breathing by pretending to fog a mirror but keeping mouth closed
  3. Some stretching exercises:
    1. Neck rotations (clockwise, anti clockwise)
    2. Shoulder rotations (inwards, outwards)
    3. Arms in front: wrist rotations
    4. Right arm up, left arm hand on the floor, extend right arm over left side (and other side)
    5. Still on the floor, sit on toes and rotate toes (with weight of your body on the balls of your feet)
    6. On all fours: cat and cows
    7. Standing up, breath in, stretch the arms up, stand on toes – exhale, release the whole body by bending forward
    8. Rotate the arms inwards, then backwards
  4. Exercises to teach some basic postures
    1. Forward fold with bended knees, grabbing opposite elbows, rock from side to side
    2. Low lunge with knee on floor to open hips
    3. Face a wall, place hands on the wall in L shape (to practice pressure in arms and shoulders during downward dog)
  5. Hatha yoga sun salutation 5 times
    1. Inhale – arms up
    2. Exhale – fold forward
    3. Inhale – half way lift, hold: right leg back, left leg back
    4. Exhale – Knees, chest, chin on the floor
    5. Inhale – Cobra
    6. Exhale – downward dog
    7. Inhale – Right leg forward, left leg forward 
    8. Exhale – forward fold
    9. Inhale – Arms up
    10. Exhale – Stand still, arms on side of body
  6. Relaxation exercises
    1. Sit on the mat, forward stretch
    2. Lie on the mat – happy baby pose
    3. Bend knees – hold tight to the chest
    4. Still bended knees, drop both knees on right side, gaze to the left (then other side) 
    5. Lie is savasna