November 1, 2013

Yoga Teachers: How To Keep Class Light & Fun. ~ Firdous Abdul Majeed

I remember attending yoga classes at a stage when I started really loving the practice of yoga.

A loyal student of a yoga studio, I paid attention to every word and instruction of my teacher. When she said “Drop the front thigh lower,” I dropped my thigh lower—no matter how tough I thought it would be. But after a point, I started noticing trends once I completed my yoga teacher training. I started to notice the teacher more than anything else in class, and more so because I wanted to learn from her.

In the process, I realized that most teachers think coming to a studio and taking class is like substituting a class in high school, and that there are various kinds of teachers:

  • Strict, straight-faced, stern voice.
  • Slow movement, long instructions, soft voice, no smile.
  • Uninterested, stressed out in life, never smiles (ever—not even by mistake), makes no eye contact.
  • Frowning, disconnected, robotic.
  • The sing-song teacher who teaches every class in the same tone, sings “inhale-exhale” the same way every day and doesn’t get out of her comfort zone. (I have walked out of those classes—let’s be honest.)

Why, teachers? Why?

Once I completed my teacher training, I realized completing a 200 hour yoga teacher training was not the end of my learning—it’s just the beginning! So I started looking through You Tube videos, reading books, and mostly going through different You Tube do-it-yourself yoga videos.

I saw so many different styles of teaching and the one I loved the most was the fun, light-hearted, and yet engaging class. After all, why do we believe that teaching yoga is about being serious and not having fun?

When was the last time you cracked a joke in class, or laughed at yourself?

When was the last time you made a blooper in class and corrected it without being embarrassed?

I have a major problem while teaching; I am dyslexic, and because of this I sometimes forget which side is right and which is left. I am also bad at keeping count, and sometimes say “Five, four, two…oops! Five, four, three.”

But guess what? It’s so much fun.

My students laugh—they keep count, they stay alert through the class, and they know it’s okay to laugh!

Here are some quick pointers if you think (and be honest to yourself) you fall into any of the above mentioned type of instructors:

  • It’s vital to create an environment that makes students feel open in every way. Not just physically, but mentally too.
  • Especially during a corporate class, see how stressed and bogged down they are when they walk in and roll out those mats. Try and make eye contact, and smile at them throughout the class. You will be surprised to see them walking out with huge smiles post-savasana!
  • Let them know it’s okay if they aren’t able to hold utkatasana (chair pose) for five breaths. There are so many ways to make them do this, though. I always crack a joke to distract them momentarily when I know the pose is challenging.
  • Ask them not to focus on the pain and focus on breathing. In between this, you can always ask them to smile.
  • Sometimes my bloopers make them laugh! It’s great to keep the class light and easy.
  • Don’t give too much emotional jargon. During hip-openers, and chest-openers, try and avoid saying things like “Let the chest open to the heavens,” “Reach for the stars in Uthitha Hastasana,” and “Let the hips release the emotional stress from your childhood.” Not everyone thinks yoga is about that. Some people are just there to stretch the limbs out and feel lighter. Make sure you cater to all temperaments and don’t over-do either one.
  • Last but not the least—make sure you put in a conscious effort to stay positive in your own life as a teacher. Students feel your energy and take from it. If you are stressed and angry most part of the week—know that your students are going to take from that bad energy and may not feel that great post class. Make sure you spread positive energy right from cat-cow to Savasana.


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Assistant Ed: Kathryn Ashworth/Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Elizabeth Crisci

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