Last night I taught my first 60 minute yoga class. After just finishing Yoga Teacher Training a little less than 2 months ago and knowing only one sequence fully, I was a little nervous. However, when the local Athleta store asks you to teach, you get yourself ready and teach!
Just because you finish yoga teacher training doesn’t mean that you’re fully comfortable to actually do the teaching. However, if you’re a new fitness or yoga instructor, you’re likely more ready than you think.
In order to help you feel a bit more confident about sharing the passion for something you love, I offer these
5 Tips For Teaching Your First Yoga Class
for Friday’s High Five:
1. Craft your sequence and write it down:
Yes, this is a little bit of “do what you were taught” and “do what you know”. Through yoga teacher training you normally learn how a typical class is structured (introduction/intention setting, warm-up, Sun A/Sun B, peak poses, spine strengthening/balancing/hip openers, cool down/stretch, savasana). If you’re uncomfortable with putting a sequence together, there are online references like Yoga Journal, LoveTeachingYoga.com (they even offer FREE PDF’s) and this great post by my friend Christine at LoveLifeSurf.com. I recently ordered this great book by Mark Stephens, Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes (affiliate link) which I’ll be referencing for future sequences because it didn’t arrive in time for my first class.
I emphasize writing down your sequence for 3 reasons, 1) because sometimes writing down a sequence helps you learn and remember what you’ve created, 2) it allows for easy edits and 3) because nerves sometimes get the better of you and you need a reference. I’ve decided to keep a book of my sequences for future reference.
2. Put a playlist together:
Find music that speaks to you but doesn’t alienate potential returning students. I adore my 80’s music and let my students last night know that’s normally how I roll but I made it clear that since the class last night was not promoted as a New Wave themed class, I tried to make my playlist accessible to everyone. I like music in general, so it wasn’t a huge stretch to include my favorite popular song of right this minute, Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” (admit it, you like it too).
Unless you’re promoting a music theme, make sure your music says something about you and your style but isn’t too one dimensional. I did have a Duran Duran song on my playlist but not every song was a Duran Duran song (that’s for a future class).
As a music lover, it was difficult for me to admit but at this time in my teaching I needed to use instrumental music (or even no music at all) in the beginning of class. I found that this helped students more fully tune into the class itself and allowed them to hear and connect with my voice as a guide.
For an hour long class, I used 11 songs. To help guide and create mood throughout the class, I used an instrumental song after the introduction/warm-up section, slower paced songs in the beginning with a tempo build toward the half hour mark and then slowed the tempo down to toward savasana. I did use a few songs from this playlist that I shared recently.
3. Actively practice the flow to your playlist in your body and then separately teach the flow while using a stopwatch to time yourself.
When you practice a sequence in your own body, you might find that it doesn’t flow physically as it might have in your brain. Writing that sequence down (in pencil!) and learning what works and what doesn’t allows for easy tweaks of poses or shuffle of flow. Maybe while flowing you discover something else that needs to be added. Physically practicing your flow may open up your sequence in a way you never imagined.
Practicing to your own playlist allows you to also see if your sequence matches your selections of music. You may love a song but it might not work at the spot when it’s played. I had to delete a few beloved songs off my playlist for this 60 minute sequence. I’m certain that if I love a song, I’ll find a way to marry it to a sequence in the future but only until I did the flow in my own body with my music did I learn this!
Also, use a stopwatch to time yourself! Teaching a class is not only about pace of sequence but it’s also how you cue as an instructor. Allowing yourself to breathe and cue with the sequence you’ve created along while keeping time, allows you to know whether your sequence fits in your desired time frame. Being too short in sequence is always better than going too long.
My class ended earlier than I expected last night but it was a good thing. We had a song and half for savasana. This allowed me to give an adjustment to all 13 attendees (!) in class and we were still done within the 60 minutes of allotted class time. Few people object to a longer savasana but shortchange them, and you’ll likely hear about it.
4. Ask a few friends to come to your first class.
Having a few friendly faces in the crowd might make a nerve wracking situation a little bit easier. I had 13 people at my first class and was lucky to have 5 friends (including Chris@WhatIRunInto and Anne@AnneHogan.net) come out to support (it didn’t hurt that 3 of the friends were fellow Yoga Teacher Trainees). It made my heart smile to know that there were people in the room who were literally there for me and were willing to sweat to show their support.
As a practicing yogi (and a human), I’ll admit that I’ve definitely harshly judged other yoga teachers in the past. I do have a new appreciation for what a yoga teacher must do in order to create and lead a class. However, I realize that just like I won’t always enjoy another teacher’s style, people might not always enjoy mine either. Having a deck stacked for my first class wasn’t a bad way to make a debut.
Yes, I was dorky and asked everyone to take a photo to mark the first class occasion.
5. Find the fun.
I’m a pretty high strung person and can easily find stress in places that don’t exist. Finding fun is not as easy for me. However, when it comes to yoga I’m trying very diligently to find enjoyment in teaching. I’m not nervous about speaking in front of people and I don’t even care if people like me or not but I do care deeply about many things about being a yoga teacher (safe alignment, ability for students hear cues clearly, making sure that the flows make sense/aren’t too easy or difficult and for people to get what they want out of a class that I teach). My caring deeply easily adds to my ability to overthink something that should be enjoyable.
Yoga should be fun (and safe, of course) and reminding myself of how much yoga has given to me allows me to take a step back, remove some of the stress and connect back to the reasons I’ve chosen not only to practice yoga but to teach yoga. To me, yoga is fitness and mind/body/soul connectedness that is unlike any other form of exercise available. I want to help spread that message while I teach.
I’ll never deny my anxiety as a person (and will likely utilize it as a teacher) but highlighting a connection with the fun and discovering the multiple beneficial layers of yoga without making it stressful is one of my goals as instructor.
Last night my friend Chris caught the above silly moment and I thought it was important to share it with anyone getting ready to teach their first yoga (or fitness) class – don’t forget to have some fun! It’s yoga, people not contract negotiations!
There you have it – my 5 tips for teaching your first yoga (or fitness) class.
What did I miss? Tell me what you look for a fitness/yoga instructor?
Disclaimer: There is one Amazon Affiliate link within this post (noted within the post). If you buy this book from Amazon after clicking the link, I will earn a few pennies. 10% of any money earned through this link will be donated to charity in 2016.