Teaching your first yoga class can be intimidating. The prospect of it might cause you to totally stress out, pile on the pressure, and arrive to teach a nervous wreck. While those feelings are completely understandable, follow these six tips to relax and enjoy preparing for and teaching your very first yoga class.
1. Know Your Audience
Every yoga instructor’s first time teaching is different. You may have scored your first gig at a gym, studio, community center, workplace, or school. How you approach the class depends on who is taking it. Are your students required to be there (read: workplace or school environments), or do they want to be there (studios and gyms)? Are they stressed-out business-types coming to a studio for much needed relaxation? Or are they athletes looking for a good stretch while strengthening at a fitness center? Maybe your first class is a studio audition, with yoga teachers and studio managers in attendance.
Ask questions to understand what is expected of you. Some studios or classes have a specific class sequence they require you to teach, while others want you to get creative. Orient your sequencing and tone toward the needs of your audience. As their teacher, they trust you to fuse what they want with what they need. Put in the time to understand them, and you’ll be one step closer in knowing exactly what to deliver.
2. Write a Class Outline
Based on your students’ needs, create a class sequence and write it down. The act of writing down what you intend to teach will help commit it to memory. Even if you are not allowed to bring your outline into class, have an outline handy to reference right up until show time.
Recruit your friends, your dog, or even a mirror and practice teaching your first class sequence to help build your confidence. Not only will practicing with your outline help you hone your cuing skills, it will also give you an idea of whether your sequence is realistic for the amount of time you’ve been given to teach.
3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…
The main objective in guiding your first yoga class is to teach a solid, safe practice to your students. Start with basics: focus on cuing, timing, breathing, and alignment. Have a theme ready, but ditch it if you find it’s tripping you up. If music is required or recommended, choose appropriate songs that you enjoy practicing to, but don’t stress about making the perfect playlist. It’s your first class; no one expects everything to be exactly perfect. Keep your eye on the prize of serving your students, and table peripherals until you get more teaching time under your belt.
4. … Or the Big Stuff Either.
Employ a sense of humor and lightness to give an air of approachability to your new role as a yoga teacher. The energy and intention you bring to class affects each and every student, so why not have some fun? Use your own enjoyment in preparing for and teaching your first class as a barometer: if you’re enjoying yourself, there is a good chance your students will and are enjoying it, too. You smiling gives your students permission to smile. Commit to making your first class lighthearted and fun. Not only will an intention to enjoy take the pressure off, having fun will ensure your students leave your first class with good vibes.
5. Get and Be Real
In each and every class, yoga teachers have opportunities to truly shine. Oftentimes, these opportunities happen in the moments directly following a mishap. Did you stuff up your opening line? Totally ace one side of a sequence but space it and not do the other? Forget the next pose in the sequence or what it is called? Blunders happen, and probably more often than you think. Directly following a screw-up, get and be real.
Get real with your expectations of yourself. Mistakes happen, so go easy on yourself. Call in your sense of fun and humor, have a laugh, and move along. No one expects you to come out of teacher training as The Greatest Yoga Teacher That Ever Lived. Be gentle with yourself. Take a deep breath to center, tap into your confidence, and follow your instincts to recover. Be honest and real with your responses to mess-ups in class, and win the hearts of your students every time.
6. Enjoy the Process
Think about engaging with your new life as a yoga teacher like dating: we only get one first date with a new partner, one first kiss. Think of the way your heart thrills when your romantic interest calls or messages. Remember the excitement and butterflies, the nerves and fears. The hopes, curiosity, and genuine heart you bring to getting to know someone new.
Approach your role as yoga teacher as tenderly, accepting, and hopeful as you would a new relationship. Slow down. Enjoy where you are. You only get to teach your first yoga class once. Ever. Savor it. New experiences can be scary, sure, but trust yourself. It’s all part of the process. We have a limited number of “firsts” in this life; once they’re gone, they’re gone. We don’t get do-overs. So enjoy every moment of teaching your first yoga class, good or bad, along the way.
For your first yoga class, set yourself up for success: know your audience, your sequence, and practice teaching it. Get your priorities straight: focus on safety and alignment, breathing and cuing, and commit to having fun along the way. Get real to be real. Breathe. Approach your first class with humor, fun, honesty and a true heart to enjoy every moment, the nerves, the thrills, and the excitement of preparing for and teaching your very first yoga class.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Rachel Rannow, an intern for Yoga Travel Tree. Yoga Travel Tree (www.yogatraveltree.com) was inspired by the simple idea of creating rich, meaningful yoga adventures around the world. They know from experience that both travel and yoga can be transformative experiences for the mind, body, and soul. Yoga Travel Tree brings the two together to offer travel adventures for the young and the young at heart, for the advanced yogi and those just getting started, for the world traveler and the novice sojourner. All are welcome for a yoga adventure.
Photo credit: @baptisteyoga on Instagram