Many yoga teachers experiment with different methodologies in teaching their classes. Your choice may depend on many different factors, such as class type, class level, location, target outcome, and so on.
But regardless of audience or the kind of class you are teaching, that very first yoga class is probably the most important one of all. It’s where you make a connection and build rapport. It’s where you have a window to form a bond that makes your class engaging, enjoyable, and worthwhile.
Here are a few ways you can create a bond with your students as a new yoga teacher and see results from the first class.
1. Keep Your Eyes on Your Message
The most important thing of all is to first get you into the right attitude. What puts you on the right track is keeping your heart focused on the purpose of your teachings.
A yoga teacher should repeat their message all the time until it becomes a kind of affirmation. “I am here to help. To ease pains. To provide relief. To teach tools that make a world of difference in a person’s life.”
2. Remember: “It’s about them, not me.”
If you did not foster and fuel the good reasons that made you decide to teach yoga in the first place, you will likely focus on yourself more than your students and message.
If you fell into the trap of obsessive attention to you, the teacher, worrying about negative feedback or students never showing up again or even poor demonstration of poses, you will very likely become a narcissistic teacher who is basically giving themselves a yoga class.
The minute your ego steps in, you are detached from your students. So always keep your ego in check!
3. You Are Not in Complete Control
You need to accept the fact that you cannot entirely control how the class will go or how fast or slow your students' learning process will be.
Even if you teach the same level class over and over, you will still be teaching in a context that differs from each and every class—students' backgrounds, emotional struggles, physical fitness, the traffic to your place, etc. This context is out of your direct control, and all you can do is your best to maximize the positive experience.
4. Invest Extra Time
Life is busy, that is correct. But if you wish to really connect with your students, go the extra mile.
Arrive a little bit early for class, 10 minutes at least. Share some information about yourself including your background, qualifications, personal page or website, why you enjoy teaching yoga, etc.
Then, try to stay for a while after class. Chat with your yogis and address any questions they may have. Ask them about their experiences or concerns related to yoga practice.
5. Provide a Lens for the Future
You need to paint a picture for the future. Demonstrate how people will be affected by the practice, how bodies change and respond with time, and how fruitful this hard work will be.
A perspective for the future serves two purposes. First, it fuels the passion in you, which is contagious that everyone in your class will catch it. Second, it redirects students' focus from present struggles and hardships to future improvements and accomplishments, encouraging them to stick to their practice even when they get frustrated or want to quit.
Unless your class is super advanced, and your students have their yogic bases covered by years of learning and experience, you need to link what you teach to its benefits.
Research has shown that if people do not understand the worthiness of a learning activity in terms of time and effort, they might not engage truly, or may even disengage entirely in response.
By laying out benefits (whether spiritual, mental, or physical) and highlighting the value of a yoga practice, students’ engagement is more likely to be full and thorough.
7. Keep a Certain Level of Challenge in Your Classes
To keep the class interesting, push your students a little bit further away from their comfort zone to improve their performance.
Yes, yoga is not a competition nor a CrossFit class. It’s a learning journey, and studies have proved that competence creates strong motive to go on. A good level of competence can only be achieved by providing a class that is only slightly beyond students' current levels of proficiency.
8. Give Them Space
Give the students the time they need to understand and absorb a position by themselves. If you interfere more than needed, they are more prone to forget, get confused, feel embarrassed, or become dependent on your adjustments.
9. Lead By Example
If you wish your students to be friendly, open and engaged, lead the way.
Let the smile be a natural part of your facial impressions. Use informational language, not a controlling one, and welcome your students' thoughts and opinions all the time.
Yoga is one of the rare paths in life that can be a successful career and a community service. Nurture your relationship with students—listen and care genuinely—and your teaching can be both.
You should also never forget that you'll never be THE perfect teacher, and that you'll always be a student yourself. You’ll constantly and continuously learn new ways to teach and serve, and every time you do, your teaching skills will improve and you’ll become not only a better person, but also a better yogi and a better yoga teacher.