Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Instructor Suggestions

It only seems fair to have a Teacher Do and Don’t list after the previous posting. While some of these seem obvious, perhaps even redundant, sometimes a reminder is good. The studio I attend and lead classes at offers this acronym to its teachers and teacher trainees: A.S.S. Make the student(s) feel Accepted, Supported, and Safe.

I created this list from my personal experience, from talking to other teachers and students, and what I like to experience when I go to other studios. It’s by no means an all-inclusive list. Feel free to add any suggestions; I’m all for making a visit to a studio - be it the first time or the 100th time - personable and enjoyable.

Yoga Teacher Do’s and Don’t’s

1) Do try and make all students feel welcome. While it is fun and comfortable to chat with the regulars and catch up on the week, excuse yourself to talk to others. Try and include the quiet and shy ones.

2) Do introduce yourself to new/new-to-you** students, explain what the class will be like, and where the bathrooms/props are located.

3) Ask new/new-to-you students what yoga or exercise experience they bring to class; at the same time, ask if they have any injuries you should be aware of.

4) Do try and learn all the student’s names. Sign them in yourself, if you can, which is a great way to match name to face.

5) Do have the students introduce themselves to others at the start of a new session or when you seem to have an influx of new faces. I like to have them pair up, as a group question such as what is your favorite dessert, then introduce them to the whole class.

6) Class is not the time for your practice.  

7) Show ALL levels of the pose.  Try not to move into an advanced version of an asana if no one in your class is working there.  That's just showing off.    

7) Offer encouragement to a student if they look like they are flagging. Offer alternative poses to a student if they look like they are struggling. Please, do not tell that student in the middle of class that they “don’t seem to be making an effort and should perhaps not be in this class” (true story).

8) Try not to over-adjust new/new-to-you students. It is thrilling to have new faces, but at the same time just being in a new class may be overwhelming to them. Offer one or two suggestions and let them be – unless! They are doing something unsafe.

9) Please, don’t over-do the incense. Not everyone likes the smell and it can be a real turn-off. It can also be a detriment to anyone who is scent-sensitive. While I’m not scent-sensitive, when I walk into a studio that has four sticks of incense burning away in the front of a closed room, I tend to gravitate to the spot where I can get any kind of air movement that cuts the cloying smell. Not fun. Especially when I’ve paid for the session and can’t leave.

10) Please, don’t play the music too loud during Savasana. Internal reflection is hard when the chest cavity is thrumbing to Deval Premal’s latest.

11) Thank the whole class for coming. They made the time and effort to be there – something we should not take for granted. If possible, check in with new students after class and inquire how class went for them.

(**new students  = new to the studio, you have not seen how they move before; new-to-you = you've seen them around the studio, or in other classes in a gym setting, you have an idea how they move)

photos from YogaJournal.com

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year Reminders

A new year tends to also bring new students.  This is a great time to gently remind the regulars and start our new students off on the right foot with some class basics.  Don't assume everyone knows proper class etiquette or mat basics.  If possible, post the list in a spot where people can read it while waiting for class to start. 

Yoga Class Dos and Don'ts

By Tim Noworyta (YogaJournal.com)

Picture from freeyogapictures.com

Here are some ways to get more out of the yoga classes you attend:

DO arrive early. Getting to class about 10 minutes early can help you settle in and align your attitude with the purpose of the class. While you're waiting you can practice a pose, do a few stretches, or just sit or lie quietly, breathe, and get centered.

DON'T eat for two or three hours before class. If you practice yoga on a full stomach, you might experience cramps, nausea, or vomiting, especially in twists, deep forward bends, and inversions. Digesting food also takes energy that can make you lethargic.

DO let your teacher know about injuries or conditions that might affect your practice. If you are injured or tired, skip poses you can't or shouldn't do, or try a modified version.

DO create an intention. To help you focus, you might find it helpful to dedicate your practice to a certain intention. This might be to become more aware and understanding, more loving and compassionate, or healthier, stronger, and more skillful. Or it might be for the benefit of a friend, a cause—or even yourself.

DON'T bring pagers or cell phones to class. Leave socializing and business outside the studio, so the peace of the practice is not disturbed.

DO be quiet. It's great to share a class with people you know, but it can be distracting to yourself and others to have an extended or loud conversation.

DO bring a towel or your own mat if you sweat a lot, and arrive clean and free of scents that might distract or offend others.

DON'T push it. Instead of trying to go as deeply or completely into a pose as others might be able to do, do what you can without straining or injuring yourself. You'll go farther faster if you take a loving attitude toward yourself and work from where you are, not from where you think you should be.

DO pick up and neatly put away any props you use.

[If possible] DON'T enter class late or leave early; it's disruptive to others.

DO take time afterwards to think about what you did in class, so you can retain what you learned. Review the poses you practiced, and note any instructions that particularly made sense. Even if you remember just one thing from each class, you'll soon have a lot of information that can deepen your own personal practice.

I'd like to add, that some of the above needs to be tempered by reality - ie, where you teach may play a huge part.  For those of us who teach in a gym setting or with a community ed program, you probably will have people coming in late and leaving early.  I try to accommodate the latecomers by having space available so students already grounded will not have to move their mats around.  Often easier said than done, some people just don't like to move their mat once settled.  Ask people to roll mats out quietly rather than with that rushed "smack!". 

Same for people leaving early.  This may be their only opportunity to attend a yoga class, and all they have is that one hour for lunch.  That means 10 minutes to change, 40 minutes for class, 10 minutes to shower/change and return to work.  Not much time. 

And I can't emphasise prop cleanliness enough.  Please stress to students to clean the borrowed mats off.  Even better, encourage students if possible to obtain their own mat.

If you have any other observations, please share!  We're all in this together...

Picture from yogajournal.com