Truth be told, my first three or four classes were disasters.
I had landed an excellent opportunity to teach yoga once a week at a posh apartment complex in their new fitness facility. The yoga room was small, but incredibly neat and tidy. White walls. Blonde, hardwood flooring, and a mirrored wall.
I arrived thirty minutes early to set up. By set up, I mean plug in my laptop (so we could have some music) and lay out my notes.
Yes. I took notes to my first class.
At the top of my yoga mat was a row of papers with images of yoga poses with notes about Sanskrit names, English names, and origins. I was terrified that I would forget what poses I had planned to do and what they were called.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve practiced or trained to do and teach yoga. Your first class is scary.
When three, tally, thin blondes walked in with yoga mats in hand, my nervous became shot even more. These women were serious business about their yoga. High end stretch pants sat on equally high end yoga mats while my thrift store t-shirt and glorified stretchy pants took their place on a sixty dollar mat that I had saved for weeks to purchase.
I rang a gong and took a Hero Pose in the middle of my mat which was in the middle of the room, because the way the room was shaped, the middle was the only place I could fit. I asked if they had all done yoga before, and one of them said they had been practicing for years. The other two girls nodded along.
The class began well with meditation and some silent breath work. Then, the yoga asana started. We began in standing and moved from pose to pose. I moved with them watching the mirrors to see how the ladies were doing.
The pace started increasing, and as I called out pose after pose, I heard the breathing in everyone get quicker and quicker. The pace continually increased. We landed in Child’s Pose to rest before our ending meditation in Corpse Pose.
I sat up to sip my water and glanced at the clock. It was 6:30p.
We had done the entire one hour class in 30 minutes.
I was mortified. What else was I supposed to do for the next 30 minutes? I had never done this before. I felt completely dumbfounded.
Now, let me just add here that I had been doing yoga for years, years before I started teaching. I knew my stuff then just like I know my stuff now, but when caught unprepared with no one else in the room to help you but you, you get a little … sick.
Summoning all of the fearlessness inside me, I asked the ladies to sit up. I said something like, “Okay. That was a great first round. Do you have any questions before we do again to its full expression?” They were silent, so we banged out another round of the same yoga poses that were on my cheat sheets at the head my yoga mat in even less time.
I made a two big mistakes in my first class
- I did not talk.
- I went too fast
The reason that the one hour class only took 30 minutes and then 20 minutes to perform a second time was that I wasn’t talking. I was saying the Sanskrit and English names of the poses and asking people to inhale and exhale. But that was it! I gave no real instruction.
And by giving no real instruction, I made no real connection.
Connection is what makes a teacher. Connection is bridge between knowing and understanding.
After that first class, I only had about five more.
My class attendance went from three to one and then to none. Back then, I had no idea why. I was qualified and knowledgeable. It made no sense to me that people would stop showing up.
Honestly, at that time in my life, I thought it was all because the people who were coming were lazy. The classes were free. Yep. Free. So why else would people not come to a free yoga class?
Because the teacher sucked.
That was the cold, hard truth of it. I sucked as a yoga teacher. When I finally realized it was me, I dove into more reading, more practicing, and testing. I gave away free lessons to my friends and family cultivating my teaching skills.
After over 10 years of teaching, my classes are always full, my students are safe and happy to be challenged by their yoga practice.
No one yoga teacher is for everybody, but we can be open to everybody.