Teaching My First Yoga Class

Why Not Dive In?

As I mentioned in my first post, encouragement from Angela at Main Street Yoga is one of the major reasons I decided to start yoga teacher training. I’m not sure I would have applied without her prodding. I didn’t feel ready, but her encouragement convinced me to try. Now here I am, just waiting for that first training weekend in April.

I should also mention that Angela is that teacher who is not only great with beginning students, but also knows what her established students are capable of doing. If she thinks she can push you just a little more, she will. I’m usually really grateful for the push, too. So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised a few weeks ago when she asked me to sub for her at the end of March. That’s right. She wanted me to teach for her at the end of March. Training starts in April. So, I would be teaching my first yoga class a month before I start teacher training. Nothing like doing a cannonball into the pool!

The Planning Phase

Most of this post will probably apply to aspiring yoga teachers wondering what to expect when teaching that first yoga class. It will also likely ring true for those already teaching. That said, I hope it’s still fun for those of you who are students to see behind the curtain a bit on the planning behind teaching a yoga class. Your yoga teacher likely makes the whole thing look fun and effortless, as any good teacher should. There’s a lot of work that goes into that!

It probably sounds crazy, but it took far more time to pull together playlists than anything else. It surprised me a little bit just how much there is to consider! Next time you are in class, try tuning into the music a little. You’ll probably notice there’s a pace to it all. Each song builds and builds until you reach the peak of the practice, then slowly brings you back down into savasana. Listen to the transitions between songs. No transition should be too jarring or too long. Even the lyrics must be considered. Students are there to focus and leave the chaos of the day behind them for an hour, so lyrics need to be uplifting and positive. I spent probably a week and a half just pulling together the songs and then culling and arranging the final list.

Once my playlist was pulled together, I took to my mat. I know there are some teachers who just get up there and flow. Perhaps, with experience, I’ll be able to do the same, but I’m not ready for that yet. I wanted to have some sort of an outline of poses so that I could practice the class a few times. I flowed for a bit, paused to write down what I’d done, flowed a bit more. As I flowed, I got more ideas. I scratched out and rearranged poses, and tried it all again. Once I got a few sequences in the beginning worked out, the rest seemed to click together. Eventually, I had a good outline I could edit for time if necessary, or stretch a little more if needed.

I also practiced talking through the flow to let people know what poses were coming and how to get into them. It feels strange at first, since as a student, the focus is so inward. As a teacher, all of that focus needs to go out to the students. It gets complicated trying to demonstrate the pose, encourage proper breathing, and watch for students who need help, all while trying to talk and remember what comes next!

The last thing I practiced was facing the same way throughout the flow. This turned out to be the hardest thing for me, both in practice and in class. I had a lot of awkward moments trying to turn myself around so that my left side was facing out to the class instead of into the wall. I’m going to have to pay attention to how other teachers handle that as I take classes. Teacher training will also likely address the issue!

Teaching My First Yoga Class

To say I was nervous is an incredible understatement. Yes, I had planned my flows and practiced them. I practiced talking while doing them, and while just doing yoga in general. However, I had just run out of time trying to do it with either my husband or my sister as my guinea pig, so no one aside from my dogs had seen me do it. No one had been able to give me feedback (and the dogs just slept through my practice, so they were no help at all).

Sleeping dogs
Watching you practice teaching yoga class makes us tired, Mom.

Believe it or not, I was most nervous to teach the beginners class. It’s not that I don’t remember what it’s like to be a beginner. I certainly do. It is fair to say, though, that I haven’t been a beginner in awhile. I was also self-taught at that stage. Having never taken an actual beginners class at a studio, I wasn’t sure how well-suited I would be to the task. My biggest fear was that I wasn’t sure anyone would show up. Angela had made it known there would be a sub. I confess, I wondered if people would just skip the class rather than deal with someone they didn’t already know and trust.

It turns out those fears were unfounded. Not only did people show up, I had to ask people to rearrange themselves in the beginners class to make room for more students! They were exceptionally kind and patient with me as I led them through the flow I had prepared. They even applauded me at the end! I nearly cried at that. It was so unexpected and so kind and touching. I loved flowing with this class, and they gave me such a wonderful memory of teaching my first yoga class that I will always hold dear.

My regular Wednesday night crew had me feeling more at ease, since I knew them. I had also made it through teaching my first class with the beginners. There were a few new faces who seemed a little wary at first, but by the end of class they were smiling and seemed to be enjoying the flow. I helped them with headstand prep and crow. One of them did both almost immediately after I showed her how. Proud teacher moment for me! My Wednesday night friends had nothing but kind words for me after class. I genuinely cannot say enough how supportive and warm everyone was to me.

Teaching my first yoga class
Leading the Wednesday Night Crew through some Sun Salutations.

What Did I Learn?

Teaching my first yoga class (well, classes) was certainly a learning experience for me. Honestly, one of the first things I learned is that the decision to do my teacher training is definitely the right one. That, in itself, is a huge affirmation. I enjoyed the interactions with students and helping some people get into fun new poses. It’s so much fun to see a student experience the joy of success in achieving a pose.

I also learned to trust myself and my own intuition. I definitely needed the outline I had made for my flows. It helped tremendously in giving me a solid framework for class. However, I also changed, added to, and adapted the flow as I went. I tapped into the energy of the room as well as my own gut feeling to direct each sequence, tweaking it slightly as needed. Sometimes, the energy of a class is going to take me a little off of my plan, and that’s okay!

I’m so excited and energized from this experience, and I’m looking forward to my teacher training even more than I was before. Thanks again to Angela and the students at MSY for giving me the opportunity to share my love of yoga with them. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it. Namaste!