Be Prepared: Welcoming New Year’s Students instead of Wishing them Away.

by on December 29, 2015 · 0 comments

in Thoughts on Teaching

Prepare for the Resolutions


It’s that time of year. People who want change in their life are looking for something healthy to begin in January. I applaud those who desire to change, and recognize January as a crucial time to ensure so many new people have a great first experience with their yoga journey. There’s also the other side of the coin. Packed yoga spaces, late arrivals, “newbies” (gasp).  For those that love a routine, (teachers and students) this can feel like an invasions. January is a great month for studio owners, but sometimes a challenge for yoga teachers and regular students. Hopefully these tips will help you survive the influx of those new to the path of yoga.

  1. If you are signing up a new student, ensure you ask about practice history or any ailments or injuries you need to be aware of. Explain that you want their yoga experience to be enjoyable, and part of that is ensuring you are working with any injury or ailment they may have.
  2. Cover Etiquette and Expectations at the beginning of each class, or when announcements are given. Have your Etiquette and/or Expectations speech prepared and succinct. Here’s how the one at our Studio goes — “All personal items in the cubbies, cell phones on Silent, no shoes on the studio floor. Only have your cell phone near you if you are on call for work. If you come in late, and we are sitting silently while centering, please wait until we begin moving to enter the studio. A person’s mat is their personal and revered yoga space. Please do not step on anyone’s mat but your own. If you must leave early, please let a teacher know, so that we know that you are ok. “
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask a veteran student to show a new student around if you have a line of people waiting to sign up. Ask them to show a student where the props are, help them setup a mat, show them the facilities, etc. This helps develop rapport and is a nice way to help someone feel welcomed.
  4. Let students know at the beginning of class, that you are available for questions and feedback after class is over. If a student offers you the “That was a great class” comment, be sure and let them know you’re interested in the aspects of class they were beneficial. This helps identify your natural strengths as a teacher.
  5. Plan! If you’re accustomed to teaching mixed level, or a popular time slot where a wide range of students show up, it can be difficult to plan. However, if there’s a chance that 1/3rd of your students will be new, it’s a good idea to supplement your normal routine with modifications. Have a down-level and an up-level for each pose. Begin the poses with the modified version and begin working into the base level of the pose, and prepend the up-level demonstration with “If you have been practicing X pose for at least X number of months, you may choose the X expression of the pose.” But be prepared for at least one new student to throw every ounce of effort at a pose to attempt to muscle through it. It happens. Aren’t ego’s wonderful?
  6. Rehearse. I know it takes a lot of time to teach and to practice. Throw in a couple of hours of planning and there’s not much time to even clean your mat at the end of the day. If you’re not used to teaching a whole row of new people in the back of the room peppered in with your normal crowd, then you may look like you don’t have it together once things get tricky. Avoid this by rehearsing your phrases and words to include beginners in an otherwise experienced group of students.
  7. Move around the room. If you’re accustomed to practicing with your students, know that it’s not always a choice with a room full of beginners. Place yourself in a manner where you can view student’s alignment and assess the situation quickly. If you have the class in warrior II, look from the side and from the front, start with the foundation of the pose in the feet. Check length of the pose between feet, check that knees are not moving past ankles. Correct quickly with words and move onto the 2nd side of the body. This time make it around to the students you noticed doing side A with poor alignment, but did not have time to address.
  8. Don’t be too critical of beginner’s. I allow beginner students to get away with a few postural issues in the beginning. I usually only correct something that may cause injury down the road. I always reinforce with the words “Great!, Good!, Beautiful!, You Got it!”. In the beginning, yoga can be almost overwhelming for some people. It’s a group setting, lots of bodies, odd words, strange movements and everyone seems to know what’s going on except for “the new people”. Keep that in mind.
  9. Give credit where credit is due. You’re a great teacher. You’ve been through training and have countless hours of practice over several years. You know what works, what feels nice, what opens you up for the flow and what lifts you to the highest pinnacle. You also know how to cool things down, and lull students into a dreamy savasana. To the new student, this is new and exciting and YOU did it to them. If a student comes to you after class with sparkly eyes, and an afterglow to share with you that you’re amazing, kindly pay them the credit they deserve. Remind them that what they feel is their life force (or prana) surging through their body, and that it’s because they put in the work. Remind them that their experience comes from inside and can always be accessed by stepping on their mat and doing the asanas. We are the lights that illuminate the path so those who walk it, can confidently make the journey, step by step.
  10. Follow up with new students after class. Ask them if they enjoyed the class and encourage them to come back. Also ensure students with injuries were able to work, ‘pain-free’ throughout your class. Feedback from your students is an easy, free and important catalyst for change and growth in your teaching practice.

If you teach several classes a week, you may notice that it takes more effort to take on additional new students. Be aware of your energy level. Do something kind for yourself, maybe practice with an old friend or visit a neighboring studio. This is the time of year where your expertise in health and balance will be highly sought for those looking to make a change for the New Year. Hopefully this list of things will help you keep your own balance as you help others to find their own. Namaste.

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