By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
There are many different aspects to consider when you are teaching Yoga classes on a professional basis. As a certified Yoga instructor, you have the ability to teach classes to many different levels of students in a wide variety of settings. For example, you may find yourself teaching strenuous Power Yoga classes to a very fit group of college students on a Wednesday evening, and then a gentle, restorative class to a group of patients who are recovering from serious illnesses on a Thursday morning.
In order to adeptly and effectively teach a wide range of Yoga styles, including various levels of classes, it is important to well versed in the foundational postures, as well as specific stylistic nuances. It is also important to be able to approach your students in a kind, gentle and respectful manner. At times, this may prove difficult for you. As you consider approaching one of your Yoga students during class, in order to adjust and correct a student’s alignment in a pose, it is important to monitor your own internal dialogue about that student’s practice.
For instance, if you have a student who often comes to class ten or fifteen minutes late and is quite frazzled for the first part of her practice, you may find that you have quite a negative internal dialogue about her apparent lack of commitment to the practice and her inability to manage her time well. What you may not know about this student’s personal life is that she is spending a substantial amount of time taking care of a sick parent or child, which often delays her arrival to class.
In a situation such as this, you may want to consider finding some time to talk privately with your student, in order to find out what delays her timely arrival to class. When you understand your student’s particular life situation, you will most likely feel more compassion about his or her late arrival to class. On the other hand, if your student is unaware that her late arrival disrupts the class, by compassionately and clearly communicating your strong preference for your students to be “on the mat” and ready to start class on time, you will be honestly speaking your truth.
Although you may not be aware of it, if you approach your students in a compassionate, honest and simple way during class, the clarity of the reflection that you will be providing to them about how they behave in class, will often mirror their behavior in other areas of their lives. By truthfully and compassionately stating your needs as a professional Yoga teacher to your students, you will be honoring your own needs as a teacher and setting an example for your students about how to communicate in a respectful and nonjudgmental manner. This nonharmful way of communicating is directly in accordance with the ethical code of conduct that is found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is also the cornerstone of the practice of Nonviolent Communication.
Additionally, by approaching your students truthfully and kindly during a class, you will facilitate a deepening of their Yoga practice. On a purely physical level, by giving your students accurate feedback about how they are performing a particular asana, you will offer them an opportunity to adjust how they are holding a pose, so that their practice enhances the flow of energy throughout their body, instead of straining a muscle or ligament. At first, you may find it tricky or intimidating to approach your Yoga students about their alignment in a posture, but over time you will become more comfortable about correcting your students’ alignment in the postures.
One of the very cornerstones of teaching a Yoga class well, is to offer your students correct and precise alignment instructions, as they move in and out of the asanas. Another aspects of a fruitful Yoga practice, is to offer your students truthful and compassionate feedback about how they are engaging in their practice on the mat, as well as how they are treating themselves, the other students in class, and even you, as their instructor! In this way, the practice of Yoga becomes a rich and illuminating metaphor for how they are moving through the journey of life itself.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.