Diary of a Happy Yogi: Ten Things Your New Yoga Teacher Probably Wants To Tell You But Can’t
By: Ashley Whimpey
- Your teacher is nervous to meet you too. Getting a new yoga teacher can be exciting, or it can be so anxiety invoking it seems like even a good class won’t even ease the feelings. Your least favorite poses could be all strung together, you could stop being able to hear the instructions and get lost, or the playlist could fail to please your eardrums. As a frequent “new yoga teacher” myself, I ask you to consider the instructor’s side. They don’t yet know your level or wanted areas of focus. They want to make a good impression so that you continue on any yoga journey (not just with them). They have thoughts like: “what if they don’t like me? What if they give up on this wonderful thing I love after today because of me?” They are about to spend an hour or more giving as much as they can to try and balance between auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners—constantly under the student observation. When both sides lower their guard, the energy in the class flourishes.
- They do want you to fall…just a little. No teacher wants you to fail, but they do want to see you try. Often falling means you’ve just pushed the former limit of your growth. A faceplant in crow is another step toward knowing the balancing point.
- It’s cool to roll out next to someone. Especially in a smaller class, it can be really awkward for a teacher when the students all spread to opposite corners. It’s easier to pace and check on a class that is moving more as a unit than individual parts. You don’t have to ask them to dinner or to spot you, but it’s really cool when new yogis create community and ask to roll out their mat next to each other.
- Get a block. Leave your pride at the door. Whether it’s a block, a strap, a blanket, or a bolster—if you even think you might maybe want a prop—get one. Some really advanced poses actually advance further by having a prop. It’s not a sign of weakness to get one, but it’s a sign of missing humility if the teacher asks the class to grab one and you opt out.
- This is not a religion. While yoga does have a role in some major religions around the world, it by itself is not one. Most classes have chanting, meditation, or a moment to “set an intention” in class (where you envision what you want out of the class that day: inner calm, strength, a headstand, forgiveness). None of these is mandatory or necessarily religious. Yoga is a mind-body meditation practice, where your focus is meant to come in to evaluate (kindly and objectively) the way your body maneuvers. Think of it like a tune-up for your motions and internal functions. Making it a religious experience is certainly an option if you choose to say a prayer or dedicate your practice to a higher being, but that is not the use of yoga.
- Come with the intention of staying around. A one-time class is just enough time to get your toes wet. Many teachers build up their classes a little once they see some regulars. Coming once is a good way to try out a teacher, see if you like their music/style/cues, but it’s not enough to fully know if it’s a good fit for you. Come back at least twice, and give it a solid whole-hearted chance.
- Breathe loudly. I always ask my classes in certain poses to breathe louder. The sound of breath is comforting, first because it tells me they’re all breathing out there. Other than just liking the sound as well, it helps other more self-conscious students get more into their breath. When the person next to you is huffing on purpose it encourages you to join the white noise of inhale-exhale.
- Practice non-attachment. It’s really great to have goals. It’s exceptional to strive toward them, practice them, and learn about them. It’s also good to laugh at yourself. Many yoga poses come as spontaneous combinations of other foundation poses, so focusing only on the end asana (pose) won’t get you there as quickly or solidly. Non-attachment is wanting the pose, working toward the pose, and not having elation or deflation at not completing it. The intention is there, the expectation is not.
- Ask questions. When a curious student asks a question, the whole class benefits. Yoga teachers don’t want to be completely confusing, so if they give a cue that doesn’t make sense, ask them to clarify. Ask about your specific needs. Ask about the music they used. Ask about what poses you can do at home for X, Y, Z.
- Please don’t roll up too soon. Stick around for just a bit. Don’t disturb your neighbor. Let yourself be present and melted for just a few minutes, and stay for savasana.
For more information on Mason Rec yoga classes, visit our website.