Posted in Teaching yoga, wellness, Yoga, yoga class, yoga students

Yoga with my Students

*Image courtesy of samarttiw @

As a new yoga teacher, I try really hard to stay conscious of “bad” habits such as using passive language and being cautious of “doing” the poses with the class unless they need to see an example. My personal goal as a yoga teacher is to teach to my students so that they can take from the class what they need. I set intentions for the class making sure there is a clear focus on what my plan is for the class and I am cognizant of watching the class to make sure that everyone is “OK.”

Last night however, was a slow night and I only had one person show up for the class. Rather than send her home, I offered her  a private yoga session so that she could still reap the benefits of yoga and not feel like it was a waste of her time to drive over. It’s very rare that this happens so I embraced it and ran with it.  What an amazing experience it was and I am so happy it happened to fall that way.  I started class as usual, sitting quietly for a few minutes to clear the mind and tune into the breath. I had planned to do hip openers for the class but after talking with my student  before class, it was clear that what she really needed was to connect her breath with everything that she did, from movements to intentions. It was a simple but profound focus for the hour but an amazing amount of energy and exhilaration was flooded forth as the practice continued.

As stated earlier, I truly do try and refrain from practicing with the class.

First off, it is not my practice it is for them. 
Secondly, it’s really hard to give a direction from downward facing dog. 
Third, well it’s just not practical because it’s too easy to get lost in your own practice and lose sight of those whom really need the attention.

 However, as I began the warm up and moved into the meat of the practice, I noticed something that this particular student does not usually do…she was looking around, she looked lost, she looked distracted. My first instinct was to redirect her, repeat the intention of connecting the breath, remind her it was her practice, but  rather than creating the comfort I thought these tactics would bring, it made the room more tense. Stumped, I listened to my gut and jumped into the practice with her. Was it challenging for me to direct and practice at the same time? YES it was! Was I thinking this is not right? I should not be doing this? YES I was! But did it bring continuity and comfort and re-connection to her practice? Yes it did!

Some of you may say that this was coddling my student. Some of you would say that I caved under pressure. You are probably saying I should have continued to work through the discomfort. But to me that is not yoga. Not to mention, that to me, that mentality does not embody the essence of what yoga is all about.

My understanding of yoga is that one should not experience painful discomfort, that pushing the body past what it can tolerate is not honoring your body. To me, the body is more than just the physical, tangible body. It is also the mind, the spirit and soul. Yoga is a connection of the mind and the body, its the meditative state the is developed through each of the poses that creates a yoga state of being.

By being with my student, experiencing what she was experiencing, and creating a sense of comfort and calm she was able to focus on her breath more clearly and ease her fear of inadequacy or embarrassment. Each of her inhales and exhales were done with intention and purpose. Poses that she was struggling with earlier in the practice, she was able to dig deep and hold, appreciate and enjoy. When she had trouble with a pose, I was able to dig into the root of the problem by having her watch me do the pose. As she watched  I was able to step back after the demonstration and help her understand when to use the muscular energies and the organic energies. I was able to see where her strengths and weaknesses were and together we conquered the practice. Was it choppier that some of the other practices with a full class? Yes. But being able to break things down with her helped her to understand where her body was and what it’s potential with continued practice can bring.

Would I change how I went about the practice yesterday night? No.  I think that it was just as it was supposed to be.  She learned about her body and what she was capable of by feeling secure and safe. She was able to take poses that she struggled with and saw how making the experience personal by staying in tune with the breath can enhance the bodies ability to do amazing things.  At the end of class as savasana was coming to a finish. As she sat up and reoriented herself the glow of accomplishment, the sense of self and the feeling of calm emanated from her face.

I am so glad that every once in a while it is “OK” to break the rules and just go with the flow of a practice. Each time, an opportunity is going to present itself, and this particular opportunity helped to  make me a better teacher.  I was called on to not only feel the atmosphere and see its profound affects on a practice, but I  also had to dig deep into myself and describe the poses  from the poses and the students perspective.  By doing this, the practice offered me powerful tools in helping my student get the most out of her practice.  For that I am grateful~

Written By Julie S.