I have been introducing yoga to sailors cruising the globe for four years now and I love it. I did not only grow as a student but as a teacher and my realisation “light bulb” has switched on—I love to teach beginners!
It lights me up seeing the look on their faces and conversations after class, how much they enjoyed it, but most of all, I love their comments. Most common remarks are: “I thought I could never do yoga,” “I feel so light,” “My mood after yoga gets me through the day,” “My back is improving,” “I feel better after just three classes.”
My self practice keeps me focused as I continue my traveling yoga journey and I find room to grow along the way.
Sometimes I have struggled as a teacher. I find more often, not to introduce advanced asanas with my teachings, as I am often not in one place too long and it just isn’t appropriate for my students when they are often new to yoga. I keep it simple with glimpses of advanced progress from me as a teacher.
I find teaching preparations a mindful experience involving quiet time to decide the flow of asanas/postures, music, words to inspire, but the more I teach the more I have learned my preparations are often almost void and my plans quickly shift based on who is at my new location and joining my classes. Quite often one student will change my whole routine planned, but I love that it challenges me as a teacher and helps me grow. After all, this is not my practice but theirs.
Teaching beginners slows the whole class down, allowing transitions to be enjoyed by all students regardless of flexibility.
Prior to teaching beginners, I take a few moments to demonstrate various parts of the vinyasa flow practice, showing hand and feet placement, also the importance of not rounding the spine. I also demonstrate Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog to encourage beginners the importance of resting if needed.
I endeavor to teach from a place of compassion and understanding, emotions are clearly shown on beginners faces, some are nervous, they are questioning their capabilities, and some are worried as they do not want to get hurt or look foolish in their eyes. I use words of encouragement, and remind them that I was new to yoga once also, and that although I am teaching them, they in turn will teach me.
I not only slow the practice but my verbal cues, I speak in plain text limiting the ancient yoga language “Sanskrit” to eliminate beginner’s being overwhelmed by not only yoga, but a new language.
I encourage beginners by using humour, for example, take Tree Pose, they start to sway loose focus, I remember my teacher saying this once in a class holding this pose, “If you fall out just take a few people out with you”—the class always laughs, it reminds them to not take themselves so serious. Teaching the second side of Tree Pose, they are more relaxed and manage to hold the pose a little longer, and not be overwhelmed if they loose focus & start to sway!
The mindful practice, meditation, benefits beginners by becoming aware of their breath, and instills the beginning of using their breath as a tool throughout practice, to help steady and focus them, which in turn relaxes the nervous system and centers students prior and after class.
By Leanne Hembrow, 200-hr YTT graduate
Check out Leanne’s teacher profile to learn more.