Twinkling blue eyes that reflected pain sometimes, a bit of fear at others, and always boundless joy and Love. Looking into the eyes of my friend Sally, you knew that you were accepted and trusted....
How to Teach an “All Levels” Yoga Class
One thing that I have learned over the last 14 years of owning my studio is that an all levels or combination class is a very important factor. Many of struggle to get every student we can possible get to walk through the door so we aren’t going to turn them a way and tell them that the Beginner’s class is tomorrow night, they may not come back again. Many times it take courage for people who have limited experience with yoga or even no experience at all to walk into a class. The last thing we want is to turn them away.
Now I am not talking about someone with a disability or health concern, but generally healthy individuals with limited knowledge of yoga. If safety is a concern, it is best to explain to them that perhaps another class would be more suited for their needs. We certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt. So here are some tips on getting everyone the most from the class.
1. My first tip is to train your students to be accepting and flexible. Most students know that studio can only survive if there are students. Most also know that everyone should be welcome. Most are very compassionate. However, from time to time, there will be those who become impatient. Part of our teachings of yoga is to be kind and accepting so this might be a good time to go over the lessons of Ahimsa again. And that kindness and friendliness is a huge part of our yoga lifestyle. I have been very blessed with a great group of students that not only are welcoming but will also help to make sure everyone feels at home.
2. Keep the class foundational and build upon that foundation. This probably isn’t the best time to introduce a new arm balance but most long time practitioners know what to do to if they aren’t getting enough out of the pose. I will always cue to the most modified form and work up from there. This way if a basic trikonasana works for the beginner’s but the sages may want to take it into a twist or drop the top arm back to open the chest, or step Dolphin up into a headstand, you got it covered. Make sure you give options with your cuing. But BEWARE: many times new students will attempt to go farther than they should, now it is time to remind everyone that where they are is good enough and that yoga is never competitive or about range Also teach them how to take breaks and regroup but still continue their breathing. But it is also important to make sure those more experienced get their moneys worth too so it is important to remind them to take the pose to a level appropriate.
3. Keep props on hand. Bolsters, blocks, straps and chairs can make a new student’s mixed level class go so much better. Have them on hand, and be ready to demonstrate how to use them.
4. Don’t forget about your regular students in class. Although you want to keep a close eye on your beginner’s, don’t sacrifice your regular students in the process. Your regular students are there for your classes on a regular basis, they deserve your attention in class as well.
5. Be encouraging. At the end of class make sure the newbie hears words of encouragement. This might be a good time also to let them know when the beginner’s class is if you have one. But if this is the only time slot available just keep doing this until they have caught up.
I have had several students in more established classes and they do fine. The first few classes may be a struggle but they will catch up to the class. Using these tips can help you make your All Level class a pleasure for everyone.