For most new yoga teachers, there are two emotions surrounding teaching your first class: excitement and fear. No matter how prepared we feel from our yoga teacher training, how many times we practice a sequence in front of the mirror, or how much time we spend practicing Sanskrit, stepping in front of a class of yoga students for the first time is downright terrifying.
There are many things that “can go wrong,” even with the best of training. It’s good to know that this happens to everyone, both new and experienced teachers.
This is a list of the things that “went wrong” in my yoga class and how I recovered from them.
Unexpected City Noise
Every Saturday, I teach a restorative, blissful class in Downtown Seattle. I’ve got a killer playlist and a relaxing, juicy sequence. And an inspirational theme that ties it all together. It happens: a jackhammer begins to pound the sidewalk; a leaf blower revs up its engine just outside the window. People on the street yell, sing, and swear.
Every week, it seems that something happens outside the studio, which is in direct contrast to what’s happening inside. In this situation, the only thing I could do was to use it as a chance to elaborate on my weekly themes.
The chaos outside of the studio reminds us that we have a lot to do in order to achieve our goals, whether it’s cultivating inner peace or being present.
The Left and Right are not the Same
This is a mistake I have made in every yoga class I’ve taken. Truthfully, I’ve always had a problem with left and right.
Although I would like to mirror my students to make it easier for them to choose which side to face, this would completely stifle my teaching style and the flow of my classes. To avoid this, I position myself perpendicularly to my students. So I can show them my side without looking backward.
If you find yourself moving around in class and you forget which side you are on, go to the back. You can find out which student’s hand you are facing by standing at the back. It has saved my life!
Your Playlist is Shuffled
I thought I’d learned my lesson after the first time, but I still tend to forget this in the setup for the class. I will have the perfect playlist ready, but I fail to set my music to shuffle. The next thing I know, we’re moving from ambient music to Hip Hop. Whoops!
You don’t want to draw attention to this mistake if it happens to you. Slowly fade out the music as quickly as possible. Then, fade in the song that you want to hear. The more gradual the change, the better.
The mistake itself is not what takes students away from their practice. It’s our reaction to the error. Keep your response to yourself as much as possible, and do what you can to correct the mistake.
Students with Sensitivities
We all know as teachers that we must ask students first before we adjust them or enter their space. As I found out the hard way, we should also ask students if they have any allergies or sensitivities to anything that is used in class.
I loved getting to the studio early to set the mood and use incense and candles. Then, I heard from students on several occasions that the intensity was making them uncomfortable. This is an important reminder that things we find pleasant or calming may make others feel uncomfortable.
I ask my students if it is okay to use incense or essential oils in their space, whether that’s the group area or personal room.
You Run Out Of Props
It’s not a big problem for Vinyasa classes, but props can be a real issue in Restorative and Yin Yoga classes. I’ve taught classes where I couldn’t provide everyone with as many props as I had planned. The first time, I did not realize that some students lacked a bolster until halfway through class.
Two things I do now: 1) I always have a backup plan for poses requiring a lot of props. I suggest a few props to each student until I have a better idea of how many students will be attending class. If there’s time left before class, I will start giving out extra props. Or, I can bring in all the extras and give them to students when I see the need.
It is important to have a backup plan to be aware of your students and make sure that they are being supported by the props you use and your teaching.
What I KNOW about yoga is that things WILL go wrong. You’ll have a bad day, trip over your words, or your music will not play. You’ll think the class was a total disaster. You also need to understand that if you don’t show up with authenticity and share your voice and knowledge, you won’t be able to make a difference.
No awkwardness or mistakes you make in class will stop your students from returning if they can connect with you.