I taught my first yoga class last Saturday. Sure, I'm teaching seven-to-ten-year-olds, but who I'm teaching is really inconsequential...that I'm teaching at all is beyond comprehension! A year ago, I wasn't even taking yoga classes. What a trip to be where I am so quickly.
My first class was small but fun. There were only three girls in class that day, but it worked out because it gave me the opportunity to do some adjustments and assists, which I think is important because although the kids' asanas don't have to be perfect, having a good foundation in yoga will hopefully set them on the right path for a fulfilling, lifelong practice.
Teaching yoga is hard! Seriously!
Teaching yoga is a lot harder than most people would think. I'm certain that with time, it will become second nature (at least I hope so), but for now, it is the ultimate multi-tasking endeavor. I spent quite a bit of time sequencing the class beforehand, and I'm glad I did because of course, initially, I couldn't remember a thing and was thankful for my notes. But even with my notes, timing holds while watching the girls to ensure I'd be there to help as needed was quite challenging. And—Dolly warned us about this—even the best laid plans will go astray. I was all set to do a big group circle to learn more about the kids and their favorite asanas, and get them more connected to each other, but three girls hardly make a circle! So, I had to scratch that idea, which added time back into my class. But I did manage to build in some impromptu elements which enabled me to complete the class, with Savasana, right on time. I think the key is being in tune with the vibe of the class. Dolly has also talked about this—and it is clearly something that experienced teachers excel in, but just being connected, watching for cues tells you where you need to go next. For example, after running the girls through several rounds of Sun Salutations and a couple standing postures, I knew they'd be winded, so I had already planned Child in the sequence. What I didn't consider was that their little wrists aren't accustomed to all those Down Dogs and Chaturangas...when I saw one girl shaking out her wrists, I decided to stop where we were to do some wrist exercises to relieve some of the pressure/soreness, and I think they were grateful for it. I learned a lot from that, and I'm sure I will learn a lot more in the days to come.
Counting My Blessings
I think some people may think teaching yoga to kids is easy and doesn't really "count." Sure, it is much easier to sequence a 45-minute class as opposed to a 90-minute class. And yes, it's a lot less serious. But it's also an awesome responsibility and learning experience. I'm not only shaping these kids' initial impressions of yoga, which could make or break the experience for them for life, I'm a role model to them—that little tidbit didn't occur to me until after I taught my first class and thought about my own impressions of adults when I was a child. That, for me is a really big deal, especially for the girls in my class. In this day and age, there is so much emphasis on external beauty and kids are forced into an adult world so quickly that I feel even more of a responsibility to deliver empowering, nurturing messages—the yoga postures are really the medium for the message. I have no idea what the girls think of me at this point, but I know what it is to love, love, love your teacher—to be so positively affected that their lessons permeate your life. I would never presume myself important or talented enough to have this kind of effect on one of my students. If I did, that would be absolutely tremendous—I just want to make sure that I don't do anything to negatively affect them or ruin yoga for them. If in some way, I could inspire the kids, make them feel good about themselves, and make them love yoga, that's really the icing on the cake.
Wish me luck...I need all that I can get!