Teaching & Managing Open Levelled Classes!

Here are my 7 top tips to help you survive, and thrive in an open level environment;

1. Give yourself a break

You cannot please 100% of people a 100% of the time.

As long as we offer relevant options and modifications along the way, it’s really up to our students to pick the one that best suits them.

I’m definitely not suggesting that you teach irreverently, no way, our number one intention is to serve our students as best we can, but remember that our best base level changes with time and experience.

2. Be prepared

When you sit down to create and prepare your sequences, always have your students in mind.

If you’re building a sequence around a peek pose have some alternative options hidden under your elastic waist band.

For example, if you’re working towards crow pose, it’s a smart idea to be ready for these possible responses:

  • I’m a complete beginner
  • I have a wrist injury
  • I’m scared of arm balances
  • I’m not strong enough
  • I Just don’t want to do it today
  • I feel and look stupid

Of course you cannot please everyone, it’s not your job, just be prepared for a varying array of responses to your pose choices and sequencing.

Now, let’s get back to the crow pose example.

If I was smart, I would have the following options and responses at the ready – 

‘If you’re super new to yoga, or you’re a little scared of crow pose, give yourself a break, don’t worry about nailing it first time. Simply attempt the shape and enjoy the process of which stumbling and falling is a big part of’

‘Those with wrist issues, or if your not up for being on your wrists today, then feel free to remain in squat or get on your back, and do the reclined variation we visited earlier in the class”

3. Set yourself a personal goal each class

You might challenge yourself to get off your mat and move around the room more, this will give you a different view and enable you to interact more closely with your students. This can help make your classes feel more intimate and connected. It can also challenge those people hiding at the back!

Another example that I have done in the past has been to encourage everyone, from complete beginner to long time student, to do the modification of a pose instead of  the ‘full’ pose. This can greatly challenge the more advanced practitioners in the room, as it’s asking them to do less which can prick the ego 

What goals could you set yourself to help you creatively, compassionately and intelligently navigate multi levelled madness?

4. Encouragement

when you come to teach a tricky pose, geared more towards the more experienced practitioners in the room, encourage the lesser experienced people to get stuck in, It’s not a spectators sport after all. Encourage them to simply attempt the shape of the pose and remind them that this is the starting point to eventually achieving the pose!

I used to joke that if you really didn’t want to try, then to at least support, be amazed and inspired by your neighbours efforts. It used to get a laugh anyway.

5. Be patient with yourself

Experience can’t be forced into being. Your teaching will mature as you do and no amount of teacher trainings can make that happen any faster! Go with it, keep doing the work and you will become the teacher you dream of being.

6. Reframe how you ask for injuries

It seems crazy to ask a group of people, who are more often than not complete strangers, for a brief summery of all their injuries! Let’s be frank, you probably wont remember who has what ailment once the class is in full swing.

Instead I would suggest, at the beginning of every class say something like this….

“ If you are working with any injuries practice very mindfully. If something hurts then find a way to make it more comfortable for you. I will offer alternatives along the way but it’s up to you to find what variation of the pose suits you the most. Feel free to come to me at the end of class if you have any questions”

If a student does come to you at the end of class wanting help, relate their injury directly to the practise, this reminds the student that you are there to teach yoga and not to diagnose or fix their injury. You could say something like;

“What poses seem to aggravate and irritate your injury?”

Then together, agree on some personal changes that the student can make to their practise. This way you are doing your job brilliantly and not that of a physiotherapists terribly and even dangerously.

7. Let it go

If you teach in the vinyasa style this will apply to you the most. Does this sound familiar?

“Feel free to skip the next vinyasa” Or “Come into cobra instead of up dog” or “Bring the knees down for chaturanga for this round” to then be completely ignored?!

Yep, thought so…

Remember, we are not only working with bodies we are also working with people’s personalities, emotional responses, internal resistances and personal pain thresholds to name but a few aspects of what is to be human.

Yes, you may think that a student with only 2 days experience should lay off the chaturangas and modify until he/she gets the technique down, but you know what? sometimes people will do what they want to do regardless of expert advise.

This is when we have to step back and let people learn the hard way, coz lets face it that’s how most of us learn, there’s no fast track to the finish line, I don’t even think there is a finish line. So, when your felling frustrated take a deep breath and……

Let it go

Words of encouragement 🙂 

To all my brave and fantastic open level yoga teachers out there –  If you are continually working on your weaknesses, self reflecting after each class, getting useful feedback that you can build from, then you are doing just great!

and so…

Until next time, Happy teaching everyone!

Written by Rachel Perry

Author: Rachel

Engaging and Educational Posts!

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