We are pleased to announce The Art of Teaching Yoga, our three-day mentoring program for registered yoga teachers at Yoga Journal LIVE New York, April 21-24. You'll get personal assessments; join in-depth discussions on sequencing, anatomy, alignment, and adjustments; and attend classes of your choice at the main YJ event. Register now!
We asked two of these seasoned yogis—Alexandria Crow, a YogaWorks national teacher trainer, and Coral Brown, a teacher trainer, holistic psychotherapist, and longtime student of Shiva Rea—for 5 things students wish their teachers would do more (or less) of.
1. DO give more adjustments very, very wisely.
Everyone wants to be doing their asanas correctly. Adjustments help the student feel like they’re improving their practice with the guidance and knowledge of the teacher. When a teacher comes over to make a personal and wise adjustment or to instruct an individual within a group setting, they're making a one-on-one connection -- a way of noticing and appreciating the people in the room. But don't assume you always have to touch your students. "A lot of teachers feel they must do hand-bone adjustments to connect with students and it’s not really true," says Crow. "For every student who likes it, another hates it. People just want to be seen and know you have their best interests in mind. They want you to help them, call out their name, and look them in the eye.”
2. DON'T call out beginners.
A beginner yogi can feel insecure in a room full of intermediate or advanced students, so think twice before calling attention to your new student for not doing a pose correctly. "There are many skillful and educational ways to support a beginner while continuing to teach to the rest of the class," says Brown. "Demonstrating the pose while giving clear verbal cues on the basic principles of the pose and the common misalignments will support the beginner and be informative for the rest of the class, no matter what the level of practitioner."
3. DO give meaning to the pose.
Explaining the benefits of a pose will help students understand the importance of correct alignment and give the feeling that what they’re doing is more than just an exercise or a stretch. "It is also valuable to educate students on the mythology behind the poses," says Brown. "Explaining that Hanuman represents fierce loyalty, courage, and devotion may encourage students to feel more connected to the emotional components of yoga and get more meaning out of Monkey Pose."
4. DON'T speak only in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is yoga's native language, but some Western students are more comfortable with the English translations of pose names. If a teacher only uses Sanskrit, some students may feel confused, which can cause a mental break in flow. “If people don’t understand what you mean, it’s like you’re speaking a foreign language," says Crow. "I say, explain how to do a pose. The pose name is inconsequential."
5. DO change it up.
Students can feel frustrated with a teacher if the same sequences are used repeatedly. Although Warrior II to Half Moon might be your favorite transition, refrain from teaching it every week. Look for creative sequences and inspiration to throw off your regulars. "Students are showing up to learn, so teach them something," says Brown. "As a teacher, it is important to stay informed and inspired so that we can pass on our wisdom that we have gleaned from other teachers, yogic texts, and our own practice."