The short answer – teach yoga. It’s that simple; teach the practice, what else would you teach?
Because the short answer doesn’t make much of a blog post, here are four tips based on four non-studio locations.
Tip 1 Comfort with uncertainty
My first teaching experience was at the residential substance abuse program that I work at as a therapist. It was spring of 2013 and I was fresh out of a trauma informed yoga teaching training. I was bright eyed and bushy tail ready to bring yoga to this community. I was overly confident to say the least. My hour long prepared class, lasted half that time and we completed 5 poses. It wasn’t because I failed as a teacher or the students were inflexible. It was because it was easier to get comfortable with what was going on right in front of me versus forcing my intentions onto the women. Comfort with uncertainty is the practice of rolling with the unexpected. If your planning to teach in a treatment program, prison, school, etc. be prepared that some will be open to yoga and others will have no desire to practice. I will say consistency goes a long way – pick the same day, time, and if at all possible location for the class. If you build it they will come, but that means you have to come too. In terms of teaching;
Tip 2 Find Balance
My second teaching experience was in Uganda at a local café -it took 2 years before I actually taught in a studio.
I was offered this opportunity by the generous café owner and her friend, a wonderful spirited yoga teacher who taught me to go for it, fail, succeed either way keep going.
We taught twice a week, sharing one morning each. We taught inside the café during rainy season or outside in the courtyard. Inside the café the surface was flat but the environment was busy as the café workers set up for the days business, motorcycles circled outside and school children raced to school. Outside the café the surface was less then smooth, cats laid on your mat, rosters would crow, and holes would form in mats. The tip here is that if you are teaching in more public places, find the balance of acknowledging what is happening around and just letting it happen. If it’s loud, everyone hears it so you can make a joke or cue the breath. If a cat has ended up in the middle of someone’s mat, you can welcome your furry student with cat pose or continue the class as usual. The balance is accepting the class as it is, the students, the weather, the surface, and the gratitude that the practice is possibility that day.
Tip 3 Make em’ laugh
Fast-forward to winter 2017 – I’ve been teaching for four years. During these four years I finally made it to studio teaching but the itch to step outside those walls was calling.
A studio student asked me to teach at her elementary school and without a doubt in my mind I said yes. For the past few months I’ve been providing a 20-minute class to a small group of third grade students and a 40-minute class to a second grade classroom. If you’re looking for an experience that will make your throw every yoga textbook out the window, elementary school is your place!
I start off both classes with three deep breaths, and now the students are cuing it even before I get a chance to say hello. I then provide a few warm up poses, such as down dog, mountain pose, cat-cow, plank, forward fold, etc. The middle of class is pose of the day, a game, a flow with a story, and/or breath work. The middle of the class is attuning to the vibe of the room – are students high energy, unfocused or tried? The end of class is lying on bellies or backs for at least 2 minutes, followed by sitting upright and ending with three deep breaths.
There is structure and consistency with plenty of room for jokes, giggles, making up poses, and tuning back into that inner child. This isn’t your find the source of your root chakra yoga class.
Tip 4 Don’t try hard, try easy
What makes me uncomfortable? A corporate office. And that is exactly where I found myself last week, but thankfully in yoga pants.
A month ago another studio student offered me a corporate yoga gig, as she owns a business bringing yoga to various settings. I taught my first class last week and before class I turned to the business owner and said, you know I’ve never taught corporate yoga before and her response (which inspired this post), just teach yoga.
Don’t try hard, try easy doesn’t refer to “easy poses” rather don’t try so darn hard! I’m teaching right in their office space, so the goal is creating the space to turn what could be a hard, challenging environment some days to an environment that also offers ease and peace – either way they have complete choice in the outcome.
These experiences, tips, locations are the yoga without handstand and no hashtag to complete the practice. Rather a yoga that is here, there, you and I no matter the location, surface, or time.