I teach a free beginners class on Monday nights in the Northeast of Pennsylvania. Get in touch with me if you would like to attend.
So for teacher training we all have to come up with (and later implement) an eight week course for beginners.
Week One: Heat
I plan to devote the first 10-15 minutes for introductions, including inquiring about any medical issues, ailments, aches, etc. as well as trying to get some students to speak about what they are expecting and what they hope to gain from the pursuit of the practice.
What brought you here today?
What do you hope to gain from what we’re about to do?
Do you have any injuries to be aware of?
Speak briefly about Ashtanga, depending on what is brought up by students, to give an overview. 5-10 minutes.
In the first week I plan to focus the new students on heat. Where do we derive the heat necessary for this practice? Well, we can heat the room, but this is hot yoga, not ashtanga yoga. Instead the heat is self-derived from ujjayi breath. This deep nostril breathing with a slight constriction of the throat makes the sound of the ocean when implemented correctly. The use of ujjayi allows your body to build a fire inside itself which increases your flexibility as the practice progresses and also flushes toxins from the body. Ujjayi is done in sync with movement. Other benefits of this type of pranayama include:
Calms the body (and ultimately the mind)
Increases oxygenation and blood flow
Increases lung capacity
Gives you a rhythm by which to flow through the movements of the asanas
Retains life force/energy (prana) that might otherwise be lost
A sequence of three instructions is generally given to those trying to implement the breath:
Elongation of neck
Constriction of the throat
Jalandhara bandha (chin lock, tilting toward the chest).
5-10 minutes for explanation of breath, demo - Expansion of the ribcage/diaphragm in 360° on the inhale, letting it relax on the exhale.
Demo lying on mat/floor, compare to normal breathing
Come to samasthiti to begin the practice. Those that are comfortable following along with the first sun salutation demonstration should feel free to do so, or wait and join in on the next one.
Offer modifications in each part of the posture, but do show the full version for those more athletic/experienced. Always reinforcing that people are free to skip poses or take something that is less challenging if necessary.
Postures to teach: Surya Namaskara A & B, Padangustasana, Trikonasana, Parsvokanasana, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, Vihrabadrasana A & B, Pascimatanasana, Janushirasana, Navasana, Bridge, Shoulderstand, Closing
Week One Handout: Surya Namaskara A & B Pose Breakdown with brief overview of breath
Week Two: Meditation
Week Two’s overview will be about finding a gaze to promote a meditative practice. Obviously many of the beginners will not be able to maintain a true dristhi throughout the practice, but to whatever extent they can practice this, they should start.
Then a brief review of ujjayi and how ujjayi and dristhi go together through movement.
Explain how dristhi can lead to pratyahara? Probably too advanced for beginners to grasp, but what else am I supposed to talk about?
Show overview of different gazing points before beginning so that people know, especially explaining third eye and nosetip.
Postures to teach: Tree, Purvotanasana, Marichyasana A & C
Week Three: Review and Focus
Week Three will be spent really reinforcing previously taught concepts and making sure that everyone is conscious of keeping these elements in mind as their practice advances.
Postures to teach: Prasarita Padotanasana A & B, Tiryang Mukha Eka Pada Pascimatanasana, Janushirasana B
Week Four: Chanting
This week will be spent introducing the om chant, explaining how to make the sound, why we are making the sound and when it is traditionally used.
Encourage students to start experimenting with a more complete home practice, by providing more pose sheets for those postures that have been taught so far.
Postures to teach: Prasarita Padotanasana C & D, Marichyasana B & D
Week Five: Backbending
For those that have been comfortable in bridge pose, backbend will be attempted, explaining different entrances, transitions and exits.
Postures to teach: Buhjapedasana, Chromasana, Supta Chromasana, Baddha Konasana
Postures to teach: Pravrita Trikonasana, Pravrita Parsvokanasana, Janushirasana C, Garbhapindasana
Postures to teach: Upavhista Konasana, Supta Hasta Padangustasana, Urbhaya Padangustasana, Urdvha Mukha Pascimotonasana
Postures to teach: Matsyasana, Sirasana,
Haven’t journaled in over a week… Shame on me.
Tonight I was supposed to teach my first beginners class. Eight people committed to being there. It ended up being two. One of which was my sister-in-law who co-organized, the other being her/my friend. Two of each of our friends bailed, in addition to my brother. So it didn’t really turn into a beginners class since they were both experienced. One hasn’t practiced in 10 years, but was able to push through the whole primary series, despite my teacher having told me to stick to teaching sun salutaitons only.
It’s so tricky to find the right economy of words to convey the important basic concepts to new practitioners, especially those things which are now reflexes to you… it seems like teaching will really keep you in touch with your own practice and allow you to not lose sight of little things. But it is still difficult to convey these concepts, especially when people have varying degrees of prior knowledge, interest, motivation, focus, etc. How do you find the balance of telling them enough that it is a challenge, to keep them interested, but not overload them and push them away because they get confused?
Being able to observe people and offer dynamic feedback seems like it is the key to it being interesting from the teacher’s perspective. The relationships seem to also be very motivating and intriguing, but at the same time I don’t know if I’m ready to accept the amount of gratitude I have for my teachers… and taking people’s money? Forget it…
Obviously the practice isn’t for everyone, but is it appropriate to feel insecure when people flake or lose interest? Can you fault yourself for not being captivating enough, or is it on them because they are not applying themselves? Is it right to pass any such judgements?