In my years of teaching, I've learned that good classroom management is key to teaching a great class. It's important to be respectful of your students, and it's also important to know how to handle challenging situations and mishaps that can come up during a yoga class. Once I accidentally stepped on a student's glasses that they left on the floor. I've had a student throw up in class, and I've had two students get in an argument with each other. In one of my classes a bird crashed into the plate glass window and died. Once the AC went out in the middle of the Texas heat. And maybe the craziest of all - one time a drugged out person followed one of my regulars into class, and we had to call the police because of his strange behavior. Yes, really!
When something unexpected comes up, it's important for you as the teacher to know what to do so that your students stay calm, focused, and engaged.
Here are my top five tips for teaching a great yoga class:
1. Begin and End On Time.
A simple place to start is beginning and ending your class on time. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many teachers start a bit late or run a few minutes over. Punctuality shows that you respect your students' time.
Starting late can throw off your focus and frustrate your students. And if you run 5 or 10 minutes over, students may have to race out of the room and speed away to their next appointment, which ruins the relaxation they just created through their practice.
2. Connect With Your Students.
Arrive early for class so you can talk with your students. This serves many purposes:
- You'll get to know them better.
- You'll get a better understanding of what they are looking for in their practice.
- You can find out about their injuries and/or concerns before class gets started to save time later.
Creating a relationship with your students will help them get more out of their experience in class and will help you grow your classes and student base. Yoga classes are practiced as a group, but they are definitely a personal experience. Help facilitate each student's experience by being available to hear their needs.
3. Get Organized.
Take a moment to organize the classroom right before or just as class gets started. Organizing students' mats and props will help make sure they have enough room to move without getting in their neighbor’s space and will help you make sure there is enough room for you to walk around without stepping on people’s personal belongings.
4. Be In Charge.
Remain in charge of the class even when students talk, ask tons of questions, or your class plan gets thrown off track. Be prepared to redirect the energy back to the practice to help everyone in the group maintain their focus.
For example, if students start carrying on disruptive side conversations, it may be a sign that they need more direction or assistance. A good practice is to go to them and see if you can help them directly.
Practice maintaining a balance between adhering to your class plan and going with the flow. Be prepared to address any situations that arise, but don't be so loosely organized that students feel the class is unorganized and random.
5. Expect the Unexpected.
Things don’t always go as expected in a yoga class, and students will follow your lead when and if something unexpected does happen. With a little foresight, you can pre-plan how to face challenges with grace and ease.
Think about what to do if someone passes gas in happy baby or cries during savasana. Or if you have one of those classes where you keep mixing up your right and left. Sometimes the best option is to continue as if nothing happened, sometimes a bit of laughter can lighten the situation and help everyone get back to their practice.
Challenges and mishaps are inevitable in yoga classes. Be ready to go with the flow. Leverage my experience and follow these tips, and soon you'll be an expert in creating a smooth, seamless yoga class experience.