Yoga asana class is hard.
As a student you’re meant to listen to and watch the instructor, to work with the breath (pranayama), to follow the instructor’s verbal and physical cues, to work on your alignment – all at the same time!
When someone comes back to class at all – I count that as a huge victory!
Therefore if you’ve made time for yoga this year – give yourself massive props!
And if you want to go above and beyond, I’ve got a list of seven things I love from my students:
I love it when they challenge themselves.
I have definitely seen students taking half-hearted or lukewarm positioning on the mat. There are a lot of possible reasons for this. Some students lack proprioception – they honestly don’t KNOW what it means to take a large step on the mat, for instance. Some students are scared to over-exert themselves. Still others don’t really, REALLY want to be there.
Now I would rather a student was cautious, than to push themselves too hard!
But also… I mean, we signed up. We paid the fee. We got dressed. We got our butts to the studio.
So let’s do some WORK!
When I look out at my students and see sweat, and a bit of trembling, and focused expressions – that feels awesome.
I am literally WATCHING them get stronger, and watching them build more self-confidence.
It’s cool beans!
I delight when my students breathe deeply!
A lot of students hold their breath or don’t focus on their breath, because they’re busy trying to follow the pace of the class. That makes sense! I sometimes lose conscious contact with my breath when I’m a student, too.
But when students breathe deeply, I can usually hear them and it feels so good!
It really, really helps regulate the entire class as well!
There are certainly apocryphal tales of yoga students who breathe WAY too loud or ostentatiously. But honestly? In my many years of class, I haven’t come across much of that.
So when I hear students breathing deeply, I feel confident they are focusing – and getting a benefit. After all – breath work is PROVEN to help with stress.
And I definitely want all of us to experience less stress!
I appreciate it when students interrupt and/or ask questions!
This statement I deliver with a caveat as there are definitely teachers and spaces and classes and scenarios interruption is NOT a good idea.
But for my general group classes – which are for any level and any body! – we are experiencing a community vibe. And honestly, an interruption and a question is really for the best.
Yes, it can take us out of the moment to hear a voice besides the teacher’s. But almost always if ONE student has a question, the others will benefit from having the question raised. I take students’ questions seriously and I always try to respond with gladness and helpfulness. If I can’t deliver a great response in class, I am sure to do more research in the next week so I can improve my skillset.
I love it when my students grunt and/or laugh!
There is NOTHING that makes it more obvious that people are engaged, as when I hear grunts of effort or laughter! In fact last week I was upside down in a pose and couldn’t see my students, but I could hear them and everyone was laughing (because the pose was difficult for us all)!
This is a peak yoga moment as a teacher, because it means we are all efforting together.
I honestly believe that kind of group effort is so, so rewarding!
I enjoy when students make asana requests.
There are thousands of asana and variations – there are also the Patanjali sutras, the eight limbs of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, the chakras – there is so, so much we teachers can study and draw from when we prepare a class.
But you know what? Sometimes we really want to be of SERVICE. We want a student to come to us with a need!
So when a student comes to me with a particular pose – or say, a specialty or request – this often is a wonderful spark to help me develop a meaningful class!
I want my students to form a relationship with YOGA – not just with me. When a student ask for a focus, an asana, or an accommodation I start to think that particular student might be bold enough to use yoga for self-nourishment – not just another workout.
I am absolutely delighted when my students greet the new person – and orients them to the class culture.
If you’ve been to my classes you know that we are already a community. We have a culture, and we are beginning to know one another. We’re sharing a lot of warmth and laughter!
Sometimes in a community we get excited to see one another, so we want to chat in a personal way either before or after class. And I get that!
But I love to see my students greeting the new person, and gently making extra space for them – rather than lapsing into familiar talk with the others.
Because remember: it can be intimidating to be the new guy!
So when my students welcome the newcomer, I feel so much gladness for all of us.
I am *thrilled* when my students go to ANY length to enjoy their practice.
I have a theory I’ve never seen any other yoga teacher champion – that the ONLY way we’ll keep doing yoga, is if we enjoy it.
Enjoying yoga means thinking outside the box.
How can we learn to enjoy our time on the mat? Maybe if we pay for a series, that will keep us from giving up. Or perhaps we need to purchase a special yoga mat – or some really yummy, soft clothing for practice. Maybe we need to clear a room in our house – clear it of everything but our mat, and a little shrine. Or perhaps we can make an accountability date with a friend. Maybe we need to give ourselves a five-minute guided meditation at night – and then write an affirmation in our journal.
I say: do whatever it takes to enjoy your yoga practice. Because I know a strong, sustaining practice will develop from that joy. I know it – because I’ve lived it!
Thank you for reading – and thank you for coming to class.
It is my honor and joy to build this community with you!