I've taught in primary schools for over a decade. The prospect of a room full of some thirty chattering children sitting at their desks is part of my daily life and yet the prospect of teaching my first yoga class to a handful of grown-ups filled me with an unfamiliar terror. I was so nervous!
For at least a month before the class I had pondered my every yoga move, trying to figure out how to explain what I was doing, I read and re-read my yoga books, I listened to my yoga teachers with an additional agenda. I wrote a script which I then edited down to a dozen or so index cards. I even drew little memory cues on my toe-nails! I looked at images of the poses that I intended to teach and pondered over my own body shape. As a curvaceous woman in her forties, I judged myself harshly in comparison with some of the athletic looking online yogis. I felt the fear, I acknowledged my terror and then I figured I just needed to get over myself and teach. So I did!
Five people joined me for my first yoga class - two women and three men. One of the women, Jenny, is a yoga teacher herself and runs classes on mindfulness and meditation. I was delighted to see her as I figured that if I totally bombed, she would be able to take over. Jenny reassured me that I'd be fine and so with great trepidation I took to the centre stage on my yoga mat and invited my yogis to do the same.
The theme of my class was based on supporting our root chakras. I wanted to work on creating a feeling of groundedness and strength. I started the class with a warm welcome and encouraged the class to consider this to be their own practice. They should work comfortably within the range of their body's movement. They were encouraged to work to their edge but not to overextend. I was a little surprised at how silent everyone was - I guess I'm accustomed to the constant chatter of children and a totally engaged class from the start without so much as a word from me was something of a novelty.
I went through the poses in what I hoped was a calm manner. I tried to make sure my explanations were clear and that my body movements were well-presented in terms of my alignment and my form. At times I panicked over my timings and whether I was too long in a pose or too quick to move on to another pose. It was a totally different experience from that of being the instructee. Towards the end of the class I noted that I had planned too much and that time was pressing on, I quickly revised my notes and skipped over some of the asanas on my cards. I was grateful to see block underlined next to another pose as I noted myself that the block was an important prop especially for a beginner and if not for my memo I might have forgotten to use it. As we came into savasana I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but then lay myself for what seemed like forever wondering how long I should wait before encouraging my class to "awaken". I also pondered whether the class could tell that I was worrying about all these things and hoped to goodness that my exterior was more confident than the less than mindful voices in my head!
The class finished on the 57th minute. One of the class members came over and shook my hand warmly, another said "Thank-you" and tidied up my yoga mat and props for me. They were such kind gestures and again not really part of my life in the classroom with the little pickles that I have to teach! As everyone began to leave, I confided my relief in Jenny and one of the students overheard me. Their response was a hearty affirmation: "That surely wasn't your first class? You did great!"
Phew! I'd done it. Jenny gave me some welcome points for development, she said that she sometimes couldn't hear my voice when I was in some of the downward postures and that I could definitely take more time with some of the transitional poses such as downward dog and child's pose. When I expressed concern at my lack of interaction with the class in terms of assisting them with poses and/or body modifications, she assured me that it was completely normal and that this would come with more experience over time.
All in all it was a very positive experience and I'm looking forward to teaching my next class in a month or so.