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Teaching Yoga: How to Help Beginners in Their First Yoga Class

by Elaine Clara Mah

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The beginning of the year signals a beginning of a yoga practice for many. As a yoga teacher, our job is to help these individuals find their practice and give them assurance where needed.

But how do we keep our students from feeling intimidated at their first class? Here are a few of my tried and true tips to offering a great first experience at yoga for newbies!


Introduce Yourself Early

When you see an unfamiliar face in class, make the effort to approach them and introduce yourself. Chances are, your newbie will be feeling very out of place and introducing yourself will allow them to warm up to the idea of a yoga class and you as the instructor. The more comfortable they feel, the smoother the class will go for them. 


Show Easier Options

Always show the easiest options for all your poses. Just because your first-time students are flexible, don’t immediately assume that they will be able to execute the poses in its full form. As a beginner to yoga, it is always better for the student to learn the simplest form of a pose to better build a strong foundation before moving on to more complicated versions.


Keep It Simple

Keep your cues simple! Understandably, as a teacher, we’d like to impart as much information as possible when it comes to alignment to help our students. However, for a beginner, too many complicated alignment cues can be more overwhelming. Pick and choose the cues that you will be using for each pose and limit them to only three so that your students can familiarize themselves with the instructions.


Use Easy Words

As much as it’s comfortable for you to teach using Sanskrit terminology, bear in mind that your new students aren’t familiar with them and might cause them plenty of confusion and unnecessary stress. Where possible, use easy words and English (or your native language) translations when introducing new poses. Say Boat pose instead of Navasana and Downward Dog instead of Adho Mukha Svanasana. Save the teaching of bandhas and drishti for another session when they are more acquainted with yoga. You don’t want your student to be preoccupied with the thought of what uddiyana bandha means and loose focus on the pose at hand!


Allow Questions

Always be open to questions. Whether it is to address any concerns they might have at the beginning of class or to answer any confusion about poses at the end, be responsive to the questions your students have. Be kind in your words and clear in your response. If you don’t know the answer to their questions, remember that being honest about it is always better than dishing out inaccurate answers. 

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