I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been sort of burnt out.  I’m teaching three yoga classes a week, which is awesome, but there for a while, I was a little yoga’d out.  If I saw one more cheerful Kathryn Budig post on my newsfeed, I was going to barf. If I read one more kitchy list or crunchy essay on Doyouyoga or Yogananmous, I was going to sell my yoga mat and sign up for CrossFit. (Just kidding.  The CrossFit-ters would sniff out my Type B personality in seconds and put me in a protein shake.)

So. I’ve been sort of lying low. Keeping my social media consumption to a minimum. Reading a lot of non-yoga related books. Back at the gym, I’m running more, and even lifting weights. I had to diversify there for a minute.

 I’ve streamlined my classes so the “three classes a week” is not so overwhelming. Since my students range so widely (from the “I have an unlimited pass at the local studio” to “this is my first yoga class”, plus an array of injuries and levels of interest), I was trying to tailor each class to each group. THAT WAS FRIGGIN’ EXHAUSTING! Finally, I gave up and decided upon a MUCH simpler approach: Each week, I pick a theme.  Last week was backbends. This week is hip openers.  I write a skeleton of a class, and then tailor the class to the group. As it’s happening!! (That last part is really sort of scary for me!)

This is taking a LOT of improvisation. Many moons ago, when I studied acting, I loved improv. I wasn’t particularly good at it (read: I wasn’t all that funny), but I wasn’t the person who got tagged in and the rest of the class silently thought, “Oh, God no.” 

When I first started teaching yoga, improv was definitely one of my weaknesses. I wrote a class; I taught that class. I didn’t have enough experience, or confidence, to stray far from my trusty page. Not surprisingly, when I first started, some of my classes were total flops. I would see that some of the students weren’t able to keep pace, and I just panicked. I offered modifications, or props, or adjustments. Going completely off script was simply too terrifying to even contemplate.

Over time, and with experience, I’ve been able to – HAD to, at times – more or less scrap the class I walked in with and, instead, teach a class that my students needed. This little exercise, the themed week of classes, has really strengthened my teaching skills. It takes some time, as you’ve got to develop a well of alternative routes (as well as transitions! That can be a real bitch on the fly!), but it can be done.

As scary as it can be, I’d suggest that new teachers (who share my fear of having NO PLAN) try the skeleton approach. Workshop several different ways the class can go. Be ready to break it down – waaaaay down – or help students into wheel or headstand if that’s the direction the class takes and that is what your students NEED.

Be prepared to be scared as shit. And fumble a little. And screw up some cues. And maybe have a real stinker of a class now and then (if you learn from it, it’s not a total waste). Try to stay receptive and aware, and one of these days, you’re gonna surprise the hell out of yourself. 

Alright, Kathryn Budig and Kino MacGregor, I “unhide” you. I’m coming out of yoga hibernation. (Hally Marlino, you and your beer and cheese and balls-to-the-wall yoga, you were never gone!)