Teaching a class is part of every teacher training exam I know of. And even people that are used to teaching and standing in front of people get a bit excited just because our mind reacts to the word “exam”.
Having a strong personal practice makes teaching a class much easier as you know what you are talking about and just share what you would do yourself. That’s the main part that makes a class come alive.
If you are just sharing dry instructions, the class will be dry as well. If you are sharing from experience, your class will be full of life. And hopefully you have been using your time during your teacher training to develop this strong personal practice, because it does take time and it’s hard to make up for that a week before your exam.
However there are some things that – apart from sharing your own practice – might help you to prepare for your practical exam.
I have been sitting in and evaluating many TT-exams over the last years and usually I end up saying similar things as a feedback to many of the students. Being aware of these common areas for improvement might help you to be better in your exam.
So here are my 9 tips:
1. Stay firm on your schedule
Staying on schedule is not a detail, it is a cornerstone of your class. It’s one of those things that won’t get you praise if you start and end on time, but you might fail the exam if you finish 15 minutes early.
Therefore leaving out a pose that only you know you wanted to teach is better than messing up your schedule, not having time for shavasana or skipping a whole group of crucial poses like inversions or twists.
Ideally write down the time of your exam and then determine what time you need to start which part of your class:
10:00 Opening Relaxion
10:05 Sun Salute A+B
10:15 Standing Sequence
2. Start your class with a smile and a deep breath
Make your students take a about three deep breaths and do it with them. Then open your eyes and smile while you look into their eyes. This will connect you to the group and the breathing will help you relax and calm your nervousness.
3. Whenever your mind goes blank or you loose your thread: breathe!
This is very similar to the last tip. As it’s an exam situation, it might happen: Your mind goes blank and you feel this rush of heat rising up to your head. Again, just make the class breathe and hold the asana a bit longer. Tell them to just breathe and feel the pose. Again breath with them until you are able to regain your focus and are able to pick up the thread of the class. Handling the situation like this, it’s likely that no-one might even notice your dilemma.
4. Don’t just instruct, guide your students with your voice
Having a rhythm is a crucial element of vinyasa and flow classes. If your voice is shallow, too quiet or very monoton, it can be hard to keep the energy of the class up.
Use your voice to direct the students, speak loud and clear and count the breaths while students are in a pose. If you want them to feel a moment of silence, tell them before. If you just stop talking, it’s easy to loose the rhythm and it might sound unintentional.
(See also: Find your unique voice as a yoga teacher)
5. Don’t be glued to your mat & find a nice mix of showing and observing
There is such a thing as too much moving around as a teacher and too little. Try to move around in a way that also the students in the back row get your attention and that allows you to observe the students everywhere in the room to follow their practice and adjust your instructions to what you see.
When you prepare your class, already make a rough plan when it’s a good time to move and where to move to in order to combine adjusting, observing and demonstrating asanas while facing your students.
6. Face your students and keep bringing them back to the moment
Repeated eye contact (not just looking into the direction of your students) is great to keep your students and yourself engaged in the class. Instead of just giving monotonous instructions, encourage them from time to time to come back to the moment, refocus or to “just stop looking too serious” (works great in challenging asanas). A pinch of humor also works great to break tension and make your students relax.
7. Adjust what you know and focus on the people you can easily help
When giving adjustments, already know which asanas you know best to give hands-on assistance from those poses you plan on teaching. As it’s an exam class you want predictability and don’t want people to fall out of your assistance. Therefore choose a person that is not struggling too much, approach them slowly, but with determination and then confidently and safely execute your adjustments. Keep the more challenging adjustments for later classes.
8. Know when to use Verbal vs. Hands-on Adjustment
Be aware and choose well, when to give verbal and when to give hands-on adjustments. If you see one person doing something you can easily adjust without loosing your focus on instructing the class, go ahead with a hands-on assistance.
If a couple of students are doing something you would like to correct, make a verbal adjustment to the whole group. Give an instruction if you see a mistake in the class done by a couple of people.
For example if one student is collapsing their ankles in upward facing dog, you might stand next to them and in the next upward facing dog just use an adjustment to keep the ankles stable.
If half of the class does a poor upward facing dog, you might use the next sun salutation to slowly build the pose, offer more modifications, demonstrate what they should focus on and then check if they follow along.
(see also: Review of David Keil’s Adjustment DVD)
9. Be yourself as much as possible and enjoy it
It’s hard to be yourself in a stressful situation. Yet the more authentic you are, the better atmosphere you are creating in class. The more fun you have, the more fun the students will have. And the more your class is fueled by positive energy and authenticity, the more successful your exam will be.
(see also: 3 elements of great yoga teaching)
Be aware that the exam is one of the hardest classes you will be teaching in your life, just because you are far more excited than you have to be (see also: stop worrying about your teaching training exam and trust in your practice
Be aware that as a teacher you are just starting and as with everything else, teaching gets exponentially better with practice. Therefore don’t beat yourself up if you fail to be amazing in your exam class. Rather take anything you didn’t like about your teaching as areas to keep practicing.
Prepare well and practice your instructions before, but then try to be yourself, keep breathing, smile and make your students smile, transmit a warm and calm atmosphere and the rest will almost take care of itself.
Best of luck for your teaching exam!
photocredit: sandra db