For the majority of us, albeit to varying degrees, the decision to teach was driven by an urge to share our experience of yoga with others.
Why then, do yoga teachers often feel uneasy at the thought of their students developing an independent home practice? It is perhaps understandable. Given the societal emphasis placed on competitiveness as an imperative to survive, we fear losing our students to their home practice and subsequent financial implications.
Contrary to what such internalised worries will have you believe, when students develop a sound personal practice, their trust and confidence in the teacher tends to grow. Why? The student witnesses the beneficial effects of the practice outside of the classroom, giving the teacher a renewed authority and wisdom.
Facing a worldwide lockdown, it’s likely your students have more time to commit to their yoga practice and could no doubt do with that extra time on the mat. Why not use this time as an opportunity to motivate your students to experiment beyond the (virtual) classroom? They will no doubt thank you long after lockdown is over.
Keep Your Online Classes
Building an independent yoga practice does not mean forgoing all classroom learning. Instead, an at home practice should complement the work carried out in teacher-led classes; The latter providing the groundwork for the former.
Use your classes to provide guidance on practicing yoga at home, suggest modifications and explain how and why certain yoga poses work. While quarantine has us in lockdown, take advantage of Zoom (other streaming services are available) to show your students how to use the space around them and transform household items into useful yoga accessories.
Finally, scheduling in time for online yoga classes helps to keep students motivated and committed. Without a regular routine, it’s all too easy to fall out of a regular yoga practice and fall into bingeing on Netflix series.
Set Them to Work!
In a typical classroom setting, time restrictions prevent us from addressing each student’s weaknesses or devoting hours to a particular position. Such limitations do not exist for those practicing yoga in their own time.
As their teacher, you can suggest a challenge or set homework that will help your students develop their practice, or help them prepare for the following week. In doing so, you are prompting your students to take control of advancing their practice and to spend time on the mat without first logging in online. Moreover, by setting appropriate “homework” you keep your student’s home practice within the scope of their abilities, preventing possible injuries from over-ambitious individuals.
Be a Source of Information
Adopting an independent yoga practice often inspires greater interest and intrigue in different poses, modifications and techniques. As teachers, we can nurture this by being open to answering questions students may have and share informative resources that will deepen their understanding of yogic traditions.
It is no use striving to be an expert on everything. Encourage your students to seek out information, trial different sequences, attend other classes, listen to their body cues and work things out on their own. You cannot do it all.
It may feel uncomfortable at first. However, enabling your students to become more independent will only serve to cultivate a more meaningful relationship between student and teacher. In doing this we achieve what we set out to do: share the gift of yoga.