By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
When I graduated from my first yoga instructor training intensive, my first assignment was teaching beginners in a corporate gym setting. Those students were dedicated and I can easily say they taught me as much as I taught them. Most of them had very different ideas about what they thought yoga training was all about.
Yoga can be intimidating for beginners because of many preconceived notions about it that may or may not be true. Beginners might think you’ve got to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel and balance on one leg to practice yoga. Those of us who are seasoned yogis might laugh at that because we know better. We know that yoga is a personal experience where you push yourself as far as you wish to go, and you work toward personal goals regardless of what the rest of the class is doing.
In order to get most people comfortable with asana practice, it’s best to start simple and ease into harder poses. New students can feel successful and confident in the less challenging asanas, which will inspire them to reach a little further. Many asanas are perfect for beginners because they do not require much background knowledge or skill.
Pose of a Child
The comfort and relaxation that child’s pose brings to each of us is enough to keep you coming back for more. It’s one of those poses that you can just melt into and stay there as long as you like. You can use it to meditate, to rest or to stretch the back muscles. It’s idea for beginners because it is simple and once you’re in the pose it requires little adjustment or thought.
The forward bend does wonders for the backs of the legs and the lower back while rerouting blood flow throughout the body. It’s relatively straight forward to perform and it requires just a couple of bodily adjustments to get it right. Beginners really only need to think about keeping their feet hip-width apart, toes forward, knees slightly bent and upper body relaxed.
Downward dog just takes the forward bend to the next level. Again, it is fairly easy to get into and out of and beginner’s can still perform the pose even if they don’t push their heels all the way into the floor. Teachers should remind beginner students to push firmly into the mat with their hands.
Easy pose should be taught early on because, well, it’s easy. It is a great pose to know for meditation and breathing work. It also gets people thinking about posture and focusing on the body without having to be contorted in any awkward position.
When you can successfully get into mountain pose, you have learned a lot about your body’s posture and alignment. It is good for beginners because it teaches them to pay attention to things like a straight spine, an elongated neck, pushing the shoulders down and back and pulling the belly in. These are all important queues for many other more physically challenging poses.
Tips for Teachers
No matter how many years you teach, or how many yoga teacher certifications you have, beginners will have fresh viewpoints about this practice we value so deeply. Listen to them patiently and you will learn more about yourself as you master patience from within.
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