Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Amy Elewry. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily refelect the position of VTNHET.com. If you would like to contribute an article on our site, check our guidelines.
Does one student equal a yoga class?
I know it’s a sort of silly question, but it’s one that beginning teachers commonly face. If your income depends on how many show up for class, small numbers of students in a class is a dilemma.
Yoga teachers aren’t meant to be ‘in it for the money’. But they’ve made a big monetary investment in teaching training. Afterwards, there are insurances to pay, association fees, and continual professional development.
A big hurdle that yoga teachers just starting out have to jump over is that they don’t necessarily get the best teaching times. Six am or four pm classes, for example, are not the best times to attract students.
Another problem occurs when the new teacher is a stand-in for a more popular teacher. As weeks go by, class sizes may dwindle. Small class attendances coupled with the teacher’s own inexperience erode the teacher’s confidence. This may contribute to further a drop in numbers.
There is a tried and true solution – having a mentor. A new teacher can ask the person(s) with whom she trained for mentoring. The relationships forged in teacher trainings are special forever-bonds. Yoga teacher trainers are usually generous with their time and energy. They are often willing to have their trainees call on them for advice as their new tires hit the teaching road.
If this relationship is not available, then the new teacher can find a different mentor. This might be the person they first started with in yoga or someone they have done classes with recently.
It works well to set up a regular private session with the mentor every 4-6 weeks. It’s the time for airing all those niggling questions. For instance, how do you sequence classes, create themes and handle remedial students? How do you make time for your own yoga routine? How do you make a living out of teaching yoga? How many classes should you teach?
When you get down to it, it isn’t a bad thing at all to have small class numbers at first. Teaching to a few students gives time to get to know them. The new teacher can develop more depth with a handful of students rather than spreading herself too thin with a large group.
Almost all senior teachers have started out teaching small classes. It takes time but they will develop a committed core group. These students will become the foundation on which to build whatever the teacher wants to create. Eventually there will be workshops, retreats, and maybe one day even a teacher training. How long does this take? Ah, well that depends!
I’ve been through this process three times. There was the Sydney Yoga Centre, then Yoga Class in Chiang Mai, and now the Yoga Shed. Class attendance has gone from sometimes less than a handful of students to reasonable numbers to more than enough.
The process of building classes can be slow and arduous. It takes huge lashings of patience to temper one’s early enthusiasm.
Yet, our yoga practices give us the tools we need to transition from training wheels to expert travelers on the teaching path. These are dedication, faith, and commitment.
By the way, there are many great books for teachers learning to master the art of teaching. Here’s just one: The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown. Keep it on your bookshelf for those times when you don’t have your mentor nearby.
And here’s just one more, an e-book with audio: The Art of Adjustment (manual for teachers) by Eve Grzybowski