Joe Athialy Photography

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape. -Michael McGfriffy

The first day you arrive to class to teach can always be bittersweet.  On one hand there is an overwhelming excitement and on the other, we may have butterflies lurking in our bellies.  Each class is its own moment in time, much like a flake of snow falling from the sky. The faces before you may change or the scent in the air can turn but it is your words that will lead them into the same light each time.

It is true, you can let go of your “flow” that was penned eagerly the night before, and just let the energy of yoga dance through you until it reaches your lips to form the words THIS class needs to hear.  Use your intuition, your own sense of judgement, to read your students.  Take a deep breath, walk into class, trust yourself and ask these three questions…

What is the ENERGY level in the room?

Scan the room and observe the space.  If this is your first time in the room be sure to note the temperature, smells, light or sounds that are present.  Then turn your attention to the students and look at their energy.  Are they chatty or quiet, stretching or laying in savasana?  See if they look happy, sad, comfortable, nervous, stressed, etc.  Even more, look to see if you can find the source of their energy (coffee, drugs, age, etc.)  If they are a low energy group then you might want to begin standing or try seated poses for a high energy class.  Work with the energy in the room to provoke a sense of awareness among your students.

How are they BREATHING?

Look for their bellies, throats, chest and shoulders to see where their breath is being held. Do they look like they are taking full, deep breaths?  Or do they seem like they have lifted shoulders and are breathing short with a sense of constriction?  Their breath can say a lot about their physical and emotional health.  Importantly, this can assist you with any breathing techniques to incorporate into the class. Remembering that each class is its own entity can allow you to teach the breath accordingly.

How is their BODY language?

Lastly, observe their body language.  Are your students holding their heads up tall or slouching?  Are their arms crossed insecurely or do they stand upright?  Look to see if anyone is twirling their hair, picking their skin or biting their nails.  Do they look pain-free or physically healthy?  If everyone in your class is slouching or looks like they have back pain, teach a few back care sequences or strengthen their abdominals for core support with sit-ups.  The body can speak louder than our voices at times and provide yoga teachers with ample ways to connect the yoga to the needs of their students.

Photo by Jessica Lucia

Most likely, you already ask yourself these questions without realizing.  Taking the time to cultivate awareness will refine the way you read your students. If all else fails, check-in by simply asking them how they are feeling or what their energy level may be. Allow yourself to let go and become flexible with your lessons.  Use your instincts to guide you and in the end, you will be able to asses any situation, giving your students what they need in the moment.

Has a class ever been hard to asses and made you feel bent out of shape?  How have you learned to read your students more effectively?  We invite you to share your thoughts below or on Facebook.