How to teach a multi-level class
One of the most intimidating classes for a teacher welcomes brand new students with physical imbalances mixed with advanced practitioners or already certified Yoga teachers. It can be so intimidating at times that even experienced yogis will refrain from teaching a mixed level class. I am here to tell you, it isn’t the easiest task for the teacher but it provides a chance to challenge you as a teacher and even enlivens what Yoga is really about. So how do you feel 100% comfortable to teach a class full of beginners, advanced and intermediate students?
First of all, I would like to point out that there may be a “beginner” in the class that cannot do a backbend but has been working internally for quite some time. In this case, I like to call them intermediate or advanced. And there are “advanced” students who can put their leg behind their head yet do not know have the power to control their reactions in everyday life. These are instances that you must keep in mind as a teacher. How advanced are they really?
My approach is this:
· Make it personal, build trust, observe. Take a few extra minutes before class to get to know each person. Ask about injuries, Yoga experience and their intention for being in class that day. After you have an idea of the demographic, you will be clearer of what you must focus on. It is almost impossible to “plan” a class when a class must spill from the hearts of all the students that make up the class so listen to their needs. Remind the students at the beginning of class that this is their practice, to go at their own pace, and that there will be different options to choose from for everyone’s comfort level.
· Use the transitions as a chance to breakdown the asana. As you intuitively take the students from asana to asana, keep in mind that transitions are key especially for those students just learning. How you teach the execution of a posture can be the breakdown of the main asana. And the picture you paint provides confidence and trust in the students. Maintain fluidity between each posture to keep the beginners focused and the advanced practitioners moving by strategically using the transitions as a way to break up the posture into different variations that will fit for all your students. .
· As you teach a posture, give options (not levels) and encourage expression. For all postures you can build them up, ultimately breaking down the posture for all levels. Instead of going from one posture to the next, I highly recommend you refrain from stopping the class to demonstrate the breakdown of postures and instead take the entire class from option one onwards. This will naturally take the students to whatever level they are at without making them feel inadequate and open the space to allow expression. This will also give the beginners a chance to see their goal (the full asana) and to accept where they are at as part of the journey at the same time, challenging the advanced practitioners as well as giving them a refresher of the power of modified asanas.
Embrace that teaching a multi-leveled class enhances your teaching ability and is a great opportunity to gain trust with your students.