By Mary Stepanek
I’ve been honored to teach at Namaste Yoga Studio since the fall of 2008, and it truly has been a pleasure. Yoga has changed my life. My regular class schedule at Namaste includes All Levels Flow, Slow Deep Flow and Yoga Basics classes. For the last year I’ve also been teaching the Beginner Workshops at Namaste every other month, ironic because I really didn’t care for my first yoga class. I often tease that the only reason I went back is because I had prepaid for four classes and I was too cheap to just walk away. Clearly I was destined to introduce this ancient practice to other first time Yoginis. (For the record, my first class wasn’t at Namaste.)
What do I teach during the Beginner Series? I give a brief introduction to the practice of yoga, it’s history, the language. I emphasize connecting movement to breath and the importance of stopping if something hurts! I remind everyone repeatedly to allow the practice to be their own experience. We then move on to some basic asanas (poses) incorporated in almost every class, starting with the foundation of the poses and working our way into the full asana. Then I ask students how they feel. After coming out of the pose I check in again, asking for feedback about the pose and suggesting any necessary modifications. I’ll teach poses more than once, maybe approaching it from a different place. There is always a mindfulness for each students abilities and limitations. There is a lot of space for questions – although in any class, teachers should welcome a question about the practice. We finish class with Savasana-Corpse Pose. For first time students, the rest at the end of class is sometimes the most challenging asana. Given that most students come to yoga with an expectation of it being a physical practice (and that most of us rarely sleep in public) the idea of complete surrender can be really scary.
I recognize that to be a beginner can be a humbling experience. I once had a student say to me “Hey, I was born a beginner.” I love that attitude and I love teaching beginner students at Namaste. After a year of offering this class we have lots of Beginner Workshop Alumni in all of our classes at the studio. The truth is, you may not love your first yoga class, or every yoga class you take for that matter, but pay attention after class. Notice the way yoga can make you feel, and think, and behave off the mat; sometimes that takes more than one class to discern. We don’t ask students to pay for more than one class at a time, in fact your first regular class is free. And you may not wind up teaching yoga, but yoga can change your life.