Although a Hatha Yoga teacher must be able to teach a variety of poses (asanas), practice many forms of meditation, and understand the inner workings of Yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), one of the most difficult parts of the job description is observing the class.
It takes a combination of experience, knowledge, and intuition to share concise instructions and ensure each Yoga practitioners’ safety. Good Yoga teachers spend as much, or more, time watching their students as they do demonstrating techniques and postures.
While observation looks simple, it requires a fine balance of attention to individual needs, execution of postures, classroom atmosphere, and safety precautions. In order to have a well-rounded class curriculum, Yoga instructors must simultaneously consider all of these.
Why Observation Is Important in Yoga Classes
• Successful Yoga teachers share information with the entire class while meeting each student on a personal level. Ideally, every person should leave the Yoga studio feeling the lesson targeted his or her specific needs.
• Yoga instructors have a tremendous responsibility to see that every student is safe. This requires knowledge of personal health histories, the risks and cautions related to each activity, and an understanding of the capability of everyone in the class.
• Yoga teachers who are sensitive to students’ learning styles, personalities, and skill levels instinctively know which ones are hesitant to try new techniques and poses or take on new challenges. Some people like risks while others mentally and physically freeze if they feel rushed; some learn best by listening, and others are more adept at listening or observing.
• Yoga incorporates physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, which can be a huge amount of information. Often, teachers are stronger in one of these areas than they are in others. A Yoga teacher who recognizes a student’s strengths is better prepared to offer encouragement and praise.
• Observation is the only way for teachers to monitor students’ progress, correct alignment, minimize the chance of injury, and establish a practice of good habits. Learning the proper techniques for Yogic breathing, meditating, and practicing asanas is a basic foundation of student growth and success.
For Yoga instructors, observation is much like mindfulness. When teachers pay attention and let go of the need to control or judge, the studio transforms into a place where students gain confidence, poise, and serenity. As a result, every person leaves thinking he or she was in a class designed just for him or her.
As teachers, we must strive for a balance between the controlling instructor, who has to assist everyone in the class, and the teacher who has a fear of leaving his or her mat. Observation by “walking the room” at times when you cannot see all of your students is the answer.