When I got my yoga certification in 2016 I thought that I would be teaching group classes, but what ended up happening was something quite different: I started out teaching small donation-based community classes at a local park. This was a great way for me to begin teaching because most students who came to these classes we beginners, and it actually forced me to be more knowledgeable about yoga rather than less. My students had more questions and needed more modifications than your average studio yogi.
After that, I had the opportunity to co-teach a large group of anywhere between 100 to 200 yogis at a weekly farmer’s market. This was kind of a wild experience and definitely helped me get over my fear of public speaking and teaching large groups. Aside from this, now that I was a certified yoga teacher, many friends, family and friends of the family would ask for private sessions. I said yes to nearly everyone and hardly took payment because I figured I could use the practice teaching. After a few sessions, I began to really love the intimacy of it and found a passion for private teaching.
The Benefits of Teaching Private Classes
The great thing about teaching privately is that you get a chance to really customize a class session to fit someone’s specific needs. With a practice so tailored to an individual, you get the opportunity to help someone see how yoga can transform their daily life. Students decide to seek private instruction for many reasons but for most, it’s lack of time.
However, I find that for the majority of those who really benefit from private instruction usually has some sort of social reasoning. A typical yoga class tends to have young, fit and relatively able-bodied students in it which can be intimidating to anyone who does not lie within those parameters. Once, I even had a client who wanted to try yoga for some time but struggled with OCD. A yoga studio with many unfamiliar people brought up a lot of anxiety for her.
Currently, I am working with a couple in their 40s who have never taken a yoga class and who are dealing with some back and knee pain. A class with 15-20 students leaves little room for their specific needs to be addressed. Even an experienced and attentive teacher cannot accommodate every student’s needs. In such cases, one on one instruction is a great opportunity for both student and teacher. The student can address their specific needs for their practice and do so in a safe environment free from the tendency to compare oneself to others. The teacher can share their passion for yoga on a very intimate level while exercising empathy, compassion, and skill.
Questions to Ask Before Teaching a Private Yoga Lesson
When meeting with a private client for the first time you may want to ask some questions in order to begin tailoring a specific yoga program for them. You can do this with a preliminary phone call, with a questionnaire they can fill out via email, or you can agree that the first session will be a short ‘meet and greet’. Ask them what they know about yoga and why they want to begin a practice with questions such as:
- Have they ever practiced yoga before? In a class? At home?
- How would they describe their flexibility and strength?
- Where would the student like to improve their flexibility and strength?
- Are there any areas of concern you should know about?
I also like to get a sense of the student’s personality, as this will help determine the tone of the class, and how much ‘dharma’ I weave into the narrative or if I should keep it simple and use ‘plain language’ versus ‘yoga language’. This may even change from session to session. Maybe this is more than you personally feel is necessary but being able to fine-tune your classes like this will keep your clients coming back and open you to even more teaching opportunities.
Take some time to brush up on your knowledge of modifications, props, and hands-on adjustments. Consider if you need bring essential oils, bells, music, and speakers. The more prepared you are the greater fluidity your sessions will have. One-on-one classes are a great opportunity to practice using these ‘yoga accessories’.
Creating a Safe Space for Growth
Just as a reminder: in the initial sessions you should always ask your student for permission to touch them until you have formed a relationship where it is either a given or you can read your student’s body language (and verbal language for that matter) to know weather it is okay or not. Even then, it doesn’t hurt to ask every once in awhile.
Lastly, always respect your time and your clients. Private sessions can be very involved, emotionally and mentally. Set a time limit and stick to it. Observe your own boundaries as well as theirs. Many if not all private yoga instructors have contracts, payment plans and insurance. Some of this logistical stuff may seem boring or unnecessary but things like that set a good precedent and allow you to have a sense of trust and professionalism between you and your students.