Last night I taught prenatal class, and my one student seemed to enjoy the practice, but it got me thinking: sometimes I think it’s easier to teach a class of four or six students than a class of one. For my one student, was able to reuse most of the sequence I designed for last week’s class (since she wasn’t there last week, and I had yet another stomach bug this weekend, which limited my ability to plan), while also tailoring the class to her ability level (at 27 weeks, she was capable of more activity than someone farther along). The downside to a class of one, though, is that it just feels kind of awkward: all my attention focused on one person holding a pose. Yep, she’s still holding it. How does she feel in there? Does she feel like I’m staring at her? To divert myself from thinking too much (and also, I admit, to aid my teaching, since I’m still a little rusty), I practiced along with her, but the questions still remained.
For yoga students in general, I can think of a variety of reasons why it would be unwelcome to be the only student – certainly it would be uncomfortable for a nervous beginner! Plus, there’s just a different mindset to “attending a yoga class” versus “taking a private yoga lesson”. If I’ve left the house thinking I’ll be getting one thing, I kind of have to rework my mental image of the event when I find I’m getting the other, even if a private yoga lesson is technically more valuable.
As a student myself, there are times when I would be happy to be a class of one, and other times when I’d really just like to blend into the back of the room, thanks. I can remember once when F and I drove out to a yoga studio an hour from our house for some tourist yoga, and we and one other guy were the only students. On that day, I was delighted for the extra attention and the chance to really get to know a new teacher style at a new studio. I can also remember occasions where I was running late, not feeling well, or just not feeling like doing yoga, but forced myself out the door anyway. On a day like that, even though I almost always feel better by the end of class, I still wouldn’t want that only-student spotlight on myself.
As a yoga student, how do you feel when you’re the only student in the room? For any yoga teachers, how does it make you feel when you unexpectedly have to tailor your practice to a class of one?
As a teacher I found it hard at first to teach a class of one. Just as you said, it was awkward. It also threw off any class plans I had. But now I kind of like it and enjoy giving someone my full attention for an unexpected or even planned private practice. I feel like it gives me the opportunity to really tailor a class to an individual and challenges me as a teacher. Instead of just pretending there are other people in the class (like I did at first), the few times it’s happened since I’ve just asked them what they wanted to work on. My favorite student told me he wanted to revisit basic alignment on a variety of poses when he was the only one who showed up for class and it was so much fun to help him get back to basics. As a student, I have mixed feelings. Like you wrote, sometimes I don’t want to be in the spotlight. But one of the greatest classes I took was with only two other people and instead of a set practice, we got to work on handstands for the entire class. It was awesome.
That’s a good idea to ask people what they want to work on. I’ve done that a bit with small classes, asking if people are in the mood for an energetic practice or something more mellow, and I’ll often ask if people have any requests for a balance pose, but asking up front lets you plan ahead a little as you teach. The handstand class sounds like it was a lot of fun!
I actually just wanted to comment that I really appreciated reading your comments about prenatal yogs. I am 31 weeks & have been modifying my gentle yoga practice with advice from teachers & paying attention to my body. I have felt really good but suddenly worried that somehow I might have been inadvertently doing something risky. After reading a few sites & yours I have realized I am doing just what I should be doing. I have only gained 13 lbs, eat healthy & am in fairly good shape. If I feel dizzy or compressed or anything slightly off, I stop or modify. Quite a few of the sequences you wrote are similarto my mmodifications (particularly ones I was second-guessing) so that was particular lay helpful. Anyway, thanks!
I’m so glad I could help, Rachael! I try to stress to my students that it’s YOUR yoga practice and you should never hesitate to modify a pose or take a rest if you need one. When I first started teaching prenatal yoga, I didn’t have any special training but I was pregnant myself, so I did some research but also just listened to my body to learn what to teach. You’re the expert on what your body should be doing! Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy and thank you so much for commenting.
[…] solo student at this week’s class, and in both cases I think I handled it better than I did the first time it happened. I asked the student what she wanted to work on, and then tailored the class based on her requests […]