Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

End of my Prenatal Class May 21, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:40 pm
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Last night was the seventh time I taught prenatal yoga at EEY this spring, and it’ll probably be the last time, at least for now. I’ll be traveling for Memorial Day next week, and Sarah will most likely be ready to teach the class again starting in June.

Teaching prenatal this spring has been really great for me. It showed me, first of all, that I can still teach yoga – even after a baby, even when my own practice is suffering or nonexistent – and still deliver a worthwhile experience for my students. I learned more about teaching prenatal to students at different places in their pregnancies. I learned about teaching a yoga class to just one person, too – I had only one student at last week’s class, and a different 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 and the stage of her pregnancy. Last week we talked about core strength; this week, focusing energy in an active yoga practice to better facilitate relaxation afterwards. I felt much better about both of these classes as a teacher, and I really had fun with it.

Overall, teaching prenatal this spring has reinforced how much I love prenatal yoga and reminded me of how much I love teaching any sort of yoga. What will my next yoga teaching adventure be? Who knows what the future holds!


A Class of One April 16, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:22 pm
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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?


Prenatal class and prenatal yoga sequence #2 April 11, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:02 pm
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On Monday night I taught the prenatal yoga class, and I have to say, it felt great. I was a little nervous but slipped right back into my “yoga teacher voice” without a problem. I remembered all the things I wanted to say, and I worked them in naturally – for example, talking about the need for both strength and flexibility in the pelvic floor while we practiced a wall-assisted squat. I was able to work the wall-assisted squat into the sequence in a natural way by moving us over closer to the wall for a balance pose (with only two students, I felt like I had a bit more freedom to work with the space). I’m grateful that Sarah set a precedent for using blankets and blocks in this class, because I think props can be enormously helpful for prenatal yoga (and props aren’t typically used at all at EEY). At the end of class, I tried a new guided meditation, and it flowed nicely. I felt awesome after class, and more importantly, my two students seemed to enjoy the practice. I hadn’t taught yoga in ten months, but it felt like I’d never left.

Here’s the sequence I taught:

  • Begin seated, with a centering moment
    • neck rolls
    • shoulder circles
    • arm stretches
  • Move to all fours
    • cat/cow (actually, cat/neutral, since cow is contraindicated for pregnancy)
    • hip circles
    • calf stretches
    • child’s pose
    • downward dog
  • Step up to forward fold
  • mountain pose
  • Warrior sequence
    • warrior 1
    • warrior 2
    • radiant warrior
    • triangle pose
    • goddess
    • wide-legged standing forward fold
  • Repeat standing sequence on the other side
  • balance pose at the wall: tree pose
  • wall-assisted squat
  • floor poses
    • cobbler pose
    • happy baby pose
    • pelvic tilts
  • inversion: legs up the wall
  • savasana with guided meditation

Yoga Teaching Update April 11, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:37 pm
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I realized I haven’t talked about my yoga teaching here for a while. I’m still teaching at Awaken in Media, PA, now on Tuesday nights at 6:30. Two weeks ago I hit my highest turnout with five students; last week I had two students; and last night I just had one, but that’s okay because it was Stacey and she really really needed some yoga. Kyle is still working on improvements and upgrades in the yoga space – every week something new happens (this week: marker board in the stairwell, folder holder for the yoga binder, and major progress in the third massage room). The space looks better and better every week! I’m looking forward to when he feels ready to do a grand opening and start getting some more people in the door, although if that happens in May, I won’t have a ton of teaching time left before Yoga Baby’s arrival. Last night’s odd moment: when a young woman opened the door mid-class looking for the doula training workshop. I sent her downstairs to the Wellness Center, but it must have been pretty odd from her perspective to be looking for a doula workshop and to find a pregnant lady doing yoga. I hope she comes back for yoga class sometime, I tried not to be scary.

My tenure teaching prenatal yoga has now come to an end: the person who was teaching the class at EEY has now returned, so she’ll be resuming the class this week. I really loved teaching prenatal, but I have to admit I’m relieved. The Sunday morning timeslot wasn’t ideal for me, and the fact that a teacher was needed in March/April also wasn’t ideal, since I had pre-existing plans for three out-of-town weekends (friends in NJ, a business trip to AZ, and family in Pittsburgh). N was very understanding but all the travel meant that I only had the chance to teach the class three times. I was also so busy last month that I didn’t have time to research prenatal yoga nearly as much as I would have liked, and ended up relying on (1) how my own body feels during yoga right now, (2) things I have heard from my midwife, other pregnant ladies, or other yoga teachers, and (3) some things I picked up in the few prenatal classes I’d taken as a student. I’m incredibly grateful to have had this experience, though! At some point in the future, I’d really like to get some training specifically in prenatal yoga and have the chance to teach it properly. In the meantime, now that original teacher is back, I’m looking forward to taking the class with someone who actually knows what she’s doing! I’m also looking forward to going to church more often, and occasionally sleeping in and eating a leisurely breakfast with F in our jammies, neither of which is possible when I had to teach at 10:30.

I’ll be really interested to see what happens to my teaching after Yoga Baby arrives. I definitely don’t want to push myself to do too much too soon, or to teach when I’m exhausted and sleep-deprived (which I’m sure will be the case for at least the first month of YB’s life). On the other hand, I don’t want to lose my confidence as a teacher, I think it would be nice to have one reason a week to leave the house, and I know that picking up my yoga again will help me get back in shape after the birth. Overall I just want to be sure to be kind to myself and not to push it if what I really need is rest.


Prenatal Yoga and Modifying Postures March 20, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:45 pm
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So far I’ve taught prenatal yoga at EEY three times, and I’ve learned a lot from every single class. I try to focus on poses that anyone in the class can do, but that’s a difficult task. At 12 weeks, a pregnant woman is likely to have most of her usual mobility and flexibility, and it’s possible she feels great and has lots of energy, but she may also be feeling tired or sick. At 38 weeks, a pregnant woman’s mobility is much more limited and she’s likely to be moving more slowly and getting tired more easily. And every pregnant woman is different and has different needs. At my current 25 weeks, I definitely move more slowly and tire more easily than I did a month ago, so I’m finding that the yoga I need is changing: a vinyasa class used to invigorate me, but now it just wears me out. I’m still capable of a lot of what I could do before, but as a yoga teacher my pre-pregnancy baseline is a little different from most women’s, so I can’t assume that my students can achieve certain poses just because I still can. I also can’t assume that my students, many of whom are new to yoga, will be able to catch when a pose isn’t quite right for their bodies to do. I’ve had a lot of experience and a lot of training and even I still occasionally do too much or press on through a pose that doesn’t feel right; I can’t expect a student in my class, especially a student new to yoga, especially a pregnant student dealing with her body feeling all kinds of different lately, to be able to make those calls with the level of accuracy and safety that I can for myself.

My experience as a pregnant yogini really brings home to me the importance of giving my students options for modifying postures. I feel like I spend a lot of my class talking through different options. For example, in a lunge, you can leave your hands on the floor, bring them to your knee or hips or heart center, or raise them to the sky. Depending on how I feel on a particular day, I’ve taken every one of those options at least once in the past few weeks, whereas before my pregnancy I’d almost always lift my arms overhead. I try to emphasize to my students that they should do whatever feels right for their bodies today, regardless of what I or the others in the class may be doing; I remind them to focus on their breath and to rest whenever they need to. I try to remember to tell them that if they need to run downstairs to the bathroom at any time during class, they should go ahead. And I try to give them tidbits of knowledge about what their bodies are doing during pregnancy, things that I’ve read or learned from my midwife or experienced myself. Here’s why it’s helpful to stretch the pelvic floor muscles; here’s what’s going on with our joints right now and why it’s important not to overstretch; here’s a pose that will give you some relief if you get leg cramps during the night like I do. But mostly, I try to give them options. Lots and lots of options.

And I think that these experiences will make me a better yoga teacher overall. Most of the time, the students who come to my regular hatha yoga classes are fit and able to practice at or near my level, but that won’t always be the case. I never know when a new or older or differently abled student might show up, and I want to be able to give that student options too. I never know when one of my regular students may be feeling extra tired or have a cold coming on and want to take it easy. I never know when a pregnant student may show up for a regular hatha class. Part of the challenge is being able to think on my feet and adapt to a particular group’s needs, but the real challenge is to be able to provide options to my students in a regular class, any regular class at any time, while still engaging the more advanced students. That’s pretty hard to do, but it’s an essential part of my job. My yoga is not about making every person do each pose exactly the same way; my yoga is about helping each student to find what his or her own yoga is.

(Unrelated to the main content of this post, I just wanted to let folks know that Awaken Massage and Yoga has moved to a new location and my teaching schedule has switched from Wednesdays to Tuesdays. Check out Awaken’s website or my Schedule page for details!)


Misc updates February 27, 2012

I taught my first prenatal class at EEY yesterday. It was awesome (or, at least, it seemed so to me – I hope my five students also enjoyed it!). I focused primarily on standing postures and included plenty of squatting poses as well; I’ll try to post the full sequence later this week. I felt confident teaching and the class seemed to flow really smoothly. Next time I want to walk around more, and also encourage the students to use a blanket as a prop or cushion (since personally I am far more comfortable these days sitting on a blanket/cushion than I am on a hard floor, and this class is based pretty much entirely on my own experience). I definitely need to do more research, watch a few more videos, maybe get a book, and hit another few prenatal classes myself, but I’m really happy with this beginning. And today my arms, hips, and thighs feel sore, which is a good sign. I hope my students aren’t suffering too much soreness, especially since some of them are still dealing with morning sickness!

When I thought about it, I was surprised to note that this is the first time in a while that I’ve taught yoga to students I don’t personally know in some way. It’s also the first time I’ve taught at EEY since graduating from teacher training. I was nervous, but not overly so, and I don’t think I seemed nervous; once I started teaching, I felt confident and like I had something valuable to share. This was a great feeling, and reminded me of how much I love teaching yoga! The Sunday morning timeslot for this class isn’t ideal, but I’m so glad I made room for it in my schedule and my life.

Unrelated to how awesome teaching yoga is (or perhaps tangentially related!), I just read this article by Mike Lux titled “What Bible is Santorum Reading?” This is not a political blog, but just last month I blogged about how frustrating I find it that many people who claim to be Christian do not seem to support the values that Jesus describes over and over again in the Bible. Mr. Lux makes a much better case, citing the specific number of times that Jesus told his followers to do things like help the poor, and providing examples from the Old Testament as well. I really appreciated his article so I wanted to share.


Teaching at Awaken February 15, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:37 pm
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I’m excited to tell you all that I’m going to be teaching yoga at a real yoga studio! And I’ll be paid, even! Tonight is my first class at Awaken Massage & Yoga in Media, PA. Teaching yoga on my front porch has been incredibly rewarding – I’m so glad that I could provide that class to my friends and so grateful that they kept showing up. Now I’m delighted to gain teaching experience in a professional yoga studio setting, and to get to know everybody at Awaken.

I created a Schedule page with Google Calendar so it’ll be easy to find out when I’m teaching right here on the blog. One more step towards turning this blog into a professional website!