When new students come to yoga class, they have a number of questions. The experience can be overwhelming for a new student and often, they have overcome significant obstacles to get to that first experience. Even in the first few months of a new yoga practice, some general questions usually come up.
As a teacher, your job, aside from teaching the class, is be available to answer these questions as clearly as possible. A new yoga student can sometimes get derailed easily and may look to you for encouragement and support. Here are some of the questions you may hear. I’ve included answers but please provide what your thoughts on any of the following:
1. How many times each week should I practice?
Beginners should develop a regular practice in order to get their body used to moving in a new way. In order for this to happen, it’s helpful to practice in the studio at least 3 times per week. Studio classes provide the structure and support that a new student needs in order to learn alignment and sequence. However, I stress with new students that consistency is just as important and that doing even 20 minutes of Sun Salutations daily, including regular studio classes is just as important. If a new student can’t make it to class regularly, they should try to do a little yoga each day. If new students are unsure how they will know what to do, find a website or online resource that they can use for guidance.
2. Will I be sore after class?
Sometimes new students do experience soreness in the first few weeks of starting a yoga practice. It can be a combination of using muscles in a different way as well as challenging those muscles to do more. Sometimes, students also experience a deep release in very tight muscles, like hamstrings, hip flexors and muscles of the chest and this can lead to soreness too. Let your students know that this is normal and will subside as their bodies get more used to the practice. If it becomes worse or intolerable, suggest to them that they drop back to twice per week in the studio and 10 to 20 minutes of Sun Salutations at home on their non-studio days.
3. What should I eat before coming to class?
With classes happening all day, students new to yoga may be unsure of how to adapt their meal schedule to accommodate their new yoga routine. Suggest to students that a general rule of thumb is they should not come to yoga on a full stomach but they should have eaten something with a little protein and a little carbohydrate at least 1 hour before. Also, remind them that they should be well hydrated, especially for heated yoga classes and that they should be mindful of coming to yoga after a night of drinking, heavy eating or after just getting off a long flight (I have managed people through the effects of all of these scenarios).
4. How many beginner classes should I take before taking an all levels class?
I get this question a lot and it shows a certain mindfulness about approaching the practice, which is great. I typically suggest 8-10 beginner classes before going into an all-levels class. However, I add the caveat that you can go to any class and use the guideline of doing what you can, keeping an open mind, resting when you need to and doing your best.
5. Should I use props and if so, which ones?
The use of blocks, straps and blankets will not only enhance your practice but can provide critical assistance to a beginner. In studios where there are different kinds of blocks, help students make the right selection. In studios with blankets, show them how these can support the hips in many of the hip opening poses. Let beginners know that props have nothing to do with experience and are helpful to use regardless of how many years you have been practicing.
6. How hot will it be in your class?
If you’re teaching heated or hot yoga, you will get this question a lot. Some styles of heated yoga have a requirement about the room heat to a specific temperature. In my experience teaching heated yoga, the room temperature may vary, but there is a range within which it should fall and that range varies depending on your training, how you use heat as a teacher and the requirements as defined by the studio. Let your students know that it will be hot, at least 75-80 degrees and that the humidity will also vary. Reinforce that they need to be well hydrated before they take class to ensure that they are practicing safely. Encourage them to be less focused on the actual “number” and more tuned in to how they feel.
7. If I want to lose weight, should I be doing more than yoga?
Many times, students will start a yoga practice as part of a wellness plan. Some of my students see me for private sessions as part of a personal commitment to taking charge of their health and they also see a personal trainer, a nutritionist and other professionals. Students will inquire about the cardiovascular effects of yoga and it’s ability to help one lose weight. Let your students know that a vigorous yoga practice is a great way to work towards weight loss but as always, it needs to be paired with healthy eating. You may also want to encourage your students to combine a regular yoga practice with an activity like running, brisk walking or treadmill/elliptical workouts. This of course is a highly customized question and answer.
8. How long do I need to practice before I start to see changes in my body?
New students are eager to see changes. This is a wonderful attitude (as long as it stays healthy) and can provide the needed encouragement to keep them coming to the mat. Let students know that generally, the more regularly they practice, the faster they may begin to see changes and that they need to be present to them; things like soreness can signify they are started to work dormant muscles (as we’ve said above) and changes in weight, strength, flexibility and overall body tone can change as well. However, remind your students to be aware of positive changes in their stress levels, improvement in sleep patterns, better focus, an overall feeling of relaxation after they leave class and a greater ability to stay connected to their body. These are all important and rewarding feelings too and will help your students recognize that the benefits and impact of yoga goes much more than skin deep.