The teachers, none of whom were shy about speaking out, talked about the technical reasons they attend certain classes and what they, in turn, expect from their teachers.
The practitioners — or non teachers — said that what prevented them from attending some classes was that they felt too intimidated.
This really made me stop and think.
I started attending exercise classes when I was really quite young. The first one was an aerobics class at the local village hall when I was less than 16 years old. I started going to the class with a friend and loved it from the beginning. My friend was less enthusiastic and pretty soon dropped out, but I carried on going by myself. The things that made me continue with the class were the fact that I really liked the teacher and enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of my classmates each week.
I think there are two main things involved in attending a class. The first one is motivation: is it strong enough to get you through the door in the first place? The second, equally important thing is the atmosphere you encounter when you finally pluck up the courage to attend.
The motivation to attend a class in the first place is almost impossible for a teacher to influence. Working hard to welcome, encourage and build trust, however? That I can do. It’s always very high up on my agenda.
Fundamentally, we’re all the same. Whenever we’re thinking about going to an established yoga or Pilates class for the first time, we assume that everyone will already be able to do the most advanced poses and will look down on us if we can’t. They’ll be serious, unsmiling and unfriendly and the instructor will make us do something we don't want to do. Something like a headstand in a yoga class or a full back-bend in a Pilates class.
As far as my classes are concerned, this is never something you’ll have to worry about! With particularly nervous students, I might suggest the option of a couple of one-to-one sessions to build confidence and familiarity. This means that when they do walk into a group class they’ll feel that they have some idea of what they are doing.
The great thing about a yoga or Pilates class is that for the most part you stay on your mat and can, in time, switch off from everyone else in the class and focus on yourself. When I attend a yoga class and step onto my mat, I am on my own little island — an oasis of calm! One of the most important things you should do is try to concentrate on your own practice, rather than comparing yourself with other people. Try to be impartial rather than competitive or envious.
Adjusting students into a deeper pose requires trust on both sides, both from the student and the instructor. I will always ask people if they would like to be adjusted in a pose. Sometimes the adjustment is simply to prevent injury or improve alignment; as a teacher, the health and wellbeing of my students is a major concern!
When you take that first step across the threshold and get to the end of your first class, the sense of achievement can be huge. I have seen the confidence of students increase noticeably after just a couple of weeks and it’s something I love to witness. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Try several classes. Choose a teacher who feels right for you. See if a friend will go with you — the first class is always the most challenging; after that it’s plain sailing! And you never know, you might just have fun and meet some new friends!
Jump in all the puddles
— taken from “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times” by Bhava Ram
It had rained heavily the night before, which is rare where we live in southern California. The next morning, as the sun was peeking through billowy clouds, my four-year-old son and I set out for a walk to enjoy the clean, moist air. Before too long we came to a great puddle in the middle of the sidewalk. It must have been three feet across and several inches deep.
I immediately avoided the pool of water, circling easily around one side, I looked back and there was my boy staring curiously at me as if he could not believe what I had just done. With a wry smile he backed up a few steps, got a running start and took a huge leap then landed SPLAT! - smack into the middle of the puddle.
"Daddy", he said urgently as he came up to me with his feet and pants soaked, smiling with glee, "jump in ALL the puddles!" I instantly understood the lesson. I was in a state of constriction, subconsciously avoiding any potential inconvenience or discomfort and completely missing the joy of a spontaneous act. My son and I then held hands and began skipping down the walk, jumping in every single puddle along way. In no time we were muddy and drenched and our ribs ached from all the laughter. It was one of the best mornings ever.