By Barbora Simek
Each teacher has a handful experiences in their teacher training that set the course for the type of Bikram Yoga instructor they will be. One of the moments that has stuck with through the course of my teaching career was a posture clinic lead by Darius LeGal, co-owner of Funky Door Mid-Town in San Fransisco.
Four years later, stumbling across the notes I took that day in the smelly La Cienega yoga room, I find that his tips could make any teacher’s class stronger. Below, are Darius’ tips from 2005, with my reflections after four years of teaching.
Get your students fully into the posture first, and then correct.
Getting your students fully into the poses means that individual attention will take less away from the group but also that you will be forced to make your corrections more concise to adhere to even timing.
Address your corrections mostly to the whole class. Make general corrections and save individual ones for special cases.
I recall Craig guiding us to first use the dialogue to correct, and to direct instructions to a specific student that needs to make an adjustment and to only rely on correcting individuals if necessary. While giving students some individual attention in each class is great, it is important to make sure that it doesn’t take away from the group dynamic.
Don’t use too many corrections and keep them short and sweet.
My home studio-owner, Brad Colwell, used to say to his students, “If you can learn one thing, or improve one thing in class, I am happy.” When we spoke about teaching he always would point out that with everything that is happening in the Bikram series, it is hard for the average student to retain to everything you say. Keeping this in mind, and cutting back on superfluous corrections and focusing on meaningful ones can tidy up your class and make your teaching more effective.
Use compliments sparingly so that your students maintain the motivation to improve.
I confess, I have a bad habit of saying ‘great’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘gorgeous’ after saying ‘change’. It is unnecessary and sounds insincere when it is done too often. But a sincere, well placed compliment can keep a student going in class.
I know a student who once said she chose not to sit out second set of a posture because the teacher had told her she had ‘perfect form’ in the first set. So, compliments can be a great way to motivate your students, but only if used effectively.
Say corrections loud enough for the whole class.
Our classes are made up of individuals, but they are still a group and the group follows the teachers energy. If a correction is specifically for one person, you can say, “Only for you ______ ….” Making sure that everyone can hear your corrections serves the group dynamic of your class.
Some teachers feel that corrections should be private, but there is no need to make a student feel as if getting or needing a correction is not something that can be discussed openly. Saying corrections out loud shows there is no shame in being corrected and gives other students the chance to benefit from someone else’s corrections.
Ultimately, if we are to ask our students to listen ‘word by word’ it is only fair that they should hear every word.