Jessica Rienecker has been practicing yoga since 2009, and teaching since 2013 in Orange County, California. She focuses on intro level classes to help make yoga accessible to all fitness levels and body types.You can follow her on facebook at www.facebook.com/TallGirlYogi or her blog at www.tallgirlyogi.com. Jessica is Project Manager at Yoga Teacher Magazine.
1. Please describe, or tell a story, about your first yoga class or yoga experience.
My first experience with yoga was with a "power yoga" DVD. I was in my living room with a friend and had assumed yoga was a very passive and "easy" thing to do. I lasted about fifteen minutes before my muscles started to ache and was faced with the realization that I was in terrible shape. It was months before I ever tried it again, this time in an actual class setting. I think many people underestimate the strength involved in yoga because yogis don't usually look like bodybuilders.
2. Describe or narrate your first time teaching yoga. What do you recall?
My first time teaching was nerve-racking even though I had done student-teaching during my teacher training. Although it was a room of my peers, I was so nervous about sequencing and verbalizing the movements that I hardly ever left my mat. Even as I started to teach it became a delicate balance of learning how often to move along with the class versus how much to walk around and adjust students (asana while talking is hard!).
3. Last time you took a yoga class or workshop, what were your impressions?
The last workshop I took was with a yogi who rose very quickly to Internet fame due to her strength and flexibility. The workshop was packed with fans and yogis who had followed her in the last few years, most of whom were in no way near her level of practice. The workshop focused on very challenging postures that were, in some cases, quite dangerous for the beginner yogis who were in attendance. I found that her skill as a practitioner didn't translate to a great foundation for teaching but that her passion is what drew people to come in droves to this event. I learned some great tips from her but I think I also learned that in order to teach an effective class you have to know your audience (as I talk about in #4) and realize that beautiful and complicated yoga poses are often something to admire rather than to take on so early in your practice. With the advent of social media, so many images of yogis in handstands or with legs behind the head make yoga look too easy, even commonplace, when in reality those are things you may never achieve.
4. Describe the last time you taught a class or workshop.
When I taught a workshop to a group of cyclists, I think that the best advice I got (and give to other teachers I know) is to know your audience. These folks did not practice yoga and were very inflexible from years of cycling. I had to present the benefits of yoga in a way that was accessible to them and less serious than in most yoga classes I would take. They got a good stretch and learned tips that were pertinent to their bodies based upon their hobby. I kept it light and fun and a lot of them left thinking "Wow, yoga isn't that scary!". That seems to be the biggest obstacle for most when considering yoga for the first time, so cater to the demographic you are teaching!