10 Yoga and Dance Class Rules to Live By
Although I have taught dance since 2003, it wasn’t until I completed my first Yoga Teacher Training in 2012 that I truly realised my values as a teacher. Now, when preparing for a class, I ask how do I want my students to feel? As a teacher we are not just there to show people ‘the moves’ but to also encourage, guide and support students. My hope is that students will come out of class feeling empowered and confident. That what they learn in the classroom, they can take with them into the world.
We have all seen some teachers who, in a play for power, put others down, admonish failures and belittle. This behaviour does not resonate with me. I have never been a student that has thrived under those conditions. As a student I want to feel comfortable to explore, try, fall, and even fail! So to my past, current, and future students, here are my 10 classroom rules. Think less of them as rules but rather guidelines to have a healthy class experience.
CLASSROOM RULE 1
Leave that nasty little voice that niggles at the back of your head at the classroom door. You know, the one telling you you are never enough. You can even feel free to leave him there at the ends of the class too. In fact I even encourage it.
Also, the beauty of a Yoga Class is that it is like a meditation. With a strong focus on breath awareness, Yoga can help you to quieten that voice. Any time you hear it holler some bullsh#t, you just brush it aside and reconnect to your breath.
CLASSROOM RULE 2
Accept that the way you felt when you practiced yesterday might be different today. In fact, I would go as far as saying every practice will feel different. So don’t hold onto what you think you should be able to do or what you did yesterday, instead be present. Accept yourself for who you are in this current moment.
CLASSROOM RULE 3
Embrace Imperfectionism. Let’s be real – no matter how experienced, how well you slept, how well you ate, frame of mind you are in – your practice is not going to be perfect and that is OK. In fact remember that falling and failing teaches us what to do next time. Take a balance for example – the only way you are going to find centre is by falling – and when you fall you will feel which muscles need to recruit in order to support you next time. So really you are winning!
CLASSROOM RULE 4
Celebrate the small wins. Don’t just celebrate when you nail that handstand or perfectly land a triple pirouette – celebrate the little wins as well. Even if that win is resting rather than pushing through the rest of the class.
CLASSROOM RULE 5
Let go of comparison! Easier to do when you are home alone but particularly tricky when you are in class with 50 other people. Yep it’s easy to look up and feel disheartened because someone is further along than you, or someone has a higher leg, or someone doesn’t even look like they are working a sweat! But you are you! Just be you! You are on your own unique journey – embrace it!
CLASSROOM RULE 6
Support others! Enjoy their journey as much as yours. Plus we can all learn from each other. Admire others skills but don’t let it get you down. Use their talents as motivation for you to keep working on your skills. We lift ourselves up when we lift up others!
CLASSROOM RULE 7
Laugh at yourself, especially if you mess up! It’s not the end of the world – it’s class – that means it’s time to practice. It’s the place where you should feel safe to explore, try, fall, fail and get up with more enthusiasm than when you began.
CLASSROOM RULE 8
Turn off your phone – not just to respect the teacher but to give yourself some time out from your to-do, to-see, to-serve list. Treat this class as a gift to yourself. A time to connect to your mind and body and be selfish. It’s ok to prioritise yourself sometimes! You matter! Your needs are just as valid!
CLASSROOM RULE 9
Bring your curiosity along with you. The way we learn is by exploring and following things that intrigue us. If you find something interesting to you in class, explore it more after the class. Ask questions!
CLASSROOM RULE 10
Move to feel good! Care less about what you look like. Trust me, when you are enjoying yourself, the rest will fall into place.
I think it is important as a teacher to know how you want to make your students feel and what values you want to instil in your classes. As a student it is also nice to know some guidelines or etiquette for the practice and classroom so to get the most out of class.
Let me know if any of them resonate with you or which rule you would add.
About the Author
Emma Hawthorne is a professional Singer and Dancer as well as Yoga and Dance Instructor. She has toured with many Australasian tours of Musicals including Wicked, Hair, Mamma Mia, West Side Story, and Dr Zhivago. She frequently teaches Yoga and Dance at the Sydney Dance Company Studios as well as other studios in and around Sydney. She also has on online studio omunay.com where she has hundreds of online classes in Yoga, Dance, Pilates, and Meditation. Emma is currently living a self-converted bus home called ‘Winnie the Mini Bus’ and travelling around Australia.