There are many reasons why a lot of novice yoga students, or those who have never taken a yoga class before, dread taking one for the first time. As a yoga instructor, I’ve had new students tell me they were once intimidated because yoga has a pretentious air about it. I’ve also heard about yoga classes where the teacher only used the Sanskrit terms to describe poses and completely deterred new students.
Doing any new form of exercise is intimidating enough. But once you add discomfort in the form of unwelcoming or elitist attitudes or vague instructions—you’re bound to make new yoga students feel shunned rather than empowered and engaged. So listen up yoga teachers! Your mission is to make yoga accessible to everyone in your class…
Nix the Chanting
When I trained as a yoga instructor, I immersed myself in the practice and theory of yoga for a solid year. And that was after practicing yoga as a student for 5-years. When I cracked the spine on my first ancient yoga language text, I had no idea what the words in front of me actually meant nor the meaning behind them. It took time, patience, and study. So there’s little wonder why “Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, Om” is met with glassy-eyed stares from your beginner yoga class.
I relish the language of yoga and use it in my daily practice, but not everyone understands Sanskrit. While my intermediate and advanced classes might enjoy ending class with a chant and breathing exercise—I also know there is a time and place for it. It’s understandable that my beginner class isn’t big on chanting words that they may not understand. Instead, keep Sanskrit to a minimum and use plain English to get the basics down (i.e., the chakras) before incorporating complicated yoga language.