5 Top Tips for Engaging New Yoga Students in Your Class

Yoga Teacher using anatomy props to help students have a better understanding of the body and yoga

Yoga teachers strive to meet their students and serve them in the best way they know-how. When a new student attends your class, it is reasonable to feel drawn to them and inclined to want this student to return to your class. In a perfect world, this would happen. But many times, a student walks in, takes the class and we don’t see them again. To improve the likelihood of a student returning to your class, here are a few top tips for engaging new students.

1. Teach to Whoever is Present in Your Class

yoga students in class, participating in a yoga class, enjoying a yoga class

Teaching to whoever is present may seem logical, but oftentimes, we place significance on the number of students in class instead of who has arrived to take the class. Especially if a student is new, you want them to experience your best teaching, because this class is their only experience with you. If you let the numbers game get in your head, it inadvertently shows up in your teaching.

2. Introduce Your Shining Self

Teaching yoga, yoga teacher, yoga teacher and students, teacher and students conversing

Think of a scenario where you spend an hour in a public place. If no one acknowledges you, you might feel your presence doesn’t matter. In a yoga class, it’s essential for your students to feel noticed. If you see someone who is new, or new to your class, make sure to introduce yourself. Let them know that you are teaching the class and thank them for coming. Entertain any questions they may have. The personal interaction before the class has even begun makes a lasting impression.

3. Get to Know Your Students’ Names

Yoga Teacher guides student in yoga class beginning in Anjali Mudra

There is a reason why the characters in the television show “Cheers” felt at home. How wonderful is it to be in a place where everyone knows your name—well, at least you as their yoga teacher know their name? Making an effort to learn and use your new student’s name shows them you have taken an interest in them being in your class. Take the extra step beyond welcoming them and learn their names too. In addition, it’s a good idea to find out whether they are experiencing any physical limitations that might cause them to either skip or modify certain poses—in a private conversation, not in front of the class. If they inform you of any physical limitations, keep an eye out so that you can help if necessary, but be discreet—don’t hover—so that you don’t put them on the spot.

4. Be Yourself

Yoga Instructor teaching a small, and young group of yoga students

Sometimes when new students come to class, you may feel the need to do or give a little more. Perhaps you teach something a little harder if you recognize that the student has prior knowledge of yoga. However, changing the way you teach can throw you off instead of impressing a new student. Yoga teachers are here to serve the needs of the individuals who come to class, not to show off or to give them something extra challenging. When we try to anticipate what we think the student may want and fashion our class after what we think is true, our best guesses may not be on the right track. The more authentic you are in your approach, the more at home a new student will feel. Let them determine whether the class was appropriate to their needs rather than guessing for them.

5. Consent and Giving Space

Young yoga instructor teaching Head to Knee Forward Bend pose, Janu Sirsasana to a group of yoga students

As a new student, I’ve found teachers giving me extra attention, such as giving me extra alignment cues and adjustments. This can be nice, but it can also be overbearing. Students who walk into a new space might just be taking in a lot of new experiences, and not just in the studio. Maybe they just moved to town or have gone through another significant life change. You don’t need to give a new student extra attention in terms of teaching because it might have the opposite effect. They might think that everyone in the class practices so well and they are so inadequate that the teacher ends up standing by their mat and continuously correcting them.

If you are prepared to make a suggestion or an assist, ask them if that would be acceptable. Then offer them reassurance that they aren’t doing anything poorly, but rather, the adjustment might make the experience more comfortable or more precise. Then proceed slowly and gently, and ask for feedback, so that the student knows they are an equal participant. This way, the student has power over their own body and can feel confident in their practice. When you give them space to explore, they may not feel singled out, making them more inclined to come back and explore more yoga with you.

Using these five tips for engaging new yoga students in your class helps you to retain students and also to understand why students may not come back. This is because you learn about your students when you engage with them. They might be in town for a wedding and wanted to get in a yoga class before they leave town, or maybe they usually work during the day but have the day off. Remember, even if you follow these tips and you don’t see a student again there is a long list of reasons why they might not return (distance, finances, style, level, time, etc.) It’s necessary to keep in mind that it’s not personal and to always go back to number 1: teach to whoever is present in your class.

Allison Ray Jeraci, E-RYT 500, RPYT, is a vinyasa-based yoga teacher, fascinated by the intricate relationship between the mind and body. She offers a range of alignment-focused classes touching on anatomy, philosophy, and creative propping with a mindful approach.  In addition to teaching group classes and managing the Yoga Culture studio in Danbury, CT, she also teaches at Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester, NY, empowering mothers-to-be with prenatal yoga classes and childbirth education. You can find her @allisonschleck on Instagram and www.allisonrayjeraci.com.

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