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7 Tips for Mastering a Yoga Pose by Teaching It to a Newbie

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Baxter

7 Tips for Mastering a Yoga Pose by Teaching It to a Newbie

Photo by Melina Meza

So you want to master some of your beginning level yoga poses? Trying to teach someone else how to do one of your favorites might be just the ticket! That's because I believe a big factor in learning a pose is that the “teacher” becomes very clear on what the steps are in doing the pose that they have been following in their own minds from what they themselves had been taught. These inner instructions that have been gleaned sometimes over years of study —often from multiple teachers—may initially seem automatic. But when you have to demonstrate or verbalize what it takes to do a pose to someone else, you become more conscious of the details and complexities of the pose, which leads to a greater sense of mastery. 
So here’s a list of tips to help you learn to teach a yoga pose to a beginner, whether that is in an official private lesson or just some friend or family member you’ve convinced/coerced into helping you by being your “student.”
Before trying to teach the pose to someone else, guide yourself into the pose and out, noticing what your “inner” teacher is telling you to do and how things are feeling inside. This will help you begin to get clear on the essential things you already know about your pose.

Tips for Teaching a Yoga Pose to a Newbie

  1. Set your mats up parallel to one another. Ask your student to mirror what you do as precisely as they can, as you demonstrate the pose. Think of this as an adult version of Monkey See, Monkey Do! (Mirroring does require that for asymmetrical poses that you do the left side while they do the right and right side while they do the left.)
  2. As you get a sense of how well your student is copying you, can you use one hand to point out on your body an area that the student may not be noticing and exaggerate the position or movement they still need to find.
  3. Don’t keep your student too long in any pose—newbies tire quickly! Instead, repeat the pose for short intervals several times.
  4. Think about the top-three key actions or movements that you have learned to do in the pose and verbally share those with the student while you mirror it. Repeat the words several times, as sometimes it will take a while for the info to settle in.
  5. Try entering and exiting from your pose using your breath, without hanging out in the pose. For example, with Triangle pose (Trikonasana), bring your arms up to parallel with the floor as you inhale, tip into the pose on your exhale, inhale back up to arms out to sides, and lower your arms to your sides on the exhale. This is a great way to warm your student up for the pose and bring them into greater connection to their breathing!
  6. Some people are more tactile learners, so if your student gives you permission, you might use touch to gently guide the person deeper into the pose you are sharing with them. Or use a prop to assist you, such as a strap around the upper thighs in Downward-Facing Dog pose to pull the thighbones away from the hands, which will teach them to lengthen the spine.
  7. Since mastering a yoga pose is as much about the internal “feeling experience” as it is the external alignment, you might describe to your student what internal sensations you are feeling in different areas of your body, and then ask them to notice and describe what they are feeling to you. It might be completely different because, of course, no two people are exactly the same—that is okay!
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