3 Vital questions all teachers should ask new students.
If my Cape Town phone doesn’t get at least one phone call a week with someone asking me what Yoga should they should practice in South Africa, I would call it a quiet week! Nearly on a daily basis I get an influx of emails in my inbox asking about Yoga classes, Yoga retreats, Yoga workshops, Ayurveda workshops in and around Cape Town. Most are new to Yoga and are wanting to find out where they should go. The first thing many of my Yoga colleagues say is, find studios in your area and go try them all. Where this sounds like a good and common answer, (even one I’ve used in the past), it’s not actually the most helpful to new people.
To me it’s not actually a fair and honest answer, it’s taking the quick and easy way out and not taking responsibility as a qualified Yoga teacher. As qualified Yoga teachers, we are here to help others to the best of their ability and to meet their needs. We are of service to the community we are part of.
3 basic questions I ask a new contact:
1. Why are you interested in starting Yoga?
Already from this answer you can assess the best style of Yoga that they would need at this point in time. Someone who is looking for something physical and wants to sweat is probably better off in a vinyasa or Ashtanga type class. Someone who wants to learn how to breath and needs to still the mind is better off in an Integral, Sivananda or Satyananda Yoga class. Someone who is interested in precision in postures is better off in an Iyengar Yoga class and so on…
2. Where do you live and work?
Even if you’ve assessed the best school or teacher for this new person, if it is not on their direct route or area they most probably won’t go regularly. I once had a lady determined to come all the way from Durbanville to Tokai to take part in my 17:30 yoga class because she wanted to do a class with NINA. No amount of convincing over the phone could change her mind. Needless to say, sitting for over an hour in traffic and then driving back for 40 minutes wasn’t going to be sustainable. No matter how much she loved my class, it wasn’t fair to her, the environment and other Yoga teachers in her area. So after a little heart to heart chat after class, I managed to refer her to someone I knew closer to Durbanville and am sure she is much happier now!
3. How often do you plan on going to class and at what times?
This seems like a silly question, but it’ll help you assess what studios in their vicinity are most suitable for their current schedule. If you don’t know of studios, teachers and class times in your area, get to know them! Knowledge is power and it is also a great networking tool.
In this day and age, where every second person you meet seems to be a Yoga teacher or you can take Yoga classes online and practice at any time of day that suits you, it is important as a Yoga teacher to take the time to see what is happening out there and to empower yourself so that you can help to empower others.
We can’t be scared to refer potential new students to other teachers/studios who might be better equipped to deal with their needs because we are desperate for the extra foot traffic. In my experience it is usually the smaller, (teaching from home teachers) who take the time to get to know the potential new student and if they feel this person would benefit from a larger studio, (commercial Yoga as I’ve come to call it), they refer them there. Or if they see the need for a remedial Yoga, they refer them to a Yoga therapist etc. I have done this numerous of times over the years for a large studio in my area but to date have not had one referral from them.
I quiver when I think of all those lost students to Yoga because studios and teachers don’t take the time to do a basic assessment. How often I’ve had to stop myself going over to a neighbouring table at a restaurant because I overheard conversations like, “Yoga, are you crazy, I’ve tried that, I was in a class with all these young girls flipping themselves inside out and upside down, I nearly killed myself, I thought it was meant to help my back pain but I was on anti inflammatories for a week thereafter. Never again! ” If only this person would have been referred to the right studio or teacher from the start things could look better for the world of Yoga as a whole…
All Yoga teachers need to realise that we are teaching the same practice but with different flavours. So yogis please, in the tradition of Yoga and Yogic philosophy, Ahimsa, first do no harm. That means be brave and get to know teachers in your neighbourhood and be open and prepared to spend 5 minutes on the phone with someone and practice Satya, (truthfulness) and Aparigraha, (non-stealing). If you can’t help them, rather refer them to someone who can.
Wishing all yogis and newbies light and love on their journey forward.
Nina Saacks, founder of Yoga Awakening Africa, Integral Hatha Yoga Teacher and Teacher Trainer, believes that health equals balance in life, enjoying what you do and doing what you enjoy, and to never take yourself too seriously!