Thoughts on class size, what happens in class, and how you can help

A student: “My poses change in this room.”
Me: “Is that a good thing?”
Her: “Yeah, that’s a really good thing.”

Another long­time student and yoga teacher: “I learn something new every time I come here.”

A 3-­4x/week yoga student after I started Loving Kindness Yoga School and had smaller classes than I had for the previous 15 years: “I’ve been taking yoga for 5 years, and now with the personal assistance and attention, I’m finally GETTING it!”

When I first started teaching yoga back in 1993 in Ann Arbor, MI, I started, amazingly, having series classes with 10-­14 students, in retrospect a good size for a new teacher. At the time, not having anything to compare to, other than MY teacher’s 30+ student classes and the huge classes at Kripalu where I was trained, it seemed like a good number for me. I have fond memories of those first brave and dedicated yoginis and yogis who liked and found benefit from me sharing my love and yoga practice. I was renting space wherever I could and even taught for more than a year at what had been a speak­easy back in the Prohibition days. (Before the owner did some major renovation, you actually had to walk up the back, steel steps from the alley!)

We moved to Chapel Hill/Carrboro in 1995, and I started teaching at the (frequently renamed) gym in Carrboro in January ’96. That was my primary teaching space until 2010. Many of you remember the huge (and sometimes very cold!) classes there. It was unusual if there weren’t at least 30 people in a class, and most classes were much bigger than that (though one wonderful woman, Claire, very early on, received a private class with me there). It was a fun time and lots of good yoga energy.

Then when I moved to Open Heart in 2010, class size was smaller than that, which was just fine with me. I could give more assistance and could teach in a space that was more “me.” Classes were mostly in the 17-­30 range, mostly in the 20’s, about 1/2 the size they had been at the gym.

When I started Loving Kindness and teaching in what was completely “my” space, classes were smaller in the much smaller space upstairs on Main St. in Carrboro, generally in the 6-­16 range with the bigger classes on the weekends, about 1/2 the size they had been at Open Heart. I found that for the first time in since I began, I could give everyone equal attention, not just doing triage and offering assistance to those people who were really NEEDING it. Though I always tried to give at least a little assistance to everyone, even in the big classes, I could finally, again, give even long­time practitioners as much attention and assistance as newer folks. The extra assistance and attention was very helpful for many. One student at the time told me that he told people that he went to a very exclusive yoga studio 🙂

When I first met my main yoga teachers, Angela Farmer and Victor Von Kooten, I saw them as healers who happened to use yoga as their modality, and I felt inspired to try to move in that direction with them as my role models. At Loving Kindness, I found I could more realize that vision than I had with bigger classes. Many of you know from personal experience what I am writing about here. As a result, I found more satisfaction in my teaching since it was able to be at a much deeper level, not just at the surface. The name that I had given to my yoga teacher training and advanced studies course is “Go Deep,” a reminder to myself and an encouragement for those who join me on the journey, and I felt that I could really take my teaching and giving to a much deeper level, and that students could go deeper.

When I moved to the current beautiful location on Lloyd St, classes got a little bigger but mostly about the same as before. Now, with more than 21 years teaching experience, I have come to the conclusion that my ideal class size is in the 12­-18 range. At that size, I can give everyone, all levels, good personal attention and assistance if they want it; I can keep the teaching at a deep level that satisfies me, nurtures everyone at whatever level they are, and helps me personally take my practice and experience of yoga deeper, and I can make a reasonable income that provides for the needs of my family and me.

This is where you come in. Though some classes are in that range, most of them are smaller than that, which is great for personal attention and assistance but not so great for the income level. Those of you who are and have been coming to class, especially those of you who have taken classes for years or from a number of teachers, know that something special is happening here. Last week, assists I gave during class ranged from specific suggestions on how to be in the poses with more ease and safety or depth, to “what’s happening here?” (some specific body part), to “what’s the underlying motivation while being in that pose?” Different people, different poses, different things are called for. It is my experience that even students who mostly attend other classes/other styles but come to Loving Kindness once a week or so, find the personal attention to be helpful and in many cases, have been able to find ways to practice without pain and injury. I can advertise (and I do and will) but everyone knows that word­-of-­mouth is the best advertising. If you are able or willing, some concrete and useful ways you can help are:

1. Bring a friend (or 2) with you to class! As Amrit Desai said, “Company is stronger than willpower,” so if you make a “yoga date” with someone, then they (and YOU) are more likely to come to class than if you or the other person relies only on willpower and self­discipline alone. As always the first class is free, and if you bring a friend, feel free to take my class for free as well. And I am not the only teacher there. We have several beautiful women sharing their yoga and meditation on Mondays: Paura’s Love Flow in the morning, Lizzie and Kristen’s Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation and Chrysecolla’s series­only classes Yoga for Every{Body} in the afternoon, and Meredith’s Hatha Deep Stretch in the evening.

2. Tell your friends (especially yoga people) about it and about what you are getting out of it, even if you can’t bring them to class with you. There are “First class free” passes at the studio that you can take and pass out freely :­ )

3. Share the link to my website and blog: LovingKindnessYogaSchool.com and Ti’s blog. Or better yet, make a comment or testimonial if you have time and have received something good from classes.

4. “Like” us on Facebook if you do that. Or again better yet, make a comment or review.

5. Consider coming to the beach retreat or taking the yoga teacher training, not just for would­be yoga teachers but also for people aspiring to personal greatness and self­realization. Both are great ways to get a boost and a deepening of your practice and experience of yoga.

6. As an added bonus for people who have taken my or another yoga teacher training, refer someone to my yoga teacher training who then registers for it, and take the training yourself for 1/2 the price. Refer 2 people who take it and you take it for no charge. (and yes, some people have taken the course twice and found great value in it the second time.)

7. Keep coming to classes (unless you have moved away)! Your presence has kept this beautiful thing going for this long. I’m up for going deeper for many more years with you, God willing

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s