"I'm a Beginner. Can I Take Your Class?"
A friend recently wrote me to ask if, as a brand new student, she could take one of my yoga classes. My first impulse was to say that of course she could! In fact, I always respond with a resounding yes when I’m asked that question. But this time something stopped me. This time I actually thought about whether “Yes!” was the most truthful or helpful answer. I realized that I had always answered that question from my own perspective without considering what the question meant from the student’s perspective. It occurred to me that my idea of beginner friendly might not match hers, so I took the time to try to deconstruct just what exactly “beginner yoga” meant to her.
Here is my response to her question. A few sentences were changed to keep her anonymous and clean up my grammar! ;):
I’m so glad that you’re interested in yoga! Whether or not you will feel comfortable in my class depends on your expectations. I have beginners come to my classes all the time. They do well if they expect to be a little overwhelmed and don't mind feeling challenged and getting sweaty. I give plenty of instruction and we don't do anything advanced, but there will be moments when you'll have no idea what you're doing. That’s normal and ok! If you keep coming that feeling will fade. Some students, however, need something slower to be comfortable, which is totally fine. It just depends on your personality and learning style. That being said, all my classes are beginner friendly, but if you're a beginner who prefers to not feel overwhelmed, they might not be for you. By the way, I can assure you that the only person in the room who will expect you to be able to do everything at first is you. The other students are too concerned with YOU judging THEM and I'm only concerned that you move safely and keep breathing. There is no expectation beyond that which you place on yourself, and that's true for any yoga class you'll ever take.
After I sent my response, I felt like I had answered that question thoughtfully for the very first time. I never meant to mislead anyone before; I genuinely wanted them to know that they'd be welcomed with open arms. But I had been failing to connect with what they were actually asking, even if they didn't know for sure what that was. This response, while long-winded, feels more complete and helpful.
Here's to truly listening to the question before prattling off an answer!