About three or four times a year we meet. Strutting into the studio with a knowing grin on their face. They’ve done it all. Marathons, kick boxing, weightlifting, Crossfit, Zumba, triathalons, may even an Iron Man. Hot yoga should be a piece of cake.
Glancing through the waiver like anything this class will serve up should be no big deal and maybe what they have heard about it was a blatant exaggeration that only applies to the weak and not to their purely capable self, they half listen to my instructions for their first class. Smiling, ignoring me, and looking around, like, “Oh, sweetie, you don’t even know who you’re talking to! I’m not someone that doesn’t workout or take care of themselves, I mean, just look at me,” I can tell my words have only been half heard and any connection I will have them will have to happen throughout the class.
They head back towards the changing rooms, grabbing a mat, and holding on to their shot glass of a water bottle and I hope I am wrong about them. I pray they are not what I think they are: The Over Confident First Timer.
Nothing scares me more or stresses me out in the way that this student can. I’m all for confidence, don’t get me wrong, but with yoga there needs to be a sense of awareness that you can’t possibly know it all and that you are ready to learn it – every time you enter the studio or roll out your mat, not simply the first time. This is why the first time students that confess to me, “I’m kind of nervous,” are the best. This student will take care of themselves. They will sit down. They will listen to me. They won’t push too hard.
But, The Over Confident First Timer will go to extreme lengths to display their physical acuity. They will try and achieve within one class what others have taken years to master, kicking out, pulling on what needs not be pulled, and abandoning any instruction they hear from the teacher on how to safely proceed. They push so hard they are usually wiped out by the third posture, but would never admit it, refusing to take a break and to simply be in the moment and have some compassion for their body, mind, and spirit.
And that’s why one eye needs to be on them at all times. There will be a moment where you need to remind them to breathe through the nose, that they want to take their time with a certain posture, and that their only goal is to stay in the hot room for the whole class. They also need to know that you are on their side. You want them to enjoy the yoga and you want to keep them safe. It’s a balancing act that you are playing with them, as well as, monitoring the rest of your students as they move from posture to posture and it can be somewhat overwhelming at times.
So, the way I deal with The Over Confident First Timer is simple.
- Catch their attention. When explaining to them before class what to expect, I always tell them that their only goal is to stay in the hot room, meaning, that if they take a 90-minute nap, they accomplished their goal. For some reason this always makes them laugh, whereas, most first timers seem relieved upon hearing this. They always remember it though. So, when the going gets tough in hot room and they look like they might bolt out of the room, you can remind them once again what the goal actually is and that they’ve already done way more than take a nap. The Over Confident First Timer is usually all about the goal. Even if they spend most of the class on their back, they will make it through.
- Know their name. I make it a point to try and know everyone’s name in the room. If you know a student’s name they know they are not just another body in the room and you are invested in them and want them to succeed. Knowing a student’s name can let them know that yes, you are talking to them and that they particularly need to listen to you when you say to watch their breathing or be careful proceeding in a posture.
- Check in with them after class. The Over Confident First Timer might try and get the heck out of the studio without you seeing them leave. I always try and reconnect with them and ask them what they thought of the class. In this way I can assure them that, yes, it’s not easy, it’s quite a challenge, and that they did really quite well. I’m always hoping they come back for that second class with a bit more humility and awareness of how to treat the yoga.
The Over Confident First Timer usually does come back for another class. They love the challenge of it. The key is not to wound their ego too much. Their air of confidence comes from a vulnerable place. Always build others up and never tear them down.
Teachers: How do you deal with this type of student? I’d love to hear your input!
Students: What are your experiences? Were you The Over Confident First Timer? Have you been aware of their presence in your class?
Chat it up either in the comments section below or on the VFTP Facebook Page.
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