Yoga instructor based in DC, MD and VA

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Dealing with Small Class Sizes or No-Shows

Two years ago, I was teaching in apartment buildings in downtown DC and went through the same routine of showing up to the building, changing (I was coming straight from work), getting out my portable speaker, rolling out my yoga mat and waiting for my students to show up. On more than one occasion, one of my classes always had no-shows. And this isn’t just one instance, I’ve taught to one student or less than five at studios where I normally get a decent number of students. You can either roll with it or spend a lot of time agonizing what is wrong with you — I’ve done the latter and it’s not very constructive. This blog post will cover the reasons why people aren’t showing up (newsflash: 99% of the time, it isn’t you.. it’s them!) and how you can use the opportunities to grow as a teacher.

As a newer teacher, this can be a huge hit to the ego and confidence. It can start the comparison trap leading down a slippery slope of unworthiness and it can also be frustrating when you have an hour to kill in between classes. Ask my credit card how many times I meandered down to 14th street and bought things when this happened last year LOL. Aside from the shopping, immediately, my mind raced to what I was doing wrong as a teacher or what I needed to fix about myself or my style in order to gain more of a following. Sure, the classes aren’t ever about YOU… but about the student.. but it can be hard to remember when little to no one is showing up. #keepingitreal

Newsflash: there are a NUMBER of reasons why people didn’t show up to your class. In my case, the company and the apartment building didn’t advertise well enough in my opinion, and it wasn’t clear that these classes were going on. Additionally, the building was near a ton of studios and I noticed the gym was underutilized too. If you’re wondering, I no longer work for said company — not because of anything bad but because driving home at 8:30pm from DC to Maryland is less than ideal and I enjoyed sleeping and binging on Netflix more than driving.

Other reasons you may have no-shows or low attendance:

  • Life just happens. Do you know how many times I have signed up for a class or made commitments and had to cancel or flake last minute? I will own this completely, but the idea of getting to sign up online and can cancel with one-click of a button, makes it that much easier if something comes up and I need to bow out.

  • The time doesn’t work for them. Do you know how unreliable transportation can be in __________ (insert name of city, etc here)? Or, maybe their schedule doesn’t allow them to leave early or get to the studio in a timely fashion to participate. 15 or 30 minutes can mean all the difference and they will choose another class over yours just because of the timing.

  • When it’s nicer outside (spring summer), people generally prefer to workout outside or be outside. Speaking of, things slow down in the summer because people vacation. DC/MD/VA has missed the springtime memo because it is a humid 90 degrees and hell if you will catch me outside running in this sweltering heat.

  • Happy hour sure sounds nice with friends. Hell, maybe just yourself. #treatyoself Remind me how happy hours feel — I haven’t been to one in years since I normally teach during those times :)

  • The style may not resonate with them or maybe you as a teacher. Repeat this after me:THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU AS A PERSON. I try not to (it’s hard!) take things personally but it’s gotten easier when I remember there are SO many teachers out there for students.

How you can use these opportunities to grow as a teacher:

  • Ask the student(s) what they want to work on and tailor something completely to them. This might not even be a flow class. Maybe they want to build a better chaturanga or work on building up to crow pose. Focus on that! Better yet, if they really enjoyed it, ask for some feedback afterwards if you want to start building private clients. I’ve used smaller classes and even workshops to give much more detailed, individualized feedback or instructions to student(s) that I wouldn’t be able to in a regular class setting. It allowed them to get deeper into the posture or break things down in a more manageable way.

  • Teach a new sequence you’ve been wanting to teach to a class. Do I need to explain this? Maybe there’s a funky transition or a circular movement class you are working on but too afraid to debut it. Use a smaller setting or one-person (if they just want a class) to test it! Two weeks ago, I taught a Rocket III class to two students who were more advanced in one of my classes. It was so much fun and they absolutely loved it. It also gave me a chance to get more comfortable with teaching Rocket III.

  • Use the time to plan other classes or other yoga related things — maybe even get your own self-practice in! It can be easy to get into a scroll blackhole with Insta, FB or anything else, but use that time to create classes, playlists or even sneak in your own practice. I think it goes without saying that this is an option if noone shows up, but I will throw in that disclaimer so someone doesn’t say, “becca said I could do this XYZ,” and then people are wondering who the hell becca is — okay, I digress.

  • Create marketing materials and either ask the studio or company to share them or do it yourself. One time I went to the Silver Spring farmers market and handed out flyers to complete strangers. I asked the owners first if I could make flyers with a coupon (which they OK’d). It was terrifying but sometimes you have to go out on a limb and put yourself out there.

Yoga Teachers, what are other pieces of advice do you have for teachers with low attendance numbers or no-shows? What did I miss?

And students! Shout out a time when you were in a smaller class and really loved what the teacher did and appreciated it.