By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
“What should I know about how to teach Yoga classes?” Some interns say it out loud, and many more think about the knowledge required before teaching. After all, teaching Yoga isn’t easy, but any enthusiast with strong social skills should be able to teach classes. The key is to educate yourself as fully as possible before you start the process. If you dive in without doing some research, you’re bound to find yourself in over your head. By studying how to plan and execute the perfect class, you’ll become the type of Yoga instructor students want to learn from.
Before you can start planning and executing amazing classes, you must ensure your technique is the best possible. Not only does having your practice down make you a better teacher, but it will also make you more confident in front of the class. This self-assurance will make your students trust you. When you’re teaching Yoga classes, the most important thing you can do is to commit fully to your practice. That means showing up on your mat regularly, studying with various teachers, and being open to learning new things. It also means letting go of preconceived notions about what Yoga “should” be and being open to what it can be. Only by truly immersing yourself in practice will you be able to share it effectively with others.
How to Plan a Class
Running a Yoga class isn’t something you can do while flying by the seat of your pants. A solid plan is necessary if you want the class to run smoothly. Here are some tips to remember if you want to manage a well-sequenced and successful class. Some schools, or styles, train you to follow an exact sequence, which is fine but might not help you with a class full of students that don’t physically fit into the demands of the lesson plan. So, templates are fine, but required modifications are usually not factored into the class.
If you are not teaching yet, you are asking, “What should I know about how to teach Yoga classes?” To be successful, a Yoga class must have a well-constructed sequence that follows a standard template or a sequence you created. All of our graduates learn how to design a sequence, give modifications, and produce a well-rounded lesson plan. Forward, backward, left, right, and twisting movements are balanced throughout the asana practice. Some classes start with pranayama, warm-ups, meditation, relaxation, or specific exercises for grounding.
Room for Creativity
There is room for creativity, and just like music, there are thousands of ways to teach a Yoga class. The average class closing consists of five to ten minutes of Savasana so the students can unwind and connect with themselves. However, some classes finish with meditation, Yoga Nidra, or pranayama. Additionally, some Vinyasa and Power Yoga instructors only teach Ujjayi pranayama, which might not include relaxation or meditation. There is no right or wrong here, but if students find your class to be “extreme,” they will love it or hate it, but they will never say your class is boring.
Write Down The Planned Sequence
I still write with a pen on paper, but you might want to enter your notes on a tablet or laptop. Students expect the instructor to move smoothly and easily from one step to the next. Nothing looks more out of place than stopping to think of what you’ll do next. With a cheat sheet in your pocket, you’ll be able to execute the class as planned efficiently. Try not to stare at your notes while your students stare at you. Some teachers glance at them when students are in a revolved or twisted position. The same rule goes for glancing at the clock.
Be Prepared for Change
When you’re planning your Yoga class, it’s important to keep your students in mind. Consider what they need and want from the class, and design your class accordingly. For example, if you have beginners in your class, you’ll want to focus on teaching basic poses and breath work. You can add more challenging poses and flows if you have more experienced students. No matter who your students are, create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.
Take Your Students Into Account
Not all Yoga students come to class with the same goals or experience levels. When planning your classes, it’s important to have the students’ needs in mind. If you offer a beginner or mixed class that goes over the heads of beginners, they’ll only get frustrated. If, on the other hand, you devise a mixed-level class with no challenges for experienced practitioners, they’ll feel like they’re wasting their time in your class.
How to Offer Instruction During a Class
Planning the perfect class is only half the battle. You also need to offer the type of fantastic instruction that will help students become better practitioners. The key is to give detailed explanations. It will be easy to cover every detail while demonstrating on your mat. As time goes by, you will be able to explain a technique in detail while walking around the room.
Effective communication is the key to success in any field, but it’s especially important when teaching Yoga classes. You need to be able to give clear instructions and be able to adapt your language depending on the level of your students. It’s also important to create a supportive and welcoming environment in your classes so that your students feel comfortable and are more likely to return.
As a teacher, it’s easy to forget how complicated certain concepts can seem to beginners. What appears obvious to you might be unfathomable to someone unfamiliar with the basics of Yoga. Never assume that a quick description of an exercise or pose will be enough to get the idea across. Provide details and examples to ensure students of all experience levels can follow along.
Explaining Practice Methods
To teach Yoga classes effectively, it is important to be able to demonstrate and explain techniques in detail. This will help students understand what they need to do to perform a technique correctly. It is also helpful to provide modifications for different levels of students. For example, if someone is new to Yoga, you can provide a modification that makes the pose easier. If someone is more advanced, you can provide a variation that makes the pose more challenging.
Offer Constant Encouragement
A school of thought states we should not praise our students because they will become vain. With the power of selfies, the ego is easily inflated these days. I feel we have to balance our praise, but we should not withhold encouragement from students who need it. As time passes, we learn to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses on many levels. The danger of vanity in Yoga is pushing one’s body into injury. This is not a guarantee, but those who push raise the risk of injury.
Honest and Helpful Feedback
While any respectable Yoga teacher is adept at explaining asanas and other techniques, great instructors are also masters at keeping their students motivated. You should practice giving your students uplifting feedback to help them grow and improve. Praising good work comes easily, but making your critiques sound positive is a bit more challenging. Little by little, you’ll learn how to accompany every piece of feedback with an uplifting bit of encouragement.
Learn From Your Mistakes
No matter how much you prepare, you’re bound to make mistakes during your early days as an instructor. Teaching is hard, and it certainly doesn’t come naturally to everybody. Some students might be disappointed with your first classes, and you will notice lots of small details that go wrong. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by these mishaps. Every mistake is nothing more than a learning opportunity. As you get a feel for the art of teaching, you’ll evolve into the type of instructor you’ve always wanted to be.
Continuing on the Path
As a Yoga teacher, it is important to keep your education and practice balanced. You should continue learning about Yoga through formal study and informal practice. At the same time, you should also keep up your regular practice to remain grounded in the physical aspects of the discipline. By keeping your education and practice balanced, you will be able to provide your students with the best possible experience.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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How to Teach Yoga – Self Esteem
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed and Faye Martins
Beyond the benefits of the physical postures of a Yoga class are the deeper psychological shifts that occur during the practice of the asanas. It is quite common to hold all kinds of experiences, both positive and negative, in the muscles and connective tissues of the body. As Yoga teachers, when we invite our students to enter deeply into the postures, we also invite them to allow memories and impressions to arise from within. These memories and impressions can span the entire duration of our lifetimes. Some of these memories may be joyful and exuberant, while others may bring feelings of pain, guilt, and even unworthiness.
Value of Experience
One of the most important things you can do when teaching yoga is to emphasize the value of experience. This means that you should never put down someone for not being able to do a pose perfectly. Instead, you should encourage them to keep trying and remind them that everyone’s yoga practice is different. It’s also important to be patient with beginners and help them feel comfortable in the class. You can help students develop their self-esteem and improve their practice by fostering a supportive and positive environment.
These deeply entwined impressions and memories are known in Sanskrit as “samskaras.” According to Yogic philosophy, samskaras are said to reside in the deep subconscious layers of our minds. The thoughts, experiences, and memories that create samskaras are likened to a ball of yarn comprised of many strands. If you pull on one strand, it will affect all the other stands as well. This is one of the reasons that individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are impacted by seemingly innocuous events in an overwhelming manner. Small stimuli, memory, or smell may trigger a cascade of memories that remind the individual of a painful or terrifying past event.
Teaching Practical Application
Samskaras are the patterns of behavior that we develop over time. They can be negative or positive, but they shape our lives nonetheless. As yoga teachers, we must help our students become aware of their samskaras so that they can start to change them if needed. We can do this by teaching them about the different samskaras and how they influence our lives. We can also help them to identify their samskaras and work on changing them. By helping our students to become aware of their samskaras, we can help them to lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Most of us do not suffer from a clinical level of post-traumatic stress disorder. Still, the process of having a current event, memory, or thought trigger unresolved, difficult, or painful emotions remains the same. One core samskara many people struggle with is a general feeling of unworthiness. This sense of unworthiness may pervade one’s conscious and unconscious thought processes. In a way, a sense of unworthiness is like a dusty and grimy pair of glasses. To see the world more brilliantly, the glasses must first be cleaned.
How to Teach Yoga for PTSD
Yoga can be an effective tool for managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A regular yoga practice can help to reduce symptoms of PTSD by promoting relaxation, easing anxiety, and improving sleep. Yoga can also help to improve self-esteem and body image. For people with PTSD, feeling good about themselves and their bodies can be challenging. However, regular yoga practice can help to increase self-esteem and improve body image.
A general sense of unworthiness may be addressed in the context of a Yoga session in several ways. Gently encouraging your students to continue to breathe deeply as they hold the postures, especially hip openers and back bending poses, will help to free up and dislodge negative emotions that may be keeping a sense of unworthiness in place. Suppose a number of your Yoga students mention that they are struggling with depression, anxiety, powerlessness, and/or an unrelenting sense of unworthiness. In that case, you may also want to take some time at the end of Yoga class to incorporate a meditation of self-compassion, healing, and forgiveness.
It is so important to encourage your yoga students. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way in boosting a person’s self-esteem. When you see someone struggling with a pose, or having a hard time in general, take the time to offer some words of encouragement. Tell them they are doing a great job and that you are proud of their progress. Yoga is all about the journey, not the destination, so it’s important to focus on the positive and not the negative.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
How to Teach Yoga Classes – Gratitude
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed and Faye Martins
As a Yoga instructor, cultivating gratitude in your Yoga classes is particularly appropriate during any holiday season. Yet, we should be grateful all year long. Gratitude is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a sense of appreciation or thankfulness. To feel a sense of thankfulness also elicits a profound sense of being blessed as we walk through the world. When we become aware of the many blessings and gifts that surround us daily, it is easy to lead our Yoga students into a sense of grateful abundance.
Foundations of Gratitude
One of the primary foundations for a grateful mind and heart is the awareness of how many blessings surround us daily. When cultivating a sense of gratitude in your Yoga classes, it is important to take a moment or two, at the beginning or end of a class, to allow your students a few minutes of repose as they contemplate the many blessings in their own lives. You may even wish to facilitate a brief sharing among your students of different aspects of their lives for which they are grateful.
Foundation of a Yoga Class
It is hard to overestimate the importance of gratitude in our lives. Being grateful has been linked with better physical health, improved psychological well-being, and stronger relationships. Not surprisingly, gratitude is also an important foundation for a successful yoga class. When we are grateful for what we have, we open ourselves up to receiving more good things. We also become more positive and optimistic, which helps us persevere when things get tough. So ask your students to take some time to think about the things they are thankful for before yoga class. It will make a world of difference as you master how to teach yoga classes.
Appreciate the Little Blessings
If you have a student or two who cannot think of any positive aspects of his or her life for which to be grateful, gently guide them to think of the many “little” blessings we all take for granted each day. For example, fresh water to drink and clean air to breathe. Remind them that being able to physically and financially attend a Yoga class is a luxury many others may not be so fortunate to enjoy. Even the ability to see the beauty around them is a pleasure that visually impaired individuals cannot behold.
Grateful for Each Day
It’s important to teach your yoga students to appreciate the little blessings in life. By doing this, they will be able to increase their self-esteem. One way to do this is to have them focus on one thing that they’re grateful for each day. It can be something as simple as a good cup of coffee in the morning or a nice sunset at night. When they start to notice all of the little things that they’re grateful for, they’ll start to feel better about themselves and their lives. As you master how to teach yoga classes, your students learn self-mastery.
When your Yoga students tap into the great abundance, blessings, and pleasures of life that they experience daily, their hearts will expand with gratitude. Some yoga poses that facilitate a profound gratitude are vigorous standing asanas, such as Sun Salutations and the Warrior Series. These poses remove deeply held tension and increase the flow of energy throughout the entire body. Many of these poses also expand the entire heart region, facilitating a profound sense of emotional openness and a release of negative thoughts and beliefs that prevent a sense of gratitude from arising.
Focus on the Flow
When you teach yoga, it’s important to focus on the flow of energy. You want your students to feel a sense of ease and relaxation as they move through the poses. To help create this energy flow, start by having your students focus on their breath. As they inhale and exhale, have them visualize the breath moving through their bodies. Once they’re able to focus on their breath, begin to lead them through the poses. Remember to emphasize the importance of alignment and being present in each pose. By doing this, you’ll help your students develop a strong practice that they can use both on and off the mat.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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