10 Tips for Leading a Yoga Class
Yoga teachers training can take you only so far. You still have to actually lead a yoga class by yourself. If you’ve trained at Asheville Yoga Center, you’ve had some experience that gave you the foundation for success. But yoga, like life, requires continual learning and a curious approach. Incorporate new ideas, such as the 10 tips below, continue with your formal training and learn through trial and error, and you’ll discover the techniques to lead a yoga class successfully.
1. Teach Consciously
When you lead a class, draw from your yoga teachers training and your personal yoga practice. Remember how difficult certain poses were for you. Expect similar difficulties from your students, and help them before they even realize they need help. Your students will think you’re reading their minds, when in reality you’re really reading their bodies.
When you model poses with the class, explain the intricacies of the asana. Highlight the common areas your students may be holding instead of letting go. Emphasize where they need to focus their attention. Point out where their alignments may slip.
2. Model Behavior
When you know your postures and sequences intimately, you can model them to your class. Show them what the asana should look like when done right. Use your yoga teachers training to find the right words to convey the important details of the pose. The class will mimic you and pay attention to what you emphasize.
When you’re in front of a class, you have to be perfect in your poses. You have to know where you are in the lesson and what’s coming next, so you can transition the class from one pose to the next. Modeling the transitions is as important as the postures themselves, especially to keep your students from getting hurt.
3. Get Off Your Mat
It’s fine to model the poses for your class. It’s important to show visually what exactly you mean with your verbal cues when teaching an asana. People really do learn that way, with the auditory messages reinforcing what they see.
But in order to really lead a class, you have to get off your mat and engage your students. You have to get hands-on and make those minor adjustments that result in a major difference. Modeling only reveals so much about a pose. Students will not be able to mirror you exactly, so bring yoga teachers training to them.
4. Attain Balance
Some yoga asanas, such as Downward Facing Dog, work both sides of the body at the same time. Others, like Triangle Pose, work on one side at a time. When you’re teaching a class, it’s easy to say everything you know about the posture while the class is still in the first part of the pose.
One of the skills yoga teachers training teaches you is to balance your instruction so you have meaningful comments for both sides of an asana. One way to do this is to explain the basics of the pose on one side and the details on the other. However you do it, make absolutely sure that you hold the pose equally long on both sides.
5. Let Your Students Breathe
You don’t have to fill every moment with chatter, even if it’s instructive chatter. You can make their experience memorable merely by getting out of the way. Keep your attention on your students so you can give them what they need. Sometimes, that means silent time to let them focus on their bodies and their minds.
As you learned in your yoga teachers training, the class isn’t about you. It’s all about your students. Teach with authority, but guide with humility. When you don’t feel the need to fill every silence, your students will listen more carefully when you do speak.
6. Be Prepared for Anything
Surrender to whatever happens in your classroom. Your yoga teachers training at the Asheville Yoga Center taught you that you are not really in control. Embrace your lessons, but accept that the unexpected will happen.
Only with this attitude can you lead a class. You may learn as much from your students as they learn from you. If you’re too rigid in your approach to teaching, you will not be flexible enough to deal with whatever happens. Yoga advocates flexibility in body and mind, so take that attitude to your classroom.
7. Keep a Flexible Plan
Just as you need to keep a flexible attitude, you will learn to adapt to the classroom environment. One pose may be more challenging for your class than you anticipated. You may have to answer a question with a lengthy explanation.
Whatever the reason, sometimes your class won’t go according to plan. Yoga teachers training required flexibility. Your class plan also should reflect a certain amount of flexibility. Go with the flow, so your students get what they need from your class.
8. Know Your Students’ Levels
If you have a roomful of seniors, you should know how to explain the asanas, based on your yoga teachers training. You know what to look for in your students and where they will likely need help.
But if you have a class of mixed-level students, remember you need to challenge the more advanced students while providing easier options for the beginners. Sometimes, you may have to use aids or blocks. That’s all right, because the point is to keep your students safe while advancing their individual yoga practices.
9. Teach, Don’t Lead
The difference has to do with goals. If your goal is to show your students a new sequence that you came up with, then you’re leading a class, even if you spend time explaining and demonstrating each asana.
But if your goal is to move your students forward in their yoga practice and knowledge, then the sequence becomes secondary to helping your students evolve. You have to spend time with them, getting them not only aligned properly, but also to understand why it matters. You have to teach them.
10. Mention Your Name
One tip rarely mentioned in yoga teachers training is the line between self-promotion and ego-stroking. If your students enjoy your class and benefit from it, they’ll want to return. Make sure they know your name! This isn’t about the ego; it’s about helping students find you. It’s about earning a living from doing what you love. And that’s as important as anything else you do in the classroom.