If you’ve ever used your imagination to create something that never existed before and inspired others, you probably know that this contributes not only loads of happiness, but confidence in the fact that you have godlike qualities and can draw on them whenever you need to.
As a yoga practitioner for over 17 years and teacher for 7 I thought I’d dedicate a post to the Art of yoga teaching. My main inspiration came while teaching yoga yesterday when I realized how yoga teachers are so very similar to painters or song writers or artists in general.
While a yoga class may require that we address certain poses to stretch and strengthen certain body parts, the sequence these manifest in, the music they are synchronized to and language we use to deliver are like the paint, canvas and brush used in creating a fine piece of artwork. Of course there is nothing better than when it all comes together as your students shower you with “awesome class,” “loved the music,” “great flow,” etc.
The question here is really how to deliver such an amazing class consistently. After teaching over 1,000 classes I realized that your delivery is largely dependent on your personal life condition. If you’re feeling great and things are going well in your life, its easy to flow, but if you’re feeling sick and tired or stressed, chances are you’re not going to deliver that “knock the ball out of the park” class.
What I realized is that in these times I can do several things to get myself in a state to deliver my best performance including:
1) Ugie breathing – Make sure you do the ugie with your class, if you can do a seated prana yama so you can join in.
2) Bring your favorite tea or beverage with you into class so you can keep the neurons firing and the throat clear.
3) Playlist – Either create or use one of your existing playlists that you know picks you up and takes you out of the dumper. As a musician, I know that this in fact this could be the biggest catalyst for change of state.
4) Have fun and forget about delivering your best performance. You might even find yourself making fun of yourself and getting a few laughs from your students.
5) Do Some of the class. Yes, don’t just walk around and talk, but move your body and get the blood flowing by doing a good chunk of the class with your students. This will guarantee a change of state from sluggish to bold and powerful.
This area will differ depending on your style, but the important point is to prepare ahead of time. If you’re an experienced teacher this could mean 5 minutes before class where you have a general idea of your building poses and a particular peak pose. If you’re just starting out in your first couple of years you might want to take 20 – 30 minutes and figure out a game plan for the whole class. The more classes you teach and TAKE, the better you’ll get at mixing it up and offering just the right pose for the mood of the class.
Depending on your style of teaching, a class with a well synchronized playlist of music that slowly builds, peaks, then releases can mean the difference between a great class and an average class. And you can build, peak and release more than once. For instance, I build up with some vinyasa then to a peak pose or peak vinyasa like skandasana to warrior II then release into some hip openers, then bring them down to the ground and build again into some core work, and finally wind down to savasana.
Your verbiage used for cueing will also have a huge impact on your class. Hands down the biggest lesson I’ve learned here in painting a beautiful class is to talk to your class not at your class. Rather than just barking orders to a bunch of strangers, talk to your class like they are all your good friends, with inflection, emotion and feeling.
The second biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you can easily speak unnecessary words that are technical and won’t resonate but may confuse or frustrate your students. Instead of trying to speak like a doctor or physical therapist who knows anatomy, which 99% of students neither care about nor want to know, try speaking about the major body parts like hamstrings, lower back, hips and the parts they know are aching and tense. Lastly, instead of trying to speak 100% of the time as you were at a cattle auction, try not speaking at all at times and let the student be at peace… this is what they came for right?
Please feel free to comment below on your insights into “how you teach a yoga class.”
lots of love, Chad