You gave everything up to become a yoga teacher and are now working full-time as a yoga instructor (or part-time so you can take care of your family.)
My day job stressed me out and I wanted to (finally) take care of myself. After taking local yoga classes near me and training as a yoga instructor, I have managed, through yoga, to find that degree of goodwill toward myself and others that had always eluded me before.
Maybe this is you as well and you tell yourself that it is time for you to pass on this wisdom to others in search of a new outlook on life.
So you ask yourself: how should I set up my yoga lesson?
Here is everything you need to know.
What Yoga Styles Should You Teach?
During your yoga training, your instructors probably talked to you about the different styles of yoga. There are, in fact, a great number of them:
- Hatha Yoga
- Ananda Yoga
- Anusara Yoga
- Amrit Yoga
- Astanga Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Yoga intégral
- Ishta Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Jivamukti Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
- Kriya Yoga
- Power Yoga
- Sivananda Yoga
- Svaroopa Yoga
- Tri Yoga
- Prenatal Yoga
- Children’s Yoga
- Egyptian Yoga
- Tibetan Yoga
- Along with various other disciplines inspired by yoga.
Yoga has been practised for millennia, during which it has definitely evolved and changed.
In the UK, some types of yoga are more popular than others. Some of the most popular yoga styles include:
- Hatha Yoga (fairly gentle and accessible to everyone)
- Ashtanga Yoga (dynamic, for those in good physical condition)
- Vinyasa Yoga (fluid, a favourite with dancers of all ages)
- Yoga Bikram (very dynamic, popular with fitness afficionados)
- Kundalini Yoga (calm, for the spiritually-inclined).
We will be concentrating on these styles for now.
When choosing your yoga routines, you will need to adapt them to the type of yoga you are teaching.
However, though differing in practice, the principles behind them remain basically the same in all styles of yoga.
Allowing Your Students To Let Go of Their Daily Stress
Above all, it’s up to you to help your yoga students relax and leave their worries behind them.
Indeed, they came to you to learn to step back and gain some distance from the events in their lives.
And because it can’t be done in a fillip, you need to give your students some time to decompress.
Remember when you used to leave work. The trip home allowed you to look back upon your day and slowly leave the office behind you, mentally as well as physically.
It’s the same for yoga classes, but with the added goal of preparing your body for what will follow.
Either lying down, seated or standing, ask your yoga class to concentrate on their breathing and let their thoughts flow out naturally. It doesn’t matter if random, parasitic thoughts pop up; disjointed thinking (even in sleep) is part of being human.
Take at least five minutes in silence (or listening to soft music) so that everyone can experience that state of mental calmness attained by lying perfectly still.
Establishing Breathing Exercises At the Start of Your Yoga Lessons
Breathing exercises are a great help in establishing a connection with your body and emotions.
You may have already noticed a correlation between your breathing and your emotional state.
When you are stressed or angry, you are not in control. Your breathing speeds up, while during a phase of intense calm it will be very deep and slow.
Stress makes you helpless. Yoga allows us to distance ourselves from our situation.
The ancient yogis understood the link between our respiratory rhythm and our mental states.
In fact, if you are familiar with sophrology, you will notice that it focuses primarily on breath and the air penetrating into our body, filling our lungs and then being expelled. In sophrology, physical purging is often done by exhaling explosively.
In Yoga, breathing also plays a central role. Yoga breathing exercises are called Pranayama.
During this preliminary meditation period, ask the participants of your yoga courses to concentrate on the rhythm of their breathing. This will let them enter the moment and attain the proper spiritual state of mind for the exercises that come after.
At this stage of your yoga session, those who came to learn to manage their stress levels will have realised that slow, deep breaths will help them master situations when they feel overwhelmed.
Mastering the Proper Sequence for Your Yoga Poses
We are now coming to the main phase of your yoga session. This is where the details will differ depending on the type of yoga you are teaching.
Here are some of the most common yoga poses (asanas) are:
- The shoulder stand (Sarvangasana)
- the cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- forward bends (Uttanasana)
- lotus position (Pasmasana)
- locust or grasshopper pose (Salabhasana)
- Sun Salutation (Suria Namaskara)
- plow pose (Halasana)
- fish pose (Matsyasana)
- Corpse pose (Shavasana).
There are, of course, many others.
Your goal is to give your students enough confidence in their abilities to allow them to test their limits without forcing themselves.
The asanas should come after a proper warm-up routine to prepare the body and prevent injury. Just like in any other sport, in fact. Here are more tips for preparing before a yoga class.
For Hatha Yoga, you will need to choose a series of poses that your students can hold for three whole minutes. Between asanas, yoga students are encouraged to relax and assimilate the sensations they experienced when doing the pose.
- Ashtanga Yoga is made up of six sequences of poses that flow together in a dynamic fashion. Ashtanga yoga never deviates from the sequences, a chain of asanas of increasing difficulty - it is not uncommon for beginner yoga students to find themselves unable to finish the session. It is your job to motivate them to stay with the sequence for as long as they can.
- Vinyasa Yoga evolved from Ashtanga Yoga, but though it retains its basic principles, you are free to choose the order of your poses as you like. Don’t forget to link them together with a vinyasa. Develop your creativity and propose a new sequence with every session to keep your yoga students on their toes. Remember: adapt your sequences to your group’s level.
- If you are teaching Bikram Yoga, you will need to heat your yoga studio to 40 °C - it isn’t called Hot Yoga for nothing. You will then do a series of 26 poses always in the same order and held for two minutes each.
- Kundalini Yoga is freestyle, and you can chose any poses you like. The sets are called kriyas, and there are several websites offering examples to help you structure your yoga class. Some are longer than others, allowing you to adapt them to the physical capabilities of your yoga students. This said, Kundalini Yoga sessions are usually calmer and more spiritually oriented, incorporating a lot of chants and mantras.
Meditation: An Important Part of Any Yoga Lesson
Poses are an important part of yoga classes. But at the end of your session, you might want to lead your group in meditation.
You can also integrate meditation into your sequence, but some postures are better for it than others.
If you want to have a separate meditation phase in your yoga courses, here are five best postures for meditating:
- the Corpse Pose: simply lie down on the floor with your legs slightly apart and your muscles entirely relaxed
- Lotus Pose: one of the best known yoga poses and the most frequently used for meditation. Sit down with your legs stretched out in front of you, then place your feet on your thighs and put your hands on your knees (either flat or in a mudra)
- Half-Lotus Pose: similar to the Lotus, but easier to do. Your left foot goes flat against your perineal area, your right foot on top of it.
- Sukhasana or cross-legged pose. Both legs are bent flat, one foot near your groin and the other in front.
- Egyptian Pose: the simplest one, though requiring a prop. You are simply seated on a chair with your hands placed flat on your thigh and your feet flat on the ground. The head should be supported.
For each of these yoga poses, make sure the back is straight to relieve pressure on the spine and leave room for the ribcage to expand in free, deep breaths.
Show your students the proper position to help them find the same tranquility achieved by monks.
If you want, you can provide meditation cushions (zafu). You can meditate in silence, put on soothing music or recite mantras (this is called chanting).
Ending Your Yoga Session Like a Pro
Your yoga class is now over. This is when a good yoga instructor goes around to his or her students and ask them to share their thoughts on the lesson and what they experienced.
A coach is someone who wants to share his passion or teach a way of doing things.
Since yoga is a physical activity that requires you to get in touch with your emotions, it is good to find out what each of the students, both novices and experts, experienced after each lesson.
The relationship between teacher and student goes both ways. Each has something to teach the other.
By talking to your yoga course participants, you can help them integrate the new experiences that yoga has shown them. It is also a good time to give tips on home yoga practices and everyday yoga sequences.
Don’t forget to set your prices before starting a yoga course!
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