How to Keep You and Your Yoga Students Inspired

One of the greatest blessings we as yoga teachers have is return students. I’m talking about those students who have come to your Tuesday 5:30 pm class since you started teaching it 4 years ago. Those students who’ve stuck with you through thick and thin; those are my favourite students. But it is precisely those students that we as yoga teachers need to stay inspired for. One of my biggest challenges is keeping my teachings fresh for those students; when someone has been coming to my class for 4 years straight, sometimes I feel like I have nothing else to offer them, nothing new or exciting to rev up their practice. So, I’ve found that my work is one of constantly and consistently staying inspired. In a world saturated with yoga instructors and clases, how do we make our classes exciting for our students to encourage them to return again and again?
Here are 10 themes to help you teach with ease, to keep your students coming back, and to keep your creative juices flowing!
1) Pick a chakra and focus your class around balancing that one chakra. You can determine what postures work for each chakra by looking into work by Anodea Judith. I will also shamelessly recommend Pinterest as a great resource for chakra yoga ideas (just make sure the pins are legit).
2) Choose one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to focus on like ‘Sthira Sukha Asanam’ throughout the duration of the practice. This sutra can be interpreted as ‘finding steadiness and ease within the yoga postures’.
3) Channel the energy of the season into your teachings. For example, if you’re moving into springtime describe rooting down to rise like plants growing from seeds as you teach the postures. I also like to keep the plant analogy going by telling students to breathe with every cell, reach up through the crown of the head like you’re reaching for sunlight, and ground down through the sitz bones like your spine is the trunk of a tree.
4) Pick a peak pose and use your class as a means of warming up to help students get into the peak posture. For example, if you want to teach 8-angle pose (astavakrasana) then you might have students play with some less challenging hand balances, core work, and hip openers to prep for the pose.
5) Focus on fascial lines. I like to take an entire class to focus on either the front body, back body or side body stretching and strengthening. If I was focussing on front body, I would lead lots of lunges and back bends to help people stretch their anterior chain of muscles/ligaments/tendons.
6) Pick a yoga posture named after a character or sage from yogic mythology. Tell a story about the character and then lead a class focussing on the qualities that character embodies throughout the duration of the class. Some examples include a story about Hanuman, the story about Shiva and Sati and how the Warriors came to be called the Warriors, or the story of Shiva and the fish that fish pose (Matsyasana) is named after.
7) Find a short reading that resonates with you and focus your class around that reading. I like to quote work by Melody Beattie, Rolf Gates, and Michael Singer.
8) Pick a quote from a respected yogi that you like and center your class around the quote. Some of my favourites include ‘the highest practice of yoga is self-observation without judgement’ by Swami Kripalu and ‘practice and all is coming’ by Pattabhi Jois.
9) Focus on a particular part of the body to stretch or strengthen. I find students often request classes that are geared towards stretching the hips/shoulders/hamstrings.
10) And, just for fun, pick a genre of music and build your class based on the vibe of the music. I was once coerced into teaching a ‘hip hop yoga’ class and may have incorporated some booty shaking. I was dreading the class but was surprised by how much fun it was simply because it was fun to not take yoga too seriously.
Enjoy and good luck. Remember to relax, it’s just yoga:)
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