1. Teach to the Physicality of the Poses
As teachers we are looking to create a space that allows students to practice being present and aware. By asking them to pay attention to their feet, hands, hips, shoulders and spine, we ask them to become conscious. It keeps their focus on what they are doing at that moment. We are not asking them to perfect the poses. We are asking them to feel what they truly feel. This simple practice of awareness is the magic key and allows students to get out of their heads as they move away from the intellectual to the intuitive and it sets their hearts free. Teaching alignment-based yoga not only keeps students safe, more importantly it gets them present.
2. Use Clear and Concise Language. Keep a Beginner’s Mind.
“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Yoga is practicing the art of simplicity. The beauty of the practice lies in its simplicity. While teaching the physical aspect, use essential language. The verbiage needs to presented in a manner that is simple and allows all to understand and take action. Students generally do not understand words and phrases such as, engage your thighs, spark your fingers, energize your bandhas, etc.
The words should be descriptive and should prompt action in people’s bodies.
Use simple words such as, squeeze, lift, pull or reach.
Avoid overuse of unneeded words and phrases that can slow down the energy of the class. For example: start, and, so, let’s begin to, next we will, from here we are going to do, now let’s do this…
Instead, just give the direction:
Reach your arms to sky
Press the outer edge of the back foot down
Pull your belly up and in
3. Balance. Remember Sthira Sukham Asanam as you Build the Poses.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton
While teaching to the physical, remember sthira sukam asanam:
one part steady one part free
standing firm while letting go
strong yet easeful
stability with lightness and happiness
When teaching to the foundation, begin with the feet. This ensures that the students feel grounded and secure. From here, move on to the freedom experience of the pose.
For example, in Extended Side Angle we can feel our feet pressing into the floor with vigor and strength. At the same time, we can experience our chest, face and hearts softening, relaxing and opening.
During our yoga practice, we can discover this balance on our mats. Feeling strong and grounded in our feet, yet open, alive, allowing and free. This balance will eventually permeate into our daily lives. So we practice finding balance on the mats with the idea of experience balance off of our mats.
4. Gems: Support your quotes and metaphors by bringing them to life.
Quotes, stories, metaphors and other gems can be very powerful and useful. Sometimes it helps to support them by briefly stating how they relate to yoga or how it relates to the specific pose you are teaching at that time. Saying quotes just for the sake of saying a quote has a hard time landing with students and usually falls flat. Find quotes and stories that really resonate with you and your life at that moment. When they come from the heart they will be genuine and have more of an impact.
5. It’s About Them, Not Us.
When we teach, we are sharing our love for yoga. Put personal agendas aside concerning what you want out of your teaching. When we teach, we teach to share—not to look smart, look good, appear spiritually advanced, etc. The focus is always on creating an environment and space for the students to tap into their inner teacher. So if the teaching is more about us and not them, we have crowded their space. Teaching with selflessness is paramount for students to have the experience they deserve. It’s not easy, but it needs to be given ongoing attention.
Editor: Brianna Bemel