Yoga has countless benefits, not only in terms of physical well-being for those who practice, but is also known for the its well-known mental health benefits, improving focus and relieving stress. As yoga has continued to grow in popularity over the past few decades, more and more people are discovering the benefits of yoga and the number of yoga schools and teacher training courses have multiplied. More and more people are quitting their hectic nine-to-five day jobs to opt for a more rewarding job as a a yoga teacher.
But now that you've done the hard work and training and made the commitment to become a yoga teacher , what's the next step? While you may learn how to perfect your downward dog, what you might not learn during your teacher training is what to do once you've got your certification. Many teachers find that they're lost when it comes to setting up their first yoga lessons.
This article will provide you with the tips you need to start an exciting and rewarding career as a yoga teacher and set up your first classes.
Different Styles of Yoga Classes
The first thing to consider when planning your first yoga classes is what style of yoga you would like to teach. During your yoga teacher training, you may have studied different styles of yoga. The practice of yoga has been around for centuries, and has evolved into a number of different branches:
- Hatha Yoga
- Ananda Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Yoga Bikram
- Iyengar Yoga
- Jivamukti Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
- Kriya Yoga
- Power Yoga
- Sivananda Yoga
- Prenatal Yoga
- Yoga for Children
- Along with various other disciplines inspired by yoga
Some of the most popular styles of yoga in Canada include:
- Ashtanga Yoga (dynamic, requires a good level of physical fitness )
- Vinyasa Yoga (a dynamic and fluid form of yoga)
- Hatha Yoga (a gentle form of yoga that is accessible to everyone)
- Yoga Bikram (very dynamic, requires a high level of physical fitness)
- Kundalini Yoga (spiritually-oriented form of yoga).
When planning your yoga classes, it's important to bear in mind the style yoga you are teaching.
Whatever style you choose to teach, there are some basic principles which you can apply to all of your classes
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Create a relaxing experience: begin and end your yoga class with meditation
Whatever pose you choose for the beginning relaxation, remember to help you students leaved their mundane lives behind. Photo credit: Montag2k via Visual HuntOne of the greatest benefits of yoga, is it's ability to help yoga students relax and to forget about the stress and the tension that they've accumulated throughout their day. Remind your students that their yoga practice is the chance for them to separate themselves from their daily lives and really dedicate the time to their own sense of well-being.
No matter what time of yoga you are practicing, it's important to make time for peaceful reflection at the beginning and end of each yoga session, to allow your students to decompress before getting into a more dynamic practice. You could encourage your students to get into a comfortable position such as child's pose or a corpse pose at the end of the practice, allowing them to prepare for the practice.
Remember that it takes a least five minutes in order to be able to enter into a state of mental calmness and clarity by remaining perfectly still.
Practice Breathing Exercises During Every Lesson
Every yoga teacher should know that breathing is at the the heart of every yoga practice. Breathing should be incorporated into every asana posture, drawing a connecting with your mind and your body. This has an impact on our mental clarity and our emotional state.
You've probably noticed how your breathing is connected to your emotions. For example, when you're angry or upset your breathing may become rhythmic and speed up. When you are in a calm state or about to go to sleep, your breathing becomes less rhythmic and slows down.
Practicing breathing exercises during your classes will help students to gain control over their emotions and to be able to distance themselves from any stressful situations.
In Yoga, breathing plays a central role, and the practice of breathing exercises is what we call pranayama.
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One of the most basic ways of getting your students to practice pranayama is to get them to concentrate on the rhythm of their breath, paying attention to the moment the breath enters their lungs and the moment that it exits. On breathing out, ask them to imagine the stress and tension being released from their bodies as they exhale. Practicing these slow, deep breaths will help them to focus and prepare for a more dynamic asana practice that follows.
Preparing A Sequence of Yoga Poses
After you've completed your initial breathing exercises, it's time to get to main part of your yoga session. When planning your lesson, you'll need to think about a sequence of postures that will allow your students to work on their flexibility and improve their fitness level.
Here are a few basic poses which can be incorporated into any yoga sequence:
- Downward Dog
- Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
- Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
- Mountain pose (Tadasana)
- Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana)
- Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Boat Pose (Naukasana)
- Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara A and B)
- Plow pose (Halasana)
- Fish pose (Matsyasana)
- Corpse pose (Shavasana)
It's important to review the correct postures and alignments, modifications and benefits for each pose, as well as safety warnings for people who may have injuries or limited flexibility.
The goal of your yoga class will be to encourage your students to gain confidence in their abilities and to challenge themselves as they learn new sequences of postures.
Always remember that before beginning dynamic asanas, such as those practiced in Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, it is essential to do a warm-up in order to prevent any injury. For more tips on how to do a proper warm-up in yoga, check out our tips on preparing before a yoga class.
The sequences of poses that you select will depend on the type of yoga you are practicing:
- For Hatha Yoga, you can select a series of poses that you'll hold for at least three minutes. While holding the pose, get your students to relax in order to fully feel the benefit of each pose by assimilating the sensations of each pose.
- For Ashtanga yoga, you'll practice a series of six sequences of dynamic poses that flow together. As you go through the practice, the sequences increase in difficulty with poses requiring greater strength and flexibility. Students of ashtanga yoga require a great deal of commitment and practice in order to truly be able to master the different sequences
- Vinyasa Yoga actually evolved from Ashtanga Yoga, but allows for greater flexibility in choosing the order of your sequences. This makes it easier to get creative and adapt your classes depending on your students' levels
- Bikram yoga is arguably one of the most intense and physically demanding forms of yoga. It requires practicing in 40°C temperature while doing a series of 26 different poses which are held for two minutes at a time.
- Kundalini Yoga is considered as one of the most spiritual forms of yoga. When practicing Kundalini yoga, you do a series of poses called 'kriyas'. You'll also have a lot of freedom to structure the sequence of kriyas as you like, while bearing in mind the level of fitness and different abilities of your students. Kundalini also incorporates mantras and different breathing techniques.
How to Incorporate Meditation into your Yoga Class
Setting aside a few moments before and at the end of your asana practice is a great method to help get students into the right mindset before and after a class. You can also of course incorporate meditation into your asana practice. Here are some ideal yoga poses for practicing meditation:
- Corpse Pose: lying flat on the floor with your legs apart and relaxing all the muscles in your body
- Lotus Pose: the most frequently used pose for meditation, but not accessible for everyone. Sit on a mat or propped up on a cushion with your legs stretched out in front, then cross your legs so that your feet are touching your opposite thighs. Place your hand on your knees or in a mudrah
- Cross-legged pose. Bend both of your legs so that they are flat, with one foot in front of your groin
When practicing any of these meditation poses, try to ensure that your back remains straight in order to prevent any unnecessary strain on your spine, and to ensure that your breathing is not restricted. Finding a comfortable position is the key to achieving tranquility during your meditation. You may even want to provide meditation stools or cushions for your students, as well as relaxing music to establish a relaxing atmosphere.
The Perfect Way to End a Yoga Class
Once you've gone through your breathing exercises, your asanas and your meditation, your yoga class has come to an end. This is a great time to ask your students to share their impressions of the class. What did they like about the class? How do they feel physically and mentally after completing the class? This is a great way to get immediate feedback and will help you to structure your future lessons.
Remember that your role as a yoga teacher is to help your students to connect their physical body with their mind and emotions, so it's important to know what each student's impressions were after the class. You can also share advice on how to continue their yoga practice from home and to get a better idea of what each students' goals and motivations are for the class.
Another important thing to remember when preparing for your first yoga class, is to set your prices before starting a yoga class!
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