10 Tips for Teaching Yoga Private Lessons

As a new yoga student I took a private session from one of the senior teachers at my local studio. She was an excellent teacher; one that I admired greatly. I arrived at her home and she had a room set up for practice. The care with which she prepared the room showed. It was clean, free of clutter and had a mat and props set up, ready for me to use. Our sessions were customized to meet my needs and along with yoga, she also shared information about ayurvedic medicine, meditation and helpful yoga props to use.  

I’ve grown to love teaching privates. They are a big part of what I offer and give me a way to work individually with many people, including those that are tentative about trying yoga, beginners and some that are managing a medical or some other physical challenge and are looking for a highly customized sequence. 

If you’re looking to start teaching privates, here are some things to keep in mind: 

1. Decide where you will provide private lessons. Some studios will let you rent space for a small fee. If you have a space in your home, make sure it’s free of clutter, is clean and has enough space for both the student and yourself, as you move around them on the mat.
2. Invest in quality mats and props. Even though most students will come prepared with a mat, they most likely will not have a block, blanket or strap. Spend a little money and invest in a few good mats, 2 blankets (great for under hips in pigeon), two cork blocks (more stable than foam) and two straps.
3. Ask questions before the session to understand the student’s goals: If you make the appointment with the student in person, get an understanding of what they’d like to learn. You’ll discuss more once they arrive for their first session but it’s always helpful to get a general idea before they arrive. If you make the appointment over the phone or email, ask via that method.
4. Once the session is set up (via email or phone), confirm with the student 24 hours in advance. This helps to ensure their arrival, as sometimes, students forget.  Have their phone and email and confirm via email. Let them know that if they’re unable to attend, it’s helpful to have at least 24 hours notice. While this is not like a doctor’s appointment, you want the student to respect not only your time but their own. Also, as you get busier as a teacher, you may have other students you can fit into the time slot if someone cancels.
5. When the student arrives for the first session, have a seat and help them feel comfortable. You’ll be the one to set the tone at this first session. Most students will be nervous, especially if they’re in your home. It will be unfamiliar to them and they’ll most likely feel self-conscious. Sit down, ask some open-ended questions: “I know we talked on the phone already. Let’s talk a bit more about what you’d like to work on.” Let them set the pace in this first session. I once had a woman come and we talked about her personal struggles with weight loss for the first 20 minutes. For many students, you are acting as a health coach as well as yoga teacher.
6. If your student has a specific injury they’re working with or a medical condition, do some research before they arrive. Be prepared with ideas for a sequence but keep an open mind. Start with some seated breathing to get the student connected to their breath. Move on from there to stable poses, such as cat/cow or lying on the floor and pressing into upward dog or cobra. You’ll be doing diagnosing as you go in this first session, so keep an open mind. Your experience and ability to be creative as a teacher will be critical here.
7. Be generous with assisting. Many students love private sessions because they get lots of assists in yoga poses. It’s like a massage and a yoga practice rolled into one! Be sure you feel comfortable around assisting. If not, ask a friend if you can practice on them a few times (you’ll have friends lining up for this!).
8. Set your rate: This of course, happens before you offer the service. Generally speaking, teachers charge anywhere between $80-$100 for a private session for a one hour meeting but you may want to set a different rate depending on the circumstances (where it is, how many students, if travel is involved). Let the student know the rate beforehand and the methods of payment you accept. If you’d like to accept credit cards, check out www.squareup.com (started by Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey).
9. Make sure you have liability insurance and create a waiver for signature at the first session: All yoga teachers should carry liability insurance. Check out www.phly.com for coverage. Also, have the student sign your waiver form when they first arrive. If you’re looking for a sample form, your local studio can provide you with the verbiage they use on their sign in sheets when students check in.
10. Always be safe: If a student asks you to come to their home for a session, be sure you feel safe around the circumstances. If you prefer to hold sessions only in a public place, such as a studio, let the student know. If you’re willing to travel to their location, make sure you ask in advance what space will be provided and be sure you include in your rate a payment factor to compensate for your travel time and the convenience to the student.
Working with students privately is a great way to challenge yourself and grow as a teacher. You’ll be encouraged to be creative and really present to what’s in front of you. You’ll hone your assisting skills, your verbal instruction skills as well as learn how to bring other aspects of wellness into your teaching, as students ask questions about injury management, nutrition, meditation, yoga philosophy. You’ll develop some great relationships, give yourself another source of teaching income and if your students are pleased, they’ll refer other students to you for sessions. Most of all, teaching privately is a great way to express your passion and love for yoga and support a student on their wellness path.  

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About the Author

Karen Fabian is Baptiste Certified and Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and founder of Bare Bones Yoga. The name, "Bare Bones Yoga" reflects her commitment and passion for providing people with the essentials to increase strength and flexibility as well as promote relaxation. Karen has been teaching yoga since 2002. Karen has also completed a mentorship program in the summer of 2013 with Ame Wren and in August of 2013, completed the first module of a 500 HR teacher training program with Tiffany Cruikshank.

Karen teaches in many studios in Boston, training facilities for athletes and works with children in schools and other settings. She teaches anatomy for yoga teachers in a variety of teacher training programs. She has a DVD sold on Amazon called "Keeping Yoga Simple." She also has a teacher mentorship program through which she trains teachers on both the aspects of teaching yoga and the elements of running a successful yoga business. Her classes are filled with alignment tips and varied sequencing that allows students of all levels to participate. She was trained initially in a heated power yoga style and through additional training, has included other styes and sequencing into her teaching..