6 Things to Vary in Your Yoga Teaching

Once you've been teaching yoga for a while, you may start to feel more comfortable playing with different aspects of your teaching. While the first few years are spent getting used to presenting the sequence, assisting your students, testing your bravery around really showing yourself and managing the classroom, once you have a good handle on that (or at least you don’t feel completely overwhelmed), you may want to play with different variables. This can be in part, to challenge yourself, but it’s always a way to experiment and see what works. Also, there’s nothing to say you can’t employ one of these techniques regardless of how long you’ve been teaching.

Some things to consider:

1. Silence: As a new teacher, you might feel the urge to fill every space with words. You might also still be getting used to the descriptions of the poses and the most helpful way to present them. Stop talking and keep watching. See how your words land on your students. Give your students a chance to experience peace and quiet.

2. Sequencing: This can be a tricky one. It’s never fun for students to come to your class and have no idea from week to week what they’ll get. However, as you get more experienced, it may be an opportunity to try some different poses, variations or sequences. See what works and how they respond.

3. Pace: If you teach beginner’s classes, you have the opportunity to present things at a pace that is more digestible for students. You also give yourself a bit more time to explain and give them a bit more time to experience the poses. As an experienced student, if you’ve ever taken a beginner’s class, you can relate to how challenging the poses can be when we’re forced to break down the alignment and hold poses longer than we do in a traditional vinyasa class. Use pace as a variable and see how your students respond. They may say afterwards, “Wow, class was so hard today!”

4. Simplicity: Along with pace, another thing to consider is keeping things really simple. Essential poses, longer holds, focusing on the breath, more silence (as noted above) can also change the impact of the class on the student. I have memories of taking class with some highly skilled teachers and thinking afterwards that it was challenging but really basic too!

5. Practicing with the class: As a newer teacher, it’s common to want to lean on your actual practice and leverage it for your teaching. Doing Warrior I and having people figure out how to do it is somewhat easier than explaining it. And, there’s no denying that some people learn through watching, so they’ll be aided by viewing your body in the pose. But it can be an interesting shift to practice with the class. Facing them, practicing with them, cueing them to breathe with you can create a sense of connection. I tend to lean towards practicing the standing series only and leave the floor work for them to do independently, while I teach without practicing.

6. Music: I was trained to teach without music. For the first several years of my teaching, I never used music at all. It’s only been in the past 3 years or so that I’ve started to add it in. As a new teacher, it can be just one more thing to keep track of and you might find it’s distracting you from focusing on teaching. Once you feel more comfortable teaching, you might add in music to the more restorative poses or with Sun Salutations, might add it in and use minimal cueing.

Ultimately, the bottom line is to be yourself and let your passion for yoga shine through!

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