Yoga With Leo

3 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Teaching Yoga!

Yoga TeachingLeo Cheung6 Comments

I've been mentoring teachers for a few years now and the same questions have been coming up again and again. Here are my opinions to help resolve these questions and what I believe will save you time and reduce anxiety around teaching when starting out in your first couple years.

1. I LOVE IT WHEN TEACHERS THEME IN THEIR CLASSES, SHOULD I BE THEMING IN MINE?

For those that practice and are trained in traditions that do not theme, theming is using an overarching teaching, such as stillness or courage, a life experience or spiritual wisdom, to instill a mood or bring awareness to an aspect of practice. The theme is often presented at the beginning of class and is weaved into the teaching of the poses.

My Recommendation: Do not theme in the first 6-12 months of teaching

Unless you've made a cheese omelette 1000 times, don't go on experimenting with ostrich eggs and parsley infused foam. Unless you're proficient in your teaching of asana, keep theming in your tool box, for now, so that you can focus all of your attention to instructing good quality postures. Most students' expectation is to practice asana, so let's be sure to cover that basis first, then everything else (like theming, adjustments, etc.) will fall into it's place, if that is something you'd like to offer.  

Themes based on virtues like calmness or love can be expressed through your actions and conduct, and don't necessarily require a 10 min monologue at the beginning of a class. Plus, there's an inherit magic that happens in Trikonasana, a visceral awakening in Ujjayi Pranayama, and embodied wisdom in a still Savasana that can't be taught with words. 

So don't feel you "have to" theme, it will come.
Actions speak louder than words
Let the poses do the talking

Less is more, cheese and eggs, that's it.

2. I Love it when teachers have a rad playlist, where do I find good music?

When the Buddha was sitting in meditation under the Bodhi Tree, the ancient scriptures spoke of him listening to the top 40's with his Dr. Dre headphones. There he became one with the cosmos, and the music. 

Having a playlist in yoga classes is a recent western addition to the practice. I have two perspectives on this, you can take either one, or neither none.

My Recommendation:

1. Don't play music - the sound of the breath is the rhythm and the beat. I'll agree, this is a more challenging way to teach and for students to practice. There's no escape, it's just you and the students. There's less places for their minds to go. Stillness may arise... how foreign and scary is that!

2. Play music - I don't want students to listen to words, I want them to listen to my instructions so I play music that's instrumental. It's music that assists me as a teacher to be focused, calm and present in the room.

To save me time, I make two awesome playlists, one for a slower and another for faster paced classes. Once every two weeks, I change a couple songs if I don't like them anymore. I used to spend lots of time looking for new music and worrying that students would get bored if I didn't have a different playlist each time. Now, I've let that go, this is what I'm playing today, take it or leave it, because in all honesty, music is on the fourth tier of my priorities when it comes to teaching good yoga.

I use an app called Rdio and I pay a small monthly subscription to get access to all kinds of music. Here is one of my playlists:

Thank goodness for MP3, or we'd be burning CD's every night to make a new playlist!!!

3. I love it when teachers have such creative sequencing, how do I do that? 

The muse arrives when it feels like it, and sometimes it feels like being in her PJ's and watching a whole season of the Orange is the New Black and doesn't show up for a while. So what do you do? Stick to teaching good, simple yoga postures that could do no evil!

Bikram and Ashtanga yoga practice the same sequence everyday and there's something to be said about that. So far, I haven't had a student tell me they're bored of doing Malasana, so I'll teach it today, and the next, and the next, and probably every class and forever. It's okay to teach the same poses, again and again, because repetition = proficiency (generally), mastering the basics is a lifetime practice, offering students familiarity is the passageway into leading them into unfamiliar, unknown places!

My Recommendation: I'll share with you my secret recipe, passed down to me by my great grandma who never did yoga - 75% the same poses, 25% new. The poses in red are the meat and potatoes (if you're a vegetarian, it's your humus and kale) of the practice. Majority of those poses will exist in my class because a majority of the students I teach require practice in this poses, including myself.

Here's a sequence I taught last week. 

This sequence isn't something I hold firm to with a death grip, but I'll use it as a template to work from. Depending on what my focus will be (backbending, twisting, etc.) I'll change up the "new" poses. Try this, and see how you like it.

If you'd like to learn more and dive deeper into these kinds of topics, check this out!

Please leave comments below and let me know how you're progressing in your teaching!!!