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TOOLS

for teaching

 

The central irony and challenge in teaching yoga is that the essence and mechanisms of yoga asana practice are largely internal and invisible to you as a teacher. Your role as a teacher is limited, relying on your ability to give clear instructions about the breath, alignment, energetic actions, variations, modifications, use of props, risks and techniques for finding greater ease and stability in each asana and transition.

LEARNING STYLES 

 

There are a variety of ways of learning that require a varied approach to teaching. However, the students individual motivation, personality, emotions, physical health and personal will are more significant than a particular learning style in shaping how, where and when they learn. Effective yoga instruction takes into account these variables in engaging with students while still appreciating the below styles:

 

  • Verbal / Linguistic :

  • Visual / Spacial : 

  • Reading/Writing :

  • Bodily / Kinaesthetic : 

  • Musically / Rhythmically inclined :

 

LEARN TO LOOK & SEE 

 

Self-reporting is not a guarantee that you will get accurate or complete information on the students condition. Your ability to accurately see students in asana starts with learning to see bodies more generally, training the eye to see different bodies from various perspectives. 

 

Since every student is different, you need to give both general guidance and individual suggestions that address the unique experiences of different students. See and hear your students in their practice. Notice challenges to their alignment, the quality of their stability and ease, their attentiveness. Relate to them meaningfully and appropriately based on your perception and understanding, rather than memorised words. 

 

Is everyone going in the same direction? Look to see if your instruction was carried out. Observe carefully, not just the physical structure of the pose, but also the students’ state of being. Through experience you will learn to notice the subtleties which reveal resonance or dissonance with the energetic form of the posture. Observe eyes, facial expressions, complexion and breath. Distortions, dissymmetry or unequal weight distribution will be easier to spot but other things are less obvious, especially emotional or psychological trauma suffered in the past. 

  • Teach sensitively and systematically.

  • Teach from your experience, acknowledging your own personal abilities and limitations. 

  • Before teaching, know what you are going to teach and how you will teach it, understanding the target areas of the poses. 

  • Practise first, reflect on what flows easily and not so for you. 

  • Continue refining your knowledge and skills. 

 

VOICE & LANGUAGE 

 

Audibility

Mood 

Tone 

Language 

Terms

Sanskrit

 

Plain language is easily understood. Consider the background of your students in terms of culture, education, and experience to determine the appropriate language to use in your teaching. Define  terms when necessary.

 

POWER OF WORDS

 

Words are powerful. We can choose to use them constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, heal, hinder, hurt, humiliate and to humble.

 

VERBAL CUES

 

Breath | Verb | Body Part | Direction.

 

Some cues tell students what to do, while others give more information about how to do it. The clearer you become as a teacher about what cues you are giving, the better your students will understand what you want them to perform. 

VISUAL CUES & DEMONSTRATING

 

Demonstrations give your students a visual impression of the posture or key action or refinement you are instructing. When used effectively, demonstrations are an invaluable tool for helping your students progress in their practice. 

 

  • Know what you are demonstrating and why.

  • Stand clearly visible, select good viewing angles/ mirror.

  • Present the pose with dynamic, observable actions.

  • Keep uniformity between words and body.

  • Demonstrate mistakes after you have observed them in your students.

 

CORRECTIONS + ADJUSTMENTS

 

Whenever possible, offer your assistance with sensitivity to why the students may not be achieving what you are asking them to do. Get them to wiggle, move around to see whether some slight or greater adjustment creates the sensations they are after. Remember, it doesn’t matter what they look like, as long as they’re experiencing no pain.

 

If a student is doing a pose in a way that might hurt them, give a general verbal correction first. You may need to give the same instruction in different ways. Hopefully most of the students will adjust. If the instruction doesn't result in the changes you want to see, try to make eye contact with the target student and repeat or demonstrate the pose in front of them. This is the visual correction. If that doesn't work, walk toward the student and demonstrate and/or verbally (and quietly) give the instruction. This is the proximal instruction. If you feel it is helpful to physically adjust the student, first ask permission. This can be asked, to all, at the start of the class. 

 

  • Verbal 

  • Visual 

  • Proximal 

  • Offer a prop / modification / alternative posture

  • Offer hands on (with permission)

HANDS-ON ADJUSTMENTS

 

Without touch, progress is very slow. - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

 

There is a magic to touch that is the very thing that draws many people to a yoga class in the first place. Through hands-on assists we have the potential to convey information clearly, directly, without words. Touch can accelerate progress. Types of touch which to use or avoid.

 

  • Investigative:

  • Directive: 

  • Alerting: 

  • Adjusting: 

  • Stabilising: 

  • Loving: 

  • Random: 

  • Sensual: 

  • Invasive:

 

DEPTH OF TOUCH

 

Gentle, medium and strong touches all have their unique applications. Gentle touch moves the skin and provides clear and precise directional cues that indirectly guide the underlying tissue and muscles. The quality of touch must be direct, purposeful and clear, not distracting, confusing, annoying, or susceptible of misinterpretation as an uninvited caress. Gentle assists can give information, focus awareness, release skin tightness and impart confidence without intimidation. Medium touch moves not only skin, but also directly moves underlying muscle and tissues. Medium assists can provide a sense of support and thereby relax psychological and physical resistance. Strong touch moves skin, fascia, muscle, bone, organs and perceived limitations. Strong assists can guide skeletal alignment, inspire, create space and open up new physical and psychological range.

 
 
 
 
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