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Preparing To Teach A Yoga Class: What I Have Learned Since Completing YTT

I would like to start with a caveat, I am a yoga teacher, not a yoga teacher trainer and I am still relatively new to teaching (18 months) but I would like to offer what works for me.

I completed my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) at Semperviva in Vancouver in 2018 and since then added a 16-hour module with Julia Doty and a 40-hour Vinyasa module with Clara Roberts Oss. I highly recommend Sempervivas YYT program.

As part of our final assessment during YTT we were required to prepare a full class which was the first class I thought in a public setting at YMCA in Downtown Vancouver. I have since joined the team at Just Yoga on Broadway instructing Power Flo every Saturday morning at 10:45.

For me, the key is keeping it simple (hence the name of our website). I never teach complicated classes which are difficult to memorise or talk students through.

For the first year or so I would never teach a class without having a flashcard close by for reference, I have since moved away from that as my confidence grew but I recommend having your sequence on a flashcard and placing it somewhere you that you can refer to it at a glance until you are completely comfortable with what you are teaching. It has happened to me many times where I had to discreetly look at my written sequence while the class was in a resting pose. Nobody noticed, and nobody cares if they do notice.

I teach the same overall structure in every class. The poses vary but the overall structure is the same. Two or three waves (check out Clara Roberts Oss Vinyasa module if you are interested in learning more on wave theory), each wave consists of lunge poses, core / neutral poses and warrior poses. It is repeated to a total of two or three waves with a warm-up before, maybe a peak pose and a cool down.

If I have included a peak pose I break it down in different ways. What muscles are going to be working? I look at the pose from different angles, literally just turning an image of the pose sideways and upside down to see what poses are similar. I make sure the sequence builds up to this peak pose, working towards it, preparing the body.

I don’t always include a peak pose, sometimes I will give a rounded class, other times I will focus on a particular muscle group.

One of the greatest tools I have found for preparing a yoga class is Tummee. It costs $69.95 / year but is worth every penny. Tummee allows you to put together a class by placing an image tile for each pose. You can see a summary of your class and browse through thousands of poses and save your classes. It also makes it easy to revise your classes beforehand. I don’t think I’ll ever be the teacher who wings a Yoga class, many do I am sure and if that works for you, great.

I usually use one of two playlists I have. I enjoy classes with no music sometimes but I think I am in the minority of people who prefer that. I will change up the playlists every few months. YTT instructors recommend songs with no lyrics as it can trigger an emotional response. Some of my songs have lyrics but they are in Irish and I am teaching in Canada so I don’t think it is an issue. Just be careful with your music choice and the potential response it can evoke.

When I have my class created I revise it in a few different ways. I have each stage written on a flashcard and recall each pose as I draw the flashcards in order at first then I mix it up. I also sometimes use an app called Quizlet which is free and works the same way as flashcards.

My final prep method which works great is to recite each stage and pose into the voice recorder on my phone and listen to it as I drive or cycle to work. The only challenge is getting past my incredibly boring voice. I leave a space of a few seconds before each pose giving me a chance to recall and actively listen rather than passively listening and zoning out. We learn much quicker and retain more information when we are forced to recall rather than just actively listen to something.

I have probably thought 70 or 80 pubic classes now and I have never gotten lost or messed up without being able to easily recover for two reasons. I keep it simple and I practise. I repeat the sequence over and over until I know my class inside out. You can never be over-prepared and you will reach a comfort level where you know how much prep time is enough.

Every time I create a new sequence I practise it myself to make sure it flows nicely and to make sure the level of challenge is appropriate. The one thing I find difficult when I practise myself is the timing, I am always quicker than I teach when I practise solo, much quicker. I got used to the timing and am at the point where I can slow things down, speed things up or take a pose out of the class if I need to.

I really enjoy teaching and I hope that the people who take my classes enjoy it too. I want to take yoga to people who think it is not for them (Me 10 years ago). I hope that this helps some of you out there who are thinking of taking YTT or who have recently taken it to spread the goodness of yoga.

It’s not just about the postures, it is a way of life.

Peace,

George

 

Useful Links:

Semperviva Yoga

Julia Doty Profile

Clara Roberts Oss Website

Blog on the first public class I thought

Rob Lee YMCA Website

Just Yoga Website

Just Yoga Class Schedule.

Tummee Website

Quizlet App

40 Hour Vinyasa Module blog

 

Yoga Teacher Training – One Year (ish) After

It is approximately 15 months since I completed my yoga teacher training at Semperviva.

Hopefully, this blog can be of some help or interest to someone who has recently completed their teacher training or is planning to.

I started out after graduating in June 2018 teaching free classes to my friends. I had no experience as a yoga teacher so I wasn’t comfortable teaching a public class without experience. The great thing about the summer in Vancouver is the weather, I had groups ranging from one to five on the beach for around three months and played around with different classes and teaching styles, discreetly (with the student’s knowledge) videotaping myself and recording the classes as I went.

One advantage I had was completing the training with my wife, Theresa. We could practise with each other and we took turns in teaching classes to each other once a week. Practise, practise, practise. Even if you don’t have a partner or close friend completing the training with you, professional life (in Vancouver especially) is all about networking so use the contacts you make during YTT to practise.

I applied to one studio just after completing the training but it was probably wishful thinking that they would hire a recent graduate with no teaching experience. I didn’t hear back from them.

It was shortly after the YTT with a few informal classes under my belt that I applied to volunteer at the YMCA. It seems that most studios are looking to hire teachers with at least two years experience so I think it is difficult to get that experience as a paid teacher. YMCA is located Downtown on Burrard and Nelson. They are always looking for substitute teachers or at least they were a year ago. I had to jump through a few hoops with references, police check, first aid certification but it’s worth it. It’s a great place to teach yoga.

It is voluntary, YMCA is a charity but you get free access to great facilities including a gym, pool and group classes. More importantly, you get to teach yoga. Some of the evening classes are quite intimidating with up to forty people. You can read about my first class here if you are interested.

I was asked by the coordinator to take a few classes and connect with one of the regular teachers as a mentor before I subbed classes. I was lucky and was offered a regular class almost immediately on Thursday mornings at 7 am. Perfect for me, giving me enough time to get to work in East Van after. I think one of the reasons I was given a regular spot so quickly was that I was willing to take an early morning. Try to be flexible with your time – it will work to your advantage.

Things started slow, my first substitute class was packed but my first regular class had only 2 people (one of them was my brother) so that was disheartening. One of the main things I learned throughout the past year is not to be disheartened. As a teacher, I read too much into class sizes and peoples reactions during class. It means nothing about you. I once had a man walk out during the middle of my class, immediately I assumed I was offering a crap class and he had left in disgust but I was wrong. He came back in a few minutes after using the washroom or whatever he needed to do.

Eventually, my regular class size began to grow from two to five up to a steady class of between eight and twelve. I got to know the regulars names and got to a stage after about 7 months where I was confident in the classed I was offering and was sure that the regulars who attended enjoyed them. If somebody didn’t enjoy it then it wasn’t for them, which is great. Different teachers and different styles of teaching will work for different people.

So, life went on at the YMCA and I continued to teach hatha yoga every Thursday morning to a growing group of regulars who I ended up getting to know and becoming friends with. YMCA is a great place to teach if you are willing to offer your time unpaid and I highly recommend that you do. You won’t get a paid teaching job without experience and you’ll probably (unless your the absolute bees knees).

I learned a lot during my regular classes. If I could share just one thing it would be to be yourself. let your personality shine through in class. some people will like it and some people will not. Some people like my classes, music, personality and style of teaching and some did not. It does not matter, those who do not like your classes will find a class they enjoy and move on. That’s exactly what we want for our students.

Learn from your classes also, after each class I make a brief recording of who was there and what went well and what didn’t go so well. I listen to those recordings every so often so I know where I am at. It is also a nice way to help you remember the names of the students who attend your class. The common courtesy of remembering somebody’s name goes a long way. Remember, even if you are volunteering your time it is still a job and you are building the foundations of your future career. We need strong foundations. Start as you mean to continue.

After about 9 months I thought the time was right to apply for some auditions. I kept my digital eyes and ears open on the social media and also visit some different studios on my lunch break.

My first audition was with The Hive climbing gym in North Vancouver. They weren’t keen on anybody with less than 2 years experience applying but included me because I have a membership there. It was fun. I was disappointed to find I was the only male teacher auditioning, I think there is a sad lack of male interest in yoga. The audition was tricky. We had to teach a combined class so we couldn’t prepare as we had no knowledge of what the predecessor might offer. It went great or at least I thought it did but I didn’t get it. Regardless it didn’t matter. I am a firm believer that auditions or interviews, no matter what the profession is essential.

I came out happy, I couldn’t have done any better nor would I have done anything different but it was great to get some feedback afterwards.

As I mentioned above I dropped into a few Yoga studios in person to see if they were hiring. Just Yoga is close to my workplace and I got chatting to the manager who is Irish. It’s such a zen space and one of the nicest yoga studios I have been to in Vancouver.

the Audition at Just Yoga was a 20 minute (If memory serves me) class. Again I was the only male to audition, I don’t know if that is typical but it probably leaves male teachers with somewhat of an advantage. I was lucky enough again that a regular class came up just after I subbed my first class and I was offered the Vinyasa power class every Saturday morning from 10:45 to 12:00. So far I really love teaching this class and have inherited a bunch of great regulars from the previous teacher.

I feel it is important to recognise your limits so reluctantly I decided to give up my regular spot at YMCA after a year. Two classes, a full-time job and a newborn baby were a little bit too much so I am just loving teaching my Saturday morning class at Just Yoga.

Apart from teaching it is so important whether you are a civil engineer (my day job) or yoga teacher to keep up professional development. I read as much as I possibly can on Yoga for example:

Your Body, Your Yoga

Bhagavad Gita

Beauty, The Invisible Embrace

Meditations From The Mat

The Lost Teachings of Yoga

Getting Unstuck

I also regularly read articles on Yoga Journal.

Over the last year, I have taken 2 courses with Semperviva (where I completed my 200 hr YTT). A 16-hour mentorship class with Julia Doty on accessible yoga and a 40-hour Vinyasa module with Clara Roberts Oss. Both were amazing, both teachers are a wealth of knowledge. I talk to and ask teachers for advice as much as possible (they are probably tired of me at this stage) and I take classes with as many different teachers as possible, though my time is limited.

I hope this was useful to any of you who have just completed teacher training or are thinking of completing it. I am far from an expert on this subject but if you do have any questions send me a message on Facebook. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

If you enjoyed this blog or found it useful, please share it and have a read of some of our other blogs.

Peace,

George

If you are interested in reading more about Back2basicslivings teacher training journey see below:

vinyasa-40-hour-yoga-teacher-training-at-semperviva

ignite-mentorship-teacher-training-part-1-help-make-classes-more-accessible-to-everyone

ignite-mentorship-teacher-training-part-2-making-postures-more-accessible-to-students

vinyasa-40-hour-yoga-teacher-training-at-semperviva

how-to-plan-a-yoga-sequence-where-to-look-for-inspiration

top-5-tips-yoga-as-public-speaking

yoga-at-sunrise

its-not-about-touching-your-toes

my-first-group-yoga-class

Meditation Challenge: 40 Day Sadhana “Your Habits Define You”

Myself & the bump just completed our Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training with Semperviva Yoga guided by Teresa Campbell @lalupavia. To say we learned a lot is an understatement. Each yoga training completed has taken us on a journey which reveals what we need to work on to become the people we want to be for our family, community & workplace.

 

Self-discovery and self-development are not easy, its hard work and its supposed to be. To be the best version of yourself will take time and effort. True self-development doesn’t come from reading lots of books, it comes from doing the hard practices everyday no matter what life throws at you. A daily practice that you commit to for a period of time or for the rest of your life will change you.

 

For example, if you want to save more money, what can you do every day for the rest of your life to have more savings and live a financially secure life? Spend less and save more. Instead of buying that coffee every day or eating out every day, put that money into a savings account. Do this practice every day and see what awards you will have in just a few weeks.

 

The same goes for daily practices for the mind & soul. A daily practice like meditation can alter the way you think & feel. If you wake every morning and sit to do 10mins of mindful breathing you start your day relaxed, focused, in control and over time confident to deal with any situation. The reminder to come back to the breath will remain with you from your daily morning routine.

 

As part of our prenatal training we are required to complete a 40-day Sadhana which is a daily meditation practice for 40 days which you have a certain mantra to repeat for a set period of time. For example, your mantra maybe “I am strong”, “I am Confident”, “I am enough”, “I am a leader” …. for 11 minutes you repeat this mantra along with having the arms in an active position. This is a Kundalini yoga practice, there are many different arm positions for the meditations, look up Sadhana and find one that works for you.

 

For my 40-day Sadhana challenge I have chosen an Arc line meditation. The Arc line exists as a halo of energy, stretching from ear to ear over the crown of the head. Our Arc line is the connection to the Devine, when strong, the universe delivers. We strengthen the Arc line with committed, steady practice (sadhana). Having a strong Arc line gives us the presence and desire to serve humanity in action; it gives us balance in words & deed.

 

When weak, we are easily influenced by others, ineffective, inconsistent in mood and behaviour and unable to focus or manifest our goals. Arc lines are connected to our immune system. To remove any negative energy or subconscious garbage which has collected in our Arc line we need to practice to actively clear away the crap that gets stuck in this energy field. A daily practice for the Arc line is said to help clear away any past held onto negativity and make space for more clarity & true connection.

Apologies for bed head, I like to meditate first thing in the morning so hair is never brushed! lol!

Right now, I am on day 13 of the challenge. I play Waheguru by Nirinjan Kuar for 11 minutes with my arms overhead (see above) in a seated (non-moving) meditation. I record my meditations on Insight timer and Journal after each one. The arms are feeling it in the morning but I keep telling myself I know I can keep my arms up as I have done it multiple times already. When the mind starts to focus on the discomfort in my arms and shoulders I start to sing along with the mantra. Also I imagine others in far worse situations that they don’t have the privilege to change and I send positive thoughts to them, I sometimes imagine struggles animals go through to survive, I tell myself If these creatures can survive such struggle I can sit here with my arms up for 11 minutes. It’s a constant conversation with myself to tell my thinking mind I can do more, I am more…. this type of meditation builds up so much confidence for me personally. Being pregnant and having additional fears about pregnancy and labour this meditation is great to highlight how much further you can push yourself even when your mind is telling you to quit. Such a great confidence booster for everyone!

 

I will report back after the 40-day challenge is over, if you want to follow my daily process check out stories on our Instagram account back2basicsmovement. Watch this space everyone.

 

Not sure what the 40-days will bring but up for the challenge…. oh, and somewhere in there hopefully give birth to our little mini human;-)

 

Have a great week.

 

Thanks so much for reading,

 

Theresa Burns xxx

 

 

Ignite Mentorship Teacher Training Part 2: Making Postures more accessible to Students

 

“If you are feeling something you are doing it” Bernie Clarke, Semperviva

 

For this next section of the training it will be a recap of what I learned regarding postures. How we feel in postures, how to demonstrate, options we can give, how ego can take over a shape, how doing less can be more & finally why breath is so important.

 

Listening to our bodies can be really difficult as most of us live in our heads. Yoga is about bringing our awareness from our thinking mind to areas in bodies we want to work on. For example, if the teacher demonstrates plank pose and you are in it shaking, stressed and the mind is creating numerous ways of how to harm your teacher…. ease off a little. Place your knees on the floor, start taking deep breaths into your lungs so the body can relax. The body will still be working but now you feel the challenge & can truly benefit from your work because you can breathe. Yoga is all about “No pain, no pain” We do not need to be in pain to think a posture is working, if we feel a challenge and we can remain in a shape with integrity & breath then we are in the right place.

 

As a teacher it is our responsibility to guide our students into the best shape possible for their bodies. Reminding them of all the different options we can take in a pose and to choose the option which works for them the best. Providing 3 options of the same pose can make a shape more accessible to a wider rage of students. For example, if you would like your students to try tree pose demonstrate 3 different options in tree pose.

 

  1. Option one: Hands in prayer & left ball of the foot placed on ground and the heel resting against the right ankle
  2. Option two: Hands in prayer & left Foot placed on shin above ankle
  3. Option three: Hands in prayer & Left foot placed inside right thigh

 

For extra challenge in all the above students could raise their arms in a V-shape over their heads and maybe try closing their eyes if it feels good……its ok to fall out of the shape.

 

Julia mentioned as a teacher we should remain in option one to show our students that they don’t always have to go to options two & three and for new people in your class option one will be more accessible. I believe this is key to making your classes more accessible to a wider range of students. Offer options but let your students know that they are only options and not requirements. You as a teacher need to demonstrate that by taking your own ego out of the equation and support the majority of your students while still offering challenge.

 

Julia reminded us that we need to encourage our students to be kind to themselves, ensuring they can breathe and constantly asking how they feel in a shape. Notice if people are pushing too hard, muscles are shaking and the breath is lost. Ask your students how would this shape look if you did not feel pain or stress, encourage students to ease off a little and find their breath, bring their awareness to how they feel after that adjustment. We need to constantly remind our students to bring their awareness to a shape and to notice if they are pushing too hard or not enough. The breath will be the guide. If the breath is lost the student has gone too far, if the student cannot feel challenge ask them to go a little deeper but still breathing deeply. People need to feel & be aware of their bodies more.

 

If we need to verbally assist a student in a shape Julia advised to ensure we compliment them first, like great breath work or this looks great before offering an altered shape. This will encourage the student and it wont feel like they are being corrected as they are doing something wrong. You are only offering another option that may feel better. After assisting ask how it feels, if its good let them stay there, if not let them decide where they would like to be or offer another option.

 

If you have very flexible students in your class and you notice they may be hanging out deep in a pose ask them to ease out of the pose so they avoid hyper extension and to create more strength and stability in the shape.

 

Julia mentioned that we as teachers should always verbally assist first before attempting to physically assist. Be mindful of how you physically assist as everyone’s bodies are different and you do not want to injure anyone. Ideally if you want to physically assist you should take more training in this area.

 

Before physically assisting any student, you should ask for consent. This can be done before class by asking your students while their eyes are closed if they want to be physically assisted or get them to place a token in the front of their mat to indicate they are good with physical assists. Really helpful & safe physical assists can look like:

  1. Placing your palm gently on the top of a student’s head and asking them to push up into your palm so they sit up taller
  2. Placing your palm between their shoulder blades in plank and asking them to push your upper back into your palms to avoid slumping into the shape
  3. Placing your palm in front of their bent knee in lounge and ask them to push their knee into your palm
  4. To encourage deeper breathing place your palms on the students back & ribs and ask the student to breath into your hands

 

These are all simple adjustments that give the student the control of the movement. After your assist always ask the student if that feels better or worse? Ensure to ask closed ended questions so a conversation doesn’t start in the middle of your class;-)

 

The postures we focused on day 3 of our training were:

 

  1. Childs pose
  2. Saddle
  3. Tabletop
  4. Downward dog

 

 

We focused on each posture and went through many different options of how we could alter a posture to make it more accessible.

 

Childs Pose

Childs pose is often considered a resting pose, Julia reminded us that for many people it does not feel like a resting pose. This is where we can offer options to students to help them relax into the pose more.

 

Knee Issues:

 

If your students have knee problems suggest placing a bolster between their knees and calves. Let them rest their bum on the bolster.

 

In addition to the above a bolster could be placed under the student’s chest and a blanket placed on top of the bolster behind to add more height.

 

Variation:

Another option for child’s pose could be wide knee child’s pose.

Spreading your knees wide and sitting back on your heels or bolster with your arms placed down the centre of your body turning your face in one direction and after a few minutes switching to the other side

 

Tip:

Always have the student rest their head on something, do not let the student hang their heads. Students can rest their heads on a block, bolster or stacked fists

 

Arm Variations:

 

The student’s arms can be placed:

  1. Alongside the body, palms facing up or down
  2. Stretched out in front actively pressing palms into floor

 

Point to note:

The above will depend why you are teaching the posture; do you want the posture to be more restful or more active?

 

Julia advised to encourage your students to make space and to take up space ensure to remind them to take a workable shape where they can breathe deeply and mindfully.

 

Saddle

 

Saddle pose can be difficult if you have knee problems. The below is an option the students can try but if it is painful in the knees ask your students to take a different pose.

 

Knee Issues:

 

Place 2 foam blocks end to end on the middle of your mat with a bolster placing lengthways on top.

Saddle the bolster by placing both knees and shines alongside the bolster and lowering your bum on the bolster. Encourage the student to stay here if that feels good.

 

If the student would like to take it a step further reach back with your arms and place hands on two blocks behind you while reaching your chest to the sky. If the student does not need blocks, they could place their hands on the floor

 

Tip:

  • A tip Julia gave us to cue to help with the back bend it to ask the students to lift their hips and tuck their tail bone under and lower their hips to the bolster.

 

  • Also, if you see your students’ knees begin to lift, they have gone too far and should ease out of the pose.

 

Table top

 

This is a great posture for opening the chest but it may not be accessible to everyone.

 

An alternative shape which provides the same chest opening is:

Sit crossed legged with 2 blocks placed behind you shoulder distance apart.

Reach back to your blocks placing your palms on each block and shinning your chest forward, if the student would like to take it a step further, they could lift their hips and draw them forward also.

 

In the traditional form of table top where the student can hold the shape offer different hand variations:

 

  1. Fingers can face towards the feet or
  2. Fingers can face away from the feet

 

Tip:

For students whose knees are splaying out too far or to add more heat to the posture place a block between their thighs and get them to squeeze the block.

 

 Downward Dog

 

Downward dog can be considered a restful pose in yoga however people who have wrist issues do not find this shape very restful!

 

Wrist Issues:

 

Other options that can be offered to students with wrist issues are:

  1. Puppy dog
  2. Dolphin

 

 

If students’ wrists need more support in downward dog offer them to use a wedge.

Place the wedge about foot down from the top of the mat. Fold the top of the mat over the wedge to prevent the wedge from slipping.

The students can then place their palms on the wedge.

Tight upper back

 

If you notice students whose upper back is humped in this posture ask the students to place blocks underneath their hands which will move the pressure of the pose to the back body and give more space for their shoulders and back to straighten.

 

 

Tight calves & Achilles tendons

 

Ask the students to slightly turn their toes inwards to create more space in their lower back while lifting their abdomen. Pressing heels downs and lifting up toes.

 

Another option would be to place heels on a wedge or bricks underneath heels

 

Point to note:

Ensure your students are feeling the stretch in the belly of their hamstrings in downward dog and not in the area at the base of the bum…. if this occurs get your students to bend their knees to avoid injury to the hamstring.

 

High blood pressure/vertigo/dizziness:

 

Get the students to use the wall for downward dog.

Placing their palms of the hands on the wall and walking their legs away from the wall until their back and arms are in line and they feel a stretch in their hamstrings. The head should be kept above the heart. Encourage your student to push into the wall with hands

 

The above concludes with Part 2 of this 3-part series of blogs on our Ignite Mentorship training with Julia Dotty.

 

Please feel free to offer any other insights you have or if you have any questions & feedback please feel free to leave a comment.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx