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just yoga

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