As a new instructor, it can be daunting to plan out the poses and language you’ll use in your classes.
There is a lot to balance in a Holy Yoga® class. Hopefully, teacher training has ironed a lot out for you, and you are learning to navigate balancing the elements of a class. Just for support, I wanted to share with you a process for working out directives as you are planning your flows for your classes. I hope you find this helpful and will feel free to modify this process to fit your learning and teaching style!
I want to start with banging the same drum I always do…this process starts with your personal practice. It is critical to this process that you are “working out” your own practice, as the insights you’ll gain on your mat are far more superior than intellectually trying to understand directives and how they align the body. I can explain to you all day long the need to root down the opposite hip in a twist and you can try to understand that in a disconnected way. But it will remain that way, disconnected. When you roll your mat out, close your eyes, taking long deep breaths and feel your rooted hip pull on the thoracic vertebrae allowing more length. That unlocks understanding that thinking through directives will never allow. Use your body-brain, not your physical brain.
Once you’ve planned the asana in your class, be sure to roll out a mat, turn on some tunes and do it! Making the connections you are going to talk through before getting in front of your class will help you in many ways. You’ll memorize the flow with your mind and your body. Writing it out will allow you to work it through your mind and then practicing it will help you feel it in your body. This will not only help you speak directives but give you confidence in your flow by reducing the anxiety around whether you’ll remember or know it well. We all know reducing anxiety is key to keeping your mind clear!
Once you know your asana and you’ve felt it in your body, you can begin to write out your directives. Start with writing out your flow. Leaving bullet points below each asana for a few directives depending on the level of class you are teaching to.
The newer a student is to yoga, the fewer directives they hear and can connect into their body. For instance, if you are teaching a power class, you can speak four to seven directives for each pose. This is because your students likely have a good foundation for each pose you call. When you say Warrior 1, they likely are comfortable with what that shape is and can get there on their own. Once there, your directives refine their pose. On the other hand, if someone is new to yoga and has no context for a pose name or shape, they are looking to your directives to get them there (especially if you are not modeling the pose). These students will often only hear one to four directives per pose. Keeping your directives minimal brings them success in the poses, which increases their confidence as well.
I’ll write out a sun salutation for a new class based on the above facts. Here’s an example outline:
Root down through all four corners of the feet
Draw the tailbone down to the floor
Draw the shoulders down your back and together
Lift the top of your head to the ceiling, softening your chin down
Inhale and draw your hands over head and exhale, hinging at the hips
Exhale and press the tops of your feet into the mat
Shoulders draw together and down the back
Core draws the chest toward the thighs
Inhale and draw halfway up
Lift your belly button to your spine
Hands on the shins
Exhale and bend the knees, hands to the mat
Lift the hips high and step the feet back
Lift the belly button and heart space toward ceiling
Do not hang the head
Exhale and lower down halfway keeping your belly lifted
Elbows stay close to your side
Shoulder blades drawn down your back
Upward facing dog
Inhale and move to the tops of the feet
Pull your hands toward you as you lift the chest
Press the tops of the feet into the mat
Downward facing dog
Exhale and tuck the toes
Lift from the mid back space and press the mat away from you
Lift the hips high
Once you do these steps, you’ll likely have to reference your notes very little. By this time, you’ve written it out and practiced it. Your notes are there for your comfort and reference in case you forget them. I hope this has helped your process for writing out directives for your class. As you grow in your teaching, you’ll have foundations down and this process will grow to include advanced variations.
Have fun with it!
Want to learn more about our world class training that you can do in the comfort of your own home? Check out our upcoming Holy Yoga 100/200 Hour Training program that begins soon!
Jonnie Goodmanson is a Senior Trainer for Holy Yoga Global®, LLC. Jonnie leads HYG’s core programs including their 200-hour Teacher Training, Master’s Program, Touch Training, and Trauma Sensitive Yoga Certification with an emphasis on injury modification and anatomy and physiology. Jonnie is a continuing education provider for Yoga Alliance and ACE Fitness. She teaches yoga at Lifetime Fitness and Mainstreet Church in Mound, MN. You can read more about Jonnie’s role at www.holyyoga.net.