With Brooke Toftoy
Many of us experienced HOLY community at retreat, and we GET TO create sacred spaces for students in our classes to connect with God, their bodies, and one another in ways that they may have never known was possible. Here are my top 10 ways to cultivate community in classes.
Be available before & after class.
Keeping the 10 minutes before class starts open to greet, chat, answer questions, and get to hang out with students is FUN! Another benefit is that newbies tend to come early, so it’s nice to have that time available to make them feel comfortable, and get them set up.
Be socially aggressive!
I’m kidding, but as the instructors, we can be at the door warmly welcoming each student, looking them in the eyes, and getting to know something about them. Everyone wants to be seen, heard and known, even at yoga classes!
In spacious rooms, people tend to spread W A Y out when putting their mats down, which communicates (unintentionally) that people want to keep their distance. Moving and breathing in sync, and being close enough to really experience it is powerful! Invite students to move their mats by saying something like ‘Cozy up so you can hear me over the music’. It gives students something to laugh and commiserate about, and even share what makes them anxious about the physical closeness.
Have students share their name and answer a question each week. Anything from ‘What is your vocation?’ to ‘If you had a free day, what would you do?’ to ‘Share a prayer request’. This allows people to find out what they have in common with one another, and often they continue the conversation after class.
Create a Safe Space.
People come in to yoga with all kinds of fears; ‘I’m not flexible’, ‘I’ve never done yoga’, ‘I have an injury’, ‘Can Christians do yoga?’, ‘I can’t do that pose’, ‘My mind won’t calm down’, ‘I don’t know the names of any poses’. We get to make yoga accessible for everyone, and remind people that it’s not about the yoga, that each person’s practice will look different as they honor their own bodies, that it’s a practice and not a performance.
Teach What You Know.
We are all drawn to people who are willing to be vulnerable. God’s light shines when our teaching flows out of what God has done in our own lives. An instructor’s authenticity is an invitation for students to examine their own lives with God more fully.
I get a little thrill whenever one of my teachers at the local studio says my name in class. Little encouragements, when they are made personal, are such a blessing. Learn student’s names, and use them!
Touch & Bless Each Student.
People always tell me that their favorite part of class is Savasana, when each person receives a mini massage and a silent blessing prayed over them. Remember retreat, people? It’s the BEST. Unless a student indicates they do not want to be touched, this is a fantastic way to leave your students feeling loved and connected.
Meet Your Neighbor
After announcements at the end of class, invite students to meet the people they practiced next to. This is a fun time to introduce newbies to regulars and help them connect.
Thank you notes.
Utilize those new student sheets and write a personal note to each new student, handwritten or emailed. Someone just shared this idea with me, and I haven’t gotten a chance to do it yet, but I can’t wait!
Cultivate Community Playlist & Flow
- Open Up Let the Light In-Steffany Gretzinger
- Down to the River-Page CXVI
- Awakening-Chris Tomlin
- My Heart is Open-Maroon 5
- Give Me Love-Ed Sheeran
- It is Well (Live)-Bethel Music & Kristene DiMarco
- Fix You-Coldplay
- All the Poor and Powerless-All Sons & Daughters
- Restless-Audrey Assad