New Yoga Teachers: Tips For Subbing Yoga Classes

Yay!  You finished your yoga teacher training, and you’re ready to hop into the classroom.  One of the best and most traditional ways to get started is to make yourself available to substitute teach classes for other teachers.  By “make yourself available” I mean, be ready to drop everything and hustle over to the gym to improvise a class at :30 minutes notice.  I used to live a ten minute walk from a local gym where I was on the sub list, and a six mile bike ride from the beach where I was a regular teacher over one summer, and indeed, I taught a few classes with about a half hour’s notice.


Here’s some tips for the new teacher when subbing classes, in no particular order:

–  Be available.  Let people know you’re available.  And when they ask if you can sub a class, do it! (unless you just can’t get it into your schedule).  As a new teacher, at first you have to be ready to teach on other people’s schedule, not your own.

–  Know what class you’re teaching!  Ask the teacher who contacted you the format, including duration, style, temperature, and if there’s music (e.g., 75 minute Level 1 Iyengar), and check the class description online.

–  Be flexible in your teaching style.  That could mean writing out sequences for five different styles and having them ready to grab when the call comes in (vinyasa, beginners, restorative, over 40, etc.).  Alternatively, know how to improvise a class in any style (this will become easier with experience and study).  If you get a call to substitute a candlelight relaxation class, you can’t show up and teach a level 2/3 vinyasa.  You have to be able to teach the class on the schedule.

–  By the same token, don’t teach a class you don’t know.  If you don’t know what Ashtanga is, don’t accept a sub request for an Ashtanga class. Ask questions about the class.  Often, even though the class is described one way that you might not be familiar with, you’ll learn that it’s similar to or the same as a basic style that you know described another way (e.g., “Energy Flow” could also be called “Vinyasa Level 2”)

–  Keep 60, 75 and 90 minute playlists on your cell phone.  That way when you get that last minute phone call, you’ll have your music ready to go!  Denon makes a great app for the iPhone that lets you download playlists. (**Pro tip:  playlists should be about 10 to 15 minutes *shorter* than the actual class, to give time for intro/centering at the beginning, and savasana at the end.  So a “75” minute playlist will actually be about 60 – 65 minutes long).  Here’s some playlists (mostly 75) to get you started:  SAMPLE PLAYLISTS

–  Put your phone on “airplane” mode before the class starts.  Even I forget this occasionally, but for beginning teachers it’s a good reminder.

–  Teach a basic class.  Your job is not to impress the students or the studio owner with your complex sequencing or intimate knowledge of the Sutras.  You shouldn’t try to “replace” the absent teacher, show her up, or mimic that teacher’s style.   A substitute classroom is not the time or place to do this.  Keep your sequence easy and basic and within the class description.   Be yourself, give the students a good yoga class, and get out.

–  Do not get discouraged when students pack up and leave when they find out you are substituting for their favorite teacher.  Yoga students can get very particular and loyal to favorite teachers, to the point where they don’t want to take a class from anyone else.  Don’t take this personally and by all means do *not* argue with them or get flustered – they’re not leaving because you *are* there, but rather, because their favorite teacher *isn’t* there.  Smile, thank them, forget about them and get back to teaching the students who stuck around.

–  Find out what’s been happening in the class in the weeks leading up to your sub-gig.  Especially for studio (versus gym) classes, more advanced teachers could be working toward certain poses (such as handstand or binds) or sequences.  When you are asked to sub these classes, *ask* the teacher if the class is working on anything special, and if s/he wants you to continue this path.

–  If a teacher asks you to sub, and gives you a personal reason why s/he is missing, do *not* tell the class.  It’s not your business to gossip.  Just say “I’m not sure, but s/he said s/he will probably be back next week.”

–  Thank the teacher who contacted you!

Can you think of any more tips?

Comments welcome: