Teaching Tips From My Yoga Tune-Up in Chicago

Some yoga teaching thoughts after my yoga tune-up in Chicago a few weeks ago.  If you’ve read my blog you know I did my TT at Yogaview in Chicago, and that I admire and model my style on a few of the instructors there.  Even after a three year absence from the city, YV hasn’t changed (much).  I’m glad we went back and took a few classes from some of my favorite teachers, I looked at it as sort of a “workshop” weekend for tuning up my yoga teaching skills.


– More talking is not necessarily good talking.  I’ve been in classes (too many) with lots of chatter from the instructor, none of which helps me do anything.  As a teacher, if I’m going to say something it will be to (a) get the students into the pose; (b) get them deeper into the pose; (c) fine tune or give “inside” tips to the pose; and (d) get them out of the pose.  Remember: every time a yoga teacher says something, s/he is asking the student to tune *out* of his body/mind and re-focus on what is being said.  Make it useful and purposeful.

yoga teaching insights

I don’t do dharma talk, I don’t generally weave themes.  I do throw a few jokes in there every now and then, usually to let the yogis know that I’m aware a pose is difficult, uncomfortable, hitting an odd spot.  Back in Chicago, Q. rarely themes, only does a little “inspiration” during class; S. does dharma and themes but she *studies* and has worked to master it, and if she says something you can bet it relates only to the pose, or the theme.  My opinion, do it or don’t do it; but don’t do it half way, and if you do it, do it with a purpose.

– Less talking is probably better.  “Step your right foot forward for Warrior II” will get 98% of the people where they have to be, it’s really that simple.  If that gets lost in a lot of chatter (see the previous point) I tend to start watching the clock.  Q. back in Chicago follows this point, and has for years.  His classes are always full.  Conclusion: students just want their yoga.  He taught the same style class the other day that he’s been teaching for years.  Which gets to the next point.

– Consistency puts butts on the matts.  I go to classes where I know what is going to happen when I get there, assuming it’s something I like and want. I figure most people are like that.  The fact that Q.’s yoga teaching style and sequencing are the same now as they were years ago, and he has a *packed* room, makes me conclude that these first three points are a good way to model my teaching, inasmuch as it fits my personality too.

– Sequencing is easy.  And extremely difficult.   Q.’s sequence was simple but followed established forms for a basic vinyasa class.  S.’ class was a master class in how to sequence to peak pose (level-3, don’t try this at home kids).  She takes it seriously, and has only gotten better in the last three years.  Stick with established rules and KISS.  If you’re going to try something fancy like peak pose, take it seriously – people are paying you to be your best.

– Repetition can be good.  Both Q. and S. used repetition to good effect.  For Q. it was something simple like using Classic Surya Namaskar (lots of low lunges) and building on that.  For S. it was a specific pelvic movement repeated in different poses to finally reach peak pose.  Both great uses of repetition.

– KISS.  Both Q. and S. taught seemingly simple classes (on paper) but both had their difficulties.  Q. didn’t teach any fancy poses, but through effective sequencing, holding poses, proper movement, I was sweating my butt off.  Most of S.’ poses were not that difficult, other than when we got close to the peak.  Keep it simple, Mike.

I guess that’s enough yoga teaching insights for now.

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