Teaching Yoga with Intuition
Have you ever been to a yoga class and felt great afterwards, and said something like, “How did that instructor know I needed heart openers today?”
Or have you ever had a student say that to you, after teaching a class? Something like, “That was exactly what I needed today!”
Is it magic? Well, maybe. I call it teaching with intuition. You can do it, too. In fact, you probably are doing it already without realizing it. You connect with your students all the time in non-verbal, energetic ways. Here are some ways to open your intuition.
Start with a lesson plan
Start with a lesson plan. You can read my post on lesson plans here for tips on how to put together a good plan. Even if you may not use it, it’s helpful to take a few minutes to jot down some ideas for class. Luck favors the prepared, know what I mean?
Set your intention
Set your intention. Intentions: they aren’t just for students! As a teacher, setting an intention before class is vital to the success of your class. An intention can help you focus your efforts, and, as I said, center you for teaching. It will also help calm your nerves, in case you’re anxious about teaching. Here is the one I use, every time: My intention is to serve my students’ highest good. I open myself to the source of yoga and let the wisdom flow through me. That simple intuition has become a ritual for me.
My intention is to serve my students’ highest good. I open myself to the source of yoga and let the wisdom flow through me.
Read the energy in the room
Read the energy in the room. While you teach, move around the room. Notice the energy. Notice who in the room is pushing too hard, and who isn’t breathing. Notice the subtle clues from your students. Maybe one lets out a huge sigh after each pose. Another one keeps gulping water when everyone else is holding a pose. What can you learn from these clues?
One thing I hope you learned in your YTT: this isn’t your practice. If you are up front, moving through the practice with your students, you won’t be able to read your class well enough to use your intuition.
Trust your instincts
Trust your instincts. I know I encouraged you to walk in here with a lesson plan, but hold on. That woman who keeps drinking water. The guy who’s pushing himself too hard. What do they need? Is this planned standing sequence leading up to extended-angle-with-the-bind really the best thing for those two? Pause for a few seconds and tune in—what is your intuition telling you?
Intuition usually happens in a flash. Often we push it away, because it seems too easy, or even crazy. But resist that urge, and listen to it. Here’s what happened to me—I kept noticing that while I was teaching, I would suddenly get an idea for a pose, something that wasn’t in the lesson plan. Do cobra now. I would argue with it: Cobra? Now? That’s crazy! We’re in the middle of a standing sequence! But gradually I learned to pay attention. When my intuition said just do sun breaths, I started cueing exactly what it called for.
It was scary at first, because my intuition was leading me into some weird places. Sometimes it would call for crescent lunge, and I would think I’m always doing crescent lunge, they are so bored with that! But then I would cue crescent lunge.
And students loved it. Every time I listened to and followed my intuition, at least one person in the class made a positive comment about it. “That cobra sequence was awesome!” “I really needed those hip openers today!”
Now when people remark after class, “You always do exactly what I need!” I just smile and say a quick prayer of gratitude. Because it’s not me—it’s source, and the wisdom of yoga. It’s the angels, the universe, God—all working through me, to heal my students.