How to plan a yoga class: use a lesson plan
Congratulations! You’re now a yoga teacher. How are you going to plan your first class?
You may be eager to teach, but unsure how to get started. Below are some tips that I compiled, based on my years of teaching. I still go through these steps, believe it or not!
Make a lesson plan. When it comes to planning your yoga classes, I believe in the lesson plan. Maybe it’s my English teacher background? I am a writer, so writing a lesson plan helps me focus. I write mine on the computer, or I’ll use an index card or a scrap of paper in a pinch. My friend Hilary also makes lesson plans, but she uses pictures! What works best for you? Once you’ve decided on a format, take a few moments before class starts to read over your lesson plan. This is a good way to center yourself for teaching. Also, you will feel secure with that plan. If something unexpected happens in class that distracts you from teaching, it will help you easily to get back on track.
Where is your favorite yoga book? One thing you learn, when you first dive into yoga, is how much more there is to learn. Before planning a class, practice svadhyaya (self-study). Take the time to read or study, and see what develops. Learn one new thing. Your favorite yoga books are great places to find inspiration for teaching.
How will you sequence the class? When I first started teaching, I divided my lesson plan into chunks: Centering, Warm-ups, Sun Salutations, Standing Asanas, Twisting, Balancing, Back Strengthening, Abdominal/Core, Inversions, Hip Openers, Seated Forward Bends, Reclined Twists, Savasana. Whew! I used to think I had to do a pose for each category in every class. While it is useful to sort yoga poses this way, remember you don’t have to follow a rigid format. You can skip Back Strengthening today, but remember to include it next week, or in two weeks. Keep track of what you did last week (you think you’ll remember, but you won’t—again, that’s what lesson plans are for!) so you don’t get stuck cueing the same poses all the time.
Are you really going to teach and read a lesson plan? No. The physical action of writing your lesson plan is one way to help you remember it. Then you’ll read over it, so it’s fresh in your mind. During the actual class, you can glance at it from time to time, but you will reach the point where you don’t have to refer to it at all, because it will be in your head.
When can you practice? Did you just dream up a great sequence? Please practice it first! This will alert you to problems the students might have—maybe they will need a break here, or maybe a counterpose there. How do you do this Marichiasana A again, anyway? What’s the best way to cue extended angle with the bind? Now is the time to find out. Also, practicing your sequences will help you remember them when you get in front of the class.
Oh no! I have five beginners in my class today! Well, there goes the lesson plan… If the class you planned is best for more experienced students and you end up with beginners, you’ll have to regroup. The good news is that you prepared, you practiced, and you can do this. Modify your lesson plan just like you would modify your practice.
I’m following my lesson plan, but it just doesn’t feel right. If your intuition tells you that your lesson plan isn’t working, then revise it. I will always encourage teachers to make plans, but your intuition is your best guide. Be open to the energy of your students. Maybe your class wants to do five sets of sun salutations, maybe they only need one. Maybe everyone is up for crow pose today. If you stay relaxed as a teacher, you’ll be more open to listening to your intuition. And what helps you relax? Knowing that you’ve got a solid lesson plan. Knowing that you’re prepared.
If you stay relaxed as a teacher, you’ll be more open to listening to your intuition. And what helps you relax? Knowing that you’ve got a solid lesson plan. Knowing that you’re prepared.
How do you prepare for teaching your classes? Leave me a note in the comments section!