You are a yoga teacher and undoubtedly want to inspire your students.
We all do.
While the physical aspect of yoga can change our bodies and create a lasting glow for hours, a theme can change a life. The inspiration we give our students can help them to take their yoga off the mat and into the world.
But, and it’s a big but, perhaps you’ve tried it and it just didn’t go so well. You are not alone. Theming is often the hardest part of a yoga class to deliver in an authentic and unobtrusive way.
Here are the 10 biggest mistakes you can make while theming a yoga class:
1. Talk too much in the beginning.
The biggest mistake we make is to talk too much in the beginning of class. Students are often antsy having come from their busy lives and they want to get to their practice. Figure out your opening anecdote, or how you will start the class, then rehearse it with a watch. Try to stay under three minutes. Then you will have time for breath work or chanting. You can always explain parts of your theme in the warm ups.
2. Talk too much in the middle.
A theme is best delivered lightly, like sprinkles on an ice cream sundae. Try to remind the class of your theme just four to six times in a typical 90 minute class. You don’t have to do it in every pose.
3. Saying Stupid things Instead of Smart things
“I can’t believe that just came out of my mouth!” That’s happened to all of us. The best way to avoid saying senseless things is to prepare your class ahead of time. Think of at least eight clever things to say about your theme which you can draw on when you are in the room. You will only use half of them in most classes.
4. Switching your Theme.
If you start out theming about “Compassion,” then stick with it and use a few synonyms so you don’t sound like a broken record. If you switch to “Be fearless,” then you have gotten lost and taken your students with you.
5. Sounding Phony.
We have to know what we’re about to pick a theme that resonates from an internal place. For example, Pittas usually do well with themes around community and love. Vatas usually do well with themes about devotion, self-empowerment and authenticity. Kaphas usually do well with self-acceptance, nourishment and being grounded.
6. The Sandwich Theme.
It’s not necessarily a mistake to state a theme only at the beginning and at the end of class. If that’s the best you can do, then it’s a good start, which is better than no start. However, the reason teachers don’t weave a theme is often because they didn’t do their homework and think of things to say. If that’s the case, then the sandwich theme reflects poor preparation. Only the teacher knows for sure.
7. Picking Too Big of a Topic.
A 60 or 90 minute class is not the best time to deliver a lecture about the yoga sutras, the chakras, the eight limbs, etc. The more narrow your topic, the more likely your students will hear you. Pick one chakra or sutra to explore. Furthermore, a ‘one word theme’ is often the most effective choice.
8. Using Adjustments and Sequences that Make No Sense.
Create a class that supports your theme. If you are teaching about being grounded, then teach being grounded in poses. Choose adjustments that root your students, and props that do the same. Use sequencing to build a cohesive class.
9. Theming when you are not in a good place.
A theme is not entirely necessary to practice, and there are times when it is not a good idea to theme. So if you had a terrible day, don’t try to theme. If you just lost your pet or a family member, don’t try to theme. Just move your class through the asana cuing breath and alignment, and they will have a good (enough) experience.
10. Giving Up.
Why do students come to yoga instead of taking a class on their computer at home? You! Students want connection with their teacher. They show up to bond with you. All you have to do is show up for them. If you have tried to theme and didn’t feel comfortable, don’t give up. Be authentic, contemplate your words and you will create a community of students for a lifelong practice.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of two yoga books including Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga. Michelle is a columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to other yoga media. She is an E-RYT 500 Hatha teacher and teaches in Denver, Co. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com and www.yogasteya.com.