Imagine walking in to your studio, where all students feel welcome, included, and celebrated. There is a buzz of excitement in the air. Students introduce themselves to one other and happily make room for another mat.
These simple 5 steps can turn that imagined scenario into a reality.
Practice what you preach
Teaching yoga and practicing yoga are different. When you teach, your focus is external, on your students, to help guide them inside. When you practice yoga, your focus is internal, on your own inner landscape. Your students need to know that you practice and teach; otherwise, your teachings could come off a bit like “Do as I say, not as I do.”
- For example, if you have a yoga challenge going on, sign yourself up and show up for it.
- Encouraging your students to try meditation every day for 30 days? Blog daily about your own ups and downs with meditation during the same time frame.
- Or try a video blog showing your daily asana practice and one particular pose you are learning to improve. The idea is to allow your students to see you as a student, to let them know yoga is a continually unfolding process with no finish line.
Connect with your staff
Make time at least twice a year to just be with your staff, or to spend time with the owner(s) and other instructors of the studios where you teach. This reflects back to practice what you preach. If you want to cultivate a connected yoga community, you must start with the leaders of your community, your teachers.
If it’s your studio, you get to design how to communicate and know your staff members. Start each gathering with the business notes that need to be taken care of and then move on to some fun. After you’ve taken care of business:
- lead a master class, focusing on a particularly challenging asana or extended meditation or perhaps some chanting
- hold your next meeting at the beach and then play Smashball, fly kites, and have a BBQ
- or hold your next meeting at someone’s house and then have game night
- bring your mats to a park and practice some partner poses
Know more than just their names
You already know that knowing your students names helps them feel seen and recognized. Take the extra step and know something meaningful about each student, whether they take your class or another instructor’s class.
Simple inquiries as they are signing in or setting up their mats is an easy way to learn more about each student. Ask questions like, “What do you do when you aren’t doing yoga?” which can then lead to follow up questions or comments such as “Congrats on finishing another quarter at school!” or “Is your new baby crawling yet?”
Knowing just a few details about each student allows them to feel valued by you, welcome at your studio, and both seen and heard. Use your knowledge about one student to introduce her to another student with similar interests or experiences, which jump starts conversations and friendships among students.
Take the time to slow down from all of the studio to-do’s to be present with who is there in each moment. You are also creating an environment that shows your students your studio is a safe place to get to know one another so that when they see each other outside of class, they will be comfortable striking up a conversation.
What’s the message?
If every person who came through the doors of your studio or into your classes could leave with only one message or lesson about yoga, what would it be? The definition of yoga? Bhakti? The Yamas or Niyamas?
Once you are clear on your studio’s message, communicate that message to all of the instructors the next time you are connecting with them. This can spark a great discussion and give you greater opportunity to deepen your understanding of each other.
Discover the best way to impart your message or lesson to every student on a regular basis. Teaching a concept just once to a new student in an intro class or new comers party is not enough for the message to stick.
Brainstorm several ideas that work for your studio and the community of yogis that come each week.
- during the first week of each month your message can be incorporated into all classes
- each month in your newsletter invite a student to share his or her success in incorporating the lesson taught in class into life off the mat
- create a welcome kit that contains a bookmark with a quote that best represents the teachings
- design a Facebook challenge such as submitting brief descriptions of how students are living or experiencing the teachings in their lives and then select the top 3- 5 or randomly select 3-5 entries to win a small prize, such as a free class or even better, the chance to bring a friend for free
Mix it up!
Most studios have several mini-communities- the morning vs. evening group, weekenders vs. weekday – that rarely or never meet or see each other. Dedicate some studio time as social time – fun, interesting, and participation based events that are not directly asana-based classes or workshops.
- host a yoga book club, both traditional yoga texts and newer yoga fiction such as Enlightenment for Idiots make great selections
- as often as once a month or as little as once a year hold a yoga party with appetizers, non-alcoholic beverages, a DJ or live music, and then dance, chat and even have a dedicated pose play area
- have a monthly or bi-monthly moderated discussion group, you can choose a pre-selected yoga topic or just allow the discussion to flow openly
- hold a fundraising event for a local charity or student in need, the success of working and coming together to do something good close to home creates a perfect opportunity for students to connect with one another
How else do you help your students connect to your studio and each other? What do you love most about your yoga community?
Cathy Weiss is the founder and lead instructor, aka Queen Flirt, of Yoga Flirt. Her passion is to empower women with a new found sense of who they truly are. Her classes include a fun and inspiring mix of calm inward focus, high intensity silliness, and detailed directions for positive results physically, mentally and emotionally. Hundreds of women experience higher self-esteem, renewed confidence, reinvigorated sensuality, and more fun in their lives from her teachings. Besides being Queen Flirt, she is a Yogini, Pole Dancer, Meditator, Teacher, Awesome Wife, Ice Cream and Sun Lover. You can connect with her here:www.yogaflirt.com, www.facebook.com/YogaFlirt, and on Twitter@yogaflirt.