Tips for a better Yoga class

Conducting a group exercise class can be daunting. There are many factors to consider; from members’ safety and experience to group dynamics. I have complied below some tips that I found useful in my experience as a group fitness instructor. The write-up also includes some of the learning points that were shared during our teacher training practices.

1. Avoid using negative phrases or words

The brain uses much longer to process a negative word than a positive word. It’s like walking zigzag when you can walk straight to the destination. Your human brain responds much faster and more positively to descriptions such as “keep your back straight”, “proud chest” and “gaze up to the sky” versus “don’t round your back”, “unroll your shoulders” and “don’t look down”. Using more descriptive words also make your class sound more interesting at times. Instead of saying sit up tall every class, ask your class participants to imagine themselves as a tree growing taller! Using imaginary at appropriate times can help to enhance the class experience as well.

2. Use short and concise cues

Instead of cueing in long sentences, try short cues that immediately relate to body part movement and direction. Our mind picks up key words within a sentence and processes them in the most logical way. So, instead of saying,’ bring your arms up above your head, bend from your hips and bring your arms down to each side of your feet’, consider saying ‘arms up, fold forward and reach to the floor’. Most people would look at you and try to mimic what you are doing anyway. Essentially, don’t sweat over long complete sentences. The class members are there for a Yoga class, and not an English grammar lesson!

3. Avoid awkward pauses and phrases

We often feel uncomfortable when there is silence. And the natural reaction is to fill it up with words such as “ok, so, maybe, err….”. These words do very little to our instructions. In fact, some of them make you sound ‘unsure’ of what you are doing, which does not bode well with student confidence. When in doubt, or when you need some time to think, just ask the students to breathe longer in the pose or come to a resting position such as child’s pose.

4. Don’t let the mood of class members affect you

People come for classes for all kinds of reasons. Some of them are there to release work stress; some of them want to lose weight; others may just be there because their friends are there. Not all of them would smile and respond to you positively. As the teacher, you should not let this affect the quality of your teaching. Learn to disassociate yourself from the reaction of the members by focusing on your instructions instead of the facial expressions of the class members. There will be people who love your class, and there will be those who hate it. It’s just how the world goes round. Don’t be discouraged by those who don’t, but take opportunities to find out why if available, and improve on your teaching! Sometimes, though, it’s just a matter of preference and style.

I hope you find these tips useful. Do add on if you have some experiences to share as well! Enjoy teaching!

KC 🙂
Sept 200hr Weekday