How to Craft Powerful Yoga Themes in 3 Steps.
As a yoga teacher trainer, one of the things newer yoga teachers often ask me about is how to find the right words to teach for a theme. As a new teacher, it's sometimes hard enough to simply get left and right correct. Well, let's be honest, some days it's hard no matter how long you've been teaching. This post is intended to give new teachers a method for finding the right language to land a theme.
Here are the important steps in doing that.
1. Find a theme that is easily universalized. There will be a wide range of students in your class who have differing life experiences. Try not to assume that just because you have had an experience, or learned a specific lesson, that it will also be a part of what they are also curious about. Pick something that is broad and think of the various ways that a person could experience your theme. It is helpful if you find a theme that allows each person in the room to have their experience. For example, you could pick something like mindfulness. There are a million different ways a person can experience this and the container of this experience will come from the way you define it. The dictionary defines it as: a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Let's use this definition for the rest of the exercise.
2. Explore how the theme can be known through movement. The theme should also relate to how you move as this allows the students to have a felt sense of the theme. So, for example, with mindfulness, you could have the students explore how to slow down their movements and notice the movement through the muscles. This gives enough space that each student can have the experience of feeling their own body without you defining what that means to them. The inquiry is simply what they see when they slow down.
3. Move with the theme in your body and then journal about it. Notice how this feels in your body. Write about any times that you have felt this. What are the words that start to come up as you write? Can you use these words to create cues for your class? For example, when I move more slowly, it feels as though I am moving through honey or that I am in a slow-motion video. It feels like the movement trickles through my muscles like a slow wave. The cues would become, move slowly, as though you are moving through honey.
The most powerful people in the world are poets. Through their use of language, they shape and create a new reality for people. Our imagination is a super powerful tool for a yoga teacher to play with. It can create some really fun experiences as teachers. It is hard to teach something you haven't experienced. Let your practice of life and your mat be your guide. I always keep a journal handy to write down the good ideas or things I am exploring.
The last step here is the most important. PRACTICE. It has taken me years to learn how to deliver a yoga class with seamless language. And even still, I sometimes don't nail it. But each class is a learning experience. And I keep track of what works and what doesn't work. If you treat your practice of teaching in the same way that you treat your physical practice, each time you step into the role of teacher will feel a little more easeful and familiar. You absolutely don't have to be perfect every class to impact your students. You just have to be you.