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How to Teach a Kundalini Yoga Class
(The complete teacher’s training article has been completed now can be found here: Comprehensive Guide to Teaching Yoga. And if you are interested in becoming a yoga instructor you will find my popular and affordable yoga teacher training program details here: Online Yoga Teacher Training.)
My good friend and author of the great Yoga Blog PranaFlowNZ, Kara-Leah Grant, dropped me a note the other day with a suggestion that I give some pointers on how to teach the yoga techniques and meditations that I publish here on Mastery of Meditation & Yoga. I thought this was a great idea, and so would like to kick off this new topic with a discussion of how to teach a great yoga class in general first. Also, going forward I will include teaching tips for the exercises and meditations as well that make up the free yoga & meditation e-books and videos.
I obviously love to teach, which is luckily also the Universe’s plan for me and is what I was born to do according to my numerological reading, and if through this website I can help others to become great yoga and meditation teachers as well, it would just be icing on the cake .
For those who have not taken a live Kundalini Yoga class, I strongly suggest you to try one. It is quite a blast. Here is an article with my thoughts regarding the Benefits of Group Yoga Practice.
What I will present below is the sequence and details that I have found to work best in teaching a yoga class. The instructions are specifically for a Kundalini Yoga class, but they certainly apply to any other type of yoga class as well.
Typically a single class can be broken down into 3 phases. I will call them, Orientation, Warm-up and finally The Work. Below is how these come together to form a great class and a great, transforming experience for the students. In this article I will cover the Orientation phase, and in the next part will cover the other 2 phases.
One final note before I jump ahead, is that this is also a great sequence for you to follow for your own personal yoga practice.
Teaching a Yoga Class Phase 1 – Orientation:
- Get the students settled in.
- Ensure the spacing is correct for safety and comfort.
- Get their mind and awareness into the here and now.
- Introduce/Accomplish some silent meditation.
- Give a short overview of the yoga style, class structure and planned yoga set.
- Give important practice instructions to the newbies.
Yup, in every class I try to cover the above, unless there are no new students there. If all the students are veteran yogis, then you can skip items 5 & 6. To tell you the truth, such classes are sometimes more fun for the teacher, because it means the intensity can be turned up a notch and more challenging techniques can be practiced. Here now are details of each of the items above.
Items 1, 2, 3 & 4 Above:
As the students file into the class, I make sure the early ones move up and near to where I sit, as for some reason students always tend to keep more of a distance from the teacher than they need to. I don’t like to feel lonely sitting all by my lonesome at the head of the class . This is of course so that the late comes, and there always are some and you know who are , can join in towards the back.
I am also making sure during this time that spacing is good between students, which generally means that they should be able to spread both arms out to their sides without hitting anyone. In addition, I am usually pointing out cushions, mats, water, etc to newcomers as well. Shortly I announce the start of the class, and immediately get everyone to start long deep breathing.
After few long deep breaths, I give instructions to start breath awareness meditation (posture, technique, etc). I find the long deep breathing initially gets everyone to relax and awaken, and the breath awareness meditation (essentially Zazen – Zen Meditation Technique) gets everyone’s mind into the present, where all the work is going to get done. I will vary the demands of this meditation from time to time, depending on the expertise of the students present.
During this time of Zazen, the last few students generally arrive and I move onto items 5 & 6 next.
Now I give a short overview of Kundalini Yoga, what it entails and how it works. This is for the new comers, thus the veteran yogis can just tune me out and continue to work on their meditation. Specifically here I mention the mechanisms Kundalini Yoga uses to work it’s magic and also, some details of how this all helps to rejuvenate and heal the body/mind complex. You can get details on this information in the Introduction to Kundalini Yoga article.
In addition, I let the students know what the class structure is going to be exactly. I find this helps put them to ease and helps them know how the class is going to flow. I also here let them know which particular aspect of their being we are going to focus on today (the theme of the Yoga Set), as I always find sharing this information to be very motivating and encouraging to them. My class structure is generally the following…
- Meditation and orientation period.
- Tuning in to their Higher Self and the Universal Energy.
- Breathing exercises (pranayamas) to get their energy going.
- Main Yoga Set.
This part is perhaps the most important aspect of the orientation and here I now give the key guidelines I want the students to follow. Essentially the following points are covered here.
- I tell them, I will demonstrate first the pose or exercise, which after observing they do with their eyes closed.
- All breathing is done through the nose, unless otherwise instructed.
- Use the modifications for tough exercises.
- To not overdo, be careful with injuries and work around them whenever possible.
- To not compete and not worry about how anyone else is doing.
- Throughout the class to do the practice will full awareness.
Here are 2 articles that cover these and other important yoga guidelines: 10 Important Guidelines for Kundalini Yoga Practice & Essential Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Practice.
In the next part of this series I will cover the Warm-up and Work phase of teaching a fantastic yoga class.