YogaVibes

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  • Create the Ultimate Yoga Class Plan, by Danielle Diamond

    Danielle Diamond Class Plan Blog

     

    This blog post appeared originally on XenStrength.com, it is reposted here with permission.

    Create the Ultimate Yoga Class Plan

    Hey Rockstar Yogi!

    I absolutely love creating new sequences and playlists, and researching dharma topics and new alignment instructions – but when I first started out I had no idea how to do it on my own.

    It takes a ton of time and dedication to truly offer your students an experience instead of the same old yoga class that everyone else is teaching, but it’s not always easy to come up with original ideas for sequences, playlists, dharma talks and more!

    I used to sit there and wish someone would do it for me, like a little yogi in a bottle would pop out with the perfect plan, but it never happened.

    At least I figured out a way to spend the time I had wisely- making sure each class had certain elements in it that would not only create an educational experience but also be a ton of fun.

    And I’m happy to share a few quick tips with you to make your class planning easier, so it doesn’t take you more time to plan it than it does to teach it!

    1-Figure out what type of class you’re going to be known for teaching

    I’ve had some of the same students coming to my classes for the last 15 years because they know exactly what they’re going to get and love the consistency of what I offer: a sweaty, challenging vinyasa flow sequenced around a theme of opening a certain body part or a peak pose, bookended with an inspiring dharma talk and closing meditation- all to a fun soundtrack that can include anything from Krishna Das to Das Efx….. I was a producer at MTV pre-yoga career, so music is a huge part of everything I do.

    Will your class only be focused on the physical? Will you teach pranayama and meditation? Will you talk about the Yamas and Niyamas? Will you play music, and if so what kind?

    All of these answers will contribute to the “experience” you’ll create for your students and if you create one they like, then they’ll keep coming back!

    The most important thing to remember is that you can’t please everyone, and if you try to please everyone you’ll wind up pleasing no one- so remember to do YOU, which brings me to my next tip.

    2-Find your own voice as a teacher.

    I remember when I first started teaching, I pretty much copied everything my mentor did. I used the same type of sequencing, the same music, I read from the same sutra book, and I think I even started using her mannerisms, which I’m sure freaked out students who also took her classes.

    After a month or so I realized that I was totally playing it safe trying to copy her and that I needed to develop my own style and attract my own tribe.

    It’s okay to share something someone reads or borrow a transition here and there, but make sure you find your own voice, your own instruction of the poses, your own style of music and your own translation of the Yamas and the Niyamas. Don’t be a copy-cat.

    3- Look everywhere for Dharma inspiration- everywhere!
    I was once at a John Mayer concert and for the first time wasn’t claustrophobic in a sea full of people on the stadium floor. I realized I was using my pranayama to stay calm and meditating on the idea that I was safe for the first 20 minutes. A few weeks later I brought that into my teaching a class on the great lawn at Bryant Park for Yoga Journal- with 750 yogis mat to

    I could tell people were feeling a bit like sardines so I shared my experience and it made for a great dharma talk about non-attachment. When you let your students see you as a student, always learning and sharing how you live your yoga, it inspires them to do the same.

    4- Know how to design a sequence that can be modified for anyone who comes.
    Unless you’re teaching a specified level, you’ll most likely get anyone from a fellow teacher to someone who has never stepped foot on a mat in the same class at the same time. You need to know how to teach to both of them.

    Creating a sequence with a peak pose that requires all advanced poses to get into is no bueno for an open level class. Make sure that you pick poses that can be modified either by putting a knee down or using a prop, etc. You want to make people feel welcome, and by giving modifications and talking about how you need to start some you’ll make everyone feel comfortable.

    5-Know the basics of sequencing a safe and effective flow.
    Every class should have a centering, warm up, core sequence, and relaxation.

    Centering can be anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on how long the class is. You can include a few rounds of chanting OM, a dharma talk, pranayama, a short meditation or a reading from your favorite yoga book or even an inspiring poem.

    The warm-up should do just that- warm them up for whatever you’ve got planned. I like to coordinate the opening in the body during the warm up with what we’ll be focusing on the class, whether it’s hips, shoulders, core, etc. You can do a few rounds of sun salutions or even a yin-style hold in a few poses.

    The core sequence is the bulk of the class and will vary whether you’re teaching Iyengar, Vinyasa or another style that might have a more set sequence. You’ll want to include forward bends, backbends, twists, standing poses, arm balances and inversions.

    The relaxation piece should include a few reclined poses; a spinal twist or reclined bound angle with pranayama are a great way to lower the heart rate, calm the nervous and prep them for savasana. The little things you do to make your students feel special really matter here-a lavendar scented neck massage, offering a bolster for under their legs or a blanket over their shoulders does the trick.

    6- Offer unique alignment and anatomy instruction
    When I’m planning a class I focus a ton of energy on figuring out new ways to teach the same old thing. Warrior 1, warrior 2, reverse warrior DOES get boring after a while, but flowing through them holding a strap makes it a whole new experience.

    Focusing a class on core and explaining that a 6 pack is really an 8 pack and using different tools to teach the engagement and alignment of working the core- ever move through a sun salutation with your feet on a blanket, sliding through the poses to engage your core-it’s an entirely new experience.

    Action Step

    The yoga teaching arena is getting more crowded every 6 months when new trainees roll out of their training. You want to make sure that your classes stand out so that you get hired to teach more, so that students keep coming back to your class, AND so that those students invite their friends to come to their favorite class in town.

    Take a few hours when you have time to sit down and plan a few great “back pocket” classes that you can return to over and over again-especially in those moments that you don’t have time to plan a new class. Find new music, come up with new sequencing, inspiring dharma talks and alignment instruction.

    Trust me, your students will LOVE you for it!!

    XO
    Danielle

    Check out Danielle's classes on YogaVibes.com, and see what else she's got going on at XenStrength.com.

  • Build Up Your Backbend Know-How with Joan Hyman

    Discover the freedom of backbending!

    Join Los Angeles based yogi, Joan Hyman, for an online yoga demo - a Backbend and Dropping Back Tutorial.

    Unlock the secrets of these deep yoga poses by spending some time imprinting the proper leg action in backbending postures.

    In this free online yoga video, Joan will teach Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Full Wheel Pose) at the wall with the use of blocks and straps to help stabilize the legs to protect the lower back in these poses. Learn to avoid backbending from the lower back by working the legs and getting into the thoracic spine. Joan will break down the proper action of the shoulders and shoulder blades to encourage the upper arms to plug into the shoulder sockets for a safe and solid backbending practice. After alignment is set, move into dropping back at the wall and then, in the middle of the room.

    This online yoga video is incredibly informative for teachers, yogis in training, and serious students. Definitely add it to your repetoire of asana!

    yoga poses

    As you come into better alignment in your backbends, you’ll feel more grounded, exhilarated, and ready to tackle even crazier backends. In the meantime...

    Be sure to go in easy, be patient, and enjoy the journey!

    Image Credit: Joan Hyman captured by Fluid Frame Photography 

     

  • The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Flow

    spring cleaning yoga

    Ah, spring!

    Tomorrow you arrive, bringing with you more sunshine, warmth, and renewal - all reasons to celebrate!

    Springtime's the prime time to cleanse your body with detoxifying yoga. As Mother Nature’s New Year, ‘tis the season to get rid of any old stuff hanging around to make space for greater health and happiness.

    To shed that heavy winter coat, it's important to get into a rhythm and routine that gradually helps you to lighten up physically, mentally, and emotionally. The best yoga routine includes lots of twisting, pranayama (breathing practices), Sun Salutations, strong standing poses, and backbends, all of which pump prana (vital energy) throughout your system and turn up tapas (inner heat).

    Lucky for you, we feature many routines fitting for spring. To shift into the season smoothly, we especially recommend Kiyomi Takahashi’s freshly added yoga video: Detox and Cleanse for Clarity.

    This online yoga class is specifically designed to cleanse your system and clear out mental cobwebs. Featuring lots of twisting poses and breath work, this Vinyasa flow will help you let go of the old to create space in the body to receive new energy. This practice will also aid your digestion and elimination by wringing out acid, toxins, and mucus that build up in our digestive systems. Walk away from this online yoga experience feeling light, cleansed, refreshed, and clear-headed. Chances are you'll want to make this online yoga video an integral component of your spring cleaning strategy. (48 mins.)

    detox yoga

    For more detoxifying delights, head over to our virtual yoga studio. We’ve plenty of online yoga classes to choose from to get in a good spring detox!

    Image courtesy of www.allisonzimmermanyoga.wordpress.com

  • Natarajasana: Feel the Dance!

    noelle connolly yoga

    Work toward one of the most celebrated backbends in yoga: Natarajasana (nat = dance, raja = lord or king), also called Dancer's Pose, Lord of the Dance Pose, Dancing Shiva Pose, and King Dancer’s Pose.

    Given its many names, it must be pretty significant, right?

    Well, yeah. It is.

    Nataraja is Shiva as the Lord of Dance and symbolizes the cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and dissolution. Heavy stuff, I know. Cultivating this dynamic pose allows you to experience stillness within movement, and feel the dance contained within stillness.

    By opening up the front body and simultaneously strengthening the standing leg and engaging the lower abdominals, this standing backbend:

    • Builds focus and confidence
    • Opens up the shoulders and chest
    • Stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen
    • Strengthens the legs and ankles
    • Enhances balance

    To experience the benefits, check out these online yoga videos all specifically choreographed with shoulder and heart openers to prep for this kingly pose.

    • Natarajasana: King Dancer's Pose Flow with Joan Hyman
      Joan will break it down, teaching component parts like opening the shoulder girdle and the hip flexors, along with teaching how to engage the pelvic floor. This is an energizing online yoga practice, including handstand variations and twists that leave you feeling grounded and open at the same time! Begin on two blocks opening the thoracic spine with breath awareness. Enjoy the flow and find your dance within! (62 mins.)
    • Dancing Shiva Flow with Ashley Turner
      Strengthen by softening in this online yoga class. Travel through a dynamic standing/balancing sequence and dive into the myth of Natarajasana. Learn how to dance through "the rings of fire" in life in this dynamic, Level 3 online yoga video. (92 mins.)
    • Hip and Shoulder Opening to Natarajasana: SmartFLOW with Annie Carpenter
      This steady and focused alignment-based yoga video features postures to open the shoulders and front hips in preparation for the dance. (88 mins.)

    Like anything else, Natarajasana takes practice, especially for the less bendy of yogis.

    Enjoy the journey, don’t freak out over falling, and trust that with practice all is coming, including strength and poise.

    Natarajasana by Joe Longo Photography via www.noelleconnolly.com 

  • How to Build a Safe L Pose by Sigrid Matthews

    yoga poses

    Alignment, alignment, alignment!

    Sometimes, don’t you just wish your teacher would shut up and let you go with the flow, literally? There is nothing like moving on the breath, flowing gracefully from one pose to the next, not staying too long anywhere - almost like dancing to great rock and roll in your bedroom.

    Yes, I’ve been there too and taught many a fun, sweaty, flow yoga class where everyone was grooving to tunes and meditating on their higher self. There is nothing wrong with this, but over the years of repetition and moving your body around unconsciously, you are at a higher risk for injuries, particularly in the shoulders.

    One of the most common complaints and recurring site of injuries in yoga these days is the tearing of the rotator cuff. It’s giving yoga a bad reputation and some are going so far as to say that yoga can wreck your body! Luckily, many of us know how many stories of healing the body are attributed to yoga. However you may want to consider fine tuning your practice to lessen the risk of injury in yoga poses like chaturanga dandasana, plank, vashistasana, handstand, and even, upward facing dog.

    L pose is a fantastic way to get the strengthening benefits of the above poses with a lot less risk.

    One of the main reasons people get hurt flowing from chaturanga to cobra or up dog is that they allow the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) to protract or “drop” forward in the shoulder socket. This protraction can also be accompanied with scapular protraction, but many students simply “pull” their shoulder blades back (retraction) without addressing the real issue of the forward upper arm bone. In fact, the shoulder blades can be somewhat neutral in plank. When you cleanly bend your arms, stopping just before the chest is lower than the elbows and keeping the front of the chest open, the shoulder blades will move towards one another as much as needed (you don’t need to do more). Keep the front of the shoulders open as you transition into upward facing dog.

    Okay, so problem solved. Well, as people do cycle after cycle of vinyasa they tend to get tired and sloppy and that’s when you see the pose beginning to break down. Rather than doing 100s of chaturangas to develop strength and tone, challenge yourself by working L pose for up to a minute at a time.

    ***

    To start working your L pose, tune into Sigrid's Focused Flow yoga video. Build confidence and self-esteem and receive all of the benefits of a full handstand as you practice this safe inversion utilizing the wall. This online yoga class is taught progressively for safety with all of the prep poses creating spinal alignment, posture, and deep core integrity. (15 mins.)

    yoga online

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