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13 Tips On How To Instruct The Best Yoga Class

how to instruct a yoga class

Whether you’re preparing for your first class or have been teaching for years, our guide to how to instruct a yoga class will help you deliver the best experience for your students. 

Before we get started, if you’re not already, start your career as a yoga teacher by taking a yoga teacher training course with OriGym today! 

You can also browse the full range of courses we offer by downloading our free course prospectus here

Yoga Teacher Tip #1- Have a Rough Plan for Your Class

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When it comes to how to instruct a yoga class, the best tip we can give you is to plan ahead!

Having a plan for your yoga class beforehand means that you can focus on teaching the class itself, rather than trying to think of what pose to do next, or where your class is going. 

Plus, having a plan will help you feel more confident when teaching the class itself. And if you are confident, then your students are more likely to have confidence in you too!

Here are some top yoga instructor tips for planning your yoga class:

Consider the Level of the Class

Always have the level of the class you are teaching in mind, whether it’s: 

  • Beginners
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced 
  • Mixed-ability

Knowing this will help you plan the difficulty of the poses you include in your class.  

Choose a Theme

Having a theme can also help you plan the kind of class you teach and can really help guide the whole class. A theme could be anything from the time of year to a feeling or mantra. We have a whole list here of yoga class themes for some more inspiration!  

Write it Down

It may sound obvious, but having a written plan for your yoga sequence is hugely beneficial. This means that you can quickly glance down at it during teaching if you forget what is coming next.

Practice the Sequence Yourself

One of the most overlooked yoga teaching tips is to make sure that you have practised your own class before you teach it! This will help you see how the class feels, and notice any adjustments that you may need to make. 

You can also time yourself, to make sure that your class doesn’t run under or over the length of your class time. 

For more help planning your yoga class, check out our list of the best yoga sequence builders!

 

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Teaching Yoga Tips #2- Be Willing to Change Your Plan

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Although having a plan is important, you should also be flexible and willing to adapt it to how your students respond to it. 

In other words, don’t be too rigid with your structure that it actually hinders the quality of your teaching. 

For example, you may have planned to spend a certain amount of time on a particular pose. But when you are teaching it, you find that lots of students are struggling to achieve that pose. 

Instead of simply ignoring this so that you can stick to your original plan, it is better to simply spend longer teaching that pose- even if it means having to miss out or cut short some other parts of your class. 

There may also be disruptions out of your control, such as technical difficulties with the music or lighting. 

A good way to avoid running out of time and allow for flexibility is to give yourself more time than you think you need. For example, if you are teaching a 60 minute class, plan your sequence to last 50-55 minutes. This gives you 5-10 minutes to allow for any disruptions or deviations. 

This ability to be responsive and adaptable to your students’ individual needs is one of the main things that makes a good yoga teacher. It helps students feel valued as individuals, which will make them more inclined to keep coming back to your classes! 

So, when wondering how to teach a yoga class, try to have an open and flexible attitude when it comes to your class structure! 

Yoga Teacher Tip #3- Verbally Explain Poses Clearly and in Detail 

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One of the most important tips for teaching yoga we can give you is to always explain poses in a clear, easy to understand and detailed way.

It may seem obvious, but a major part of the yoga teacher job description is guiding students through every single part of class- whether that’s physical poses (asanas), meditation or breathing techniques.

Remember that not every student will be familiar with every single pose, so it is important that you explain them in an accessible and comprehensive way.

If students don’t understand your instructions or what you are saying, they are more likely to become disengaged and lose interest in the class. This then makes it much less likely that they will come back to your class again! 

Plus, making your instructions clear and easy to understand helps to create a friendly and inclusive environment- a key component of a successful yoga class. 

Here are some ways that you can ensure you are explaining things effectively when teaching a yoga class:

Speak Clearly 

When it comes to how to instruct a yoga class, clear pronunciation is essential.If your students can’t hear what you’re saying, they won’t know what to do and will lose interest in the class, making it much less likely that they will come back again!

So when teaching a yoga class, make sure to project your voice and enunciate your words clearly. 

Think About the Level You Are Teaching

Explaining poses in detail is important when teaching any kind of yoga class. But the level of detail you go into may be slightly different, depending on the level of class you are teaching. 

For example, take the tree pose. If you are teaching yoga to beginners, you may focus on explaining the core elements of the pose, such as the placement of the foot on the leg. It is likely that it is an unfamiliar, or even brand new pose for beginners, so you should focus on helping them master the basics. 

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However, if you are teaching a more advanced class, you can start to explain more detailed elements of the tree pose, since they will likely have already mastered the basics and want to be challenged. 

For example, your instructions could focus on smaller alignment points, such as engaging the core, maintaining balance for longer or advancements such as raising the arms above the head. 

Being conscious of the skill level of the class you are teaching will allow you to adapt your communication to be the most effective for your students. 

Use Accessible Language

When teaching a yoga class, especially if you’ve recently qualified, you may be tempted to show off your knowledge of Sanskrit (an ancient South Asian language used in yoga). 

However, remember that not everyone else will understand it! So instructing poses exclusively in Sanskrit may alienate a lot of your students. 

That said, Sanskrit is an important part of the history of yoga, so you shouldn’t shy away from using it completely.

A good solution is therefore to use a mix of both the English and Sanskrit names for poses. 

Pre-Empt Common Problems 

When instructing a yoga class, try to predict things that they may struggle with, before the problems arise.Draw on your past teaching experiences or your own practice to identify common issues that can arise with certain poses.

For example, when instructing a downward dog, as well as instructing the basics of the pose, think about smaller alignment points that have helped you when you were learning the pose, such as pressing all ten fingers into the mat, or rotating your thigh muscles inwards.

Even the smallest of pointers such as this could be what helps a student progress! 

Yoga Teacher Tip #4- Demonstrate Poses Visually

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As well as verbal instructions, you should also make sure to demonstrate each pose visually. 

When it comes to how to teach a yoga class, you should be able to demonstrate each yoga pose with perfect form, acting as a visual reference for your students to copy. 

Perhaps more so than any other type of fitness class instructor, students will ‘look up’ to you as their yoga teacher. 

With this in mind, it is important that you can practice what you preach. It is no good instructing your students to do a headstand, if you cannot do one yourself!

It is not just poses you should demonstrate, but transitions too. Without this, students won’t know how to get from one pose to another, which is particularly important for sequence-based types of yoga such as ashtanga

 

Start a career as a yoga teacher today!

Become a qualified yoga teacher with OriGym's Level 3 yoga teacher training course

Teaching Yoga Tips #5- Offer Variations of Poses and Transitions 

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Another important tip for teaching yoga is to give variations of poses and transitions. 

Variations in yoga simply refer to slightly different ways of doing the same pose that make it easier or more challenging. 

When teaching a pose- particularly if it occurs more than once in the class, you should point out ways that it can be modified, both visually and verbally.

Take crescent moon pose (also known as high-lunge), for example. 

An easier variation of this pose would be to have the back knee resting on the floor, rather than raised. Students struggling with balance could also rest their hand on two yoga blocks

On the other hand, a more challenging variation of the same pose would be to have the back knee lifted and the hands raised above the head. More advanced students could even raise the back leg completely, transitioning into warrior 3 pose. 

Offering variations like this is particularly important when teaching a mixed-ability class, as it gives students the freedom to make the practice suitable to their own level. 

However, even if you are teaching an advanced class, offering variations can still be useful. For example, someone may be suitable for an advanced class, but have an injury that just makes one particular pose difficult or uncomfortable for them, so they need a variation. 

Plus, sometimes a student may want to take the easier version of a pose simply to take a break from an intense practice. 

Since a big part of yoga is about listening to your body and being kind to yourself, offering variations shows that you recognise that even advanced students don’t always have to take the hardest variations. 

This will all help to create an inclusive environment when teaching a yoga class, as offering easier variations allows all students to follow the same class, helping students feel comfortable. But at the same time, it also allows others to challenge themselves if they want to! 

Yoga Teacher Tip #6- Move Around the Room When Teaching a Yoga Class

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When thinking about how to teach a yoga class, you may not have considered the importance of where you teach from in the room.

Although we have said that it is good to demonstrate poses visually, this doesn’t mean that you have to stay on your mat at the front of the class for the duration of the whole class.

So our next teaching yoga tip is to move around the room!

This allows you to really get involved with your students, rather than simply teaching ‘at’ them. Not only does this reduce the gap between teacher and student, but it will help make your students much more engaged. 

This is a particularly important tip for teaching yoga if you are teaching in a large space, as it allows even students at the back of the class to feel just as involved as those at the front. 

Plus, moving around the room also allows you to make hands-on adjustments to your students- which we will discuss more in our next yoga instructor tip! 

However, one thing to remember about walking around the room, is to make sure that you are not distracting students. 

For example, if you are teaching a fast-paced vinyasa, it can certainly help students feel more engaged. But during a slower yin or mediation class, for example, the sound of your footsteps could actually be a distraction! 



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Yoga Teacher Tip #7- Make Hands-On Adjustments if Appropriate 

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As we mentioned, moving around the room when teaching allows you to make hands-on adjustments to your students. 

This is an important yoga teaching tip, as again, it shows that you are paying attention to your students and engaging with them, rather than just teaching ‘at’ them. 

Physical adjustments help you to go the extra mile beyond just verbal instructions and visual demonstrations. 

Often students think that they are doing a pose correctly, but haven’t noticed that they aren’t doing something quite right. It sometimes takes an expert and outsider’s perspective to notice it, and make one small adjustment for them to get the correct form. 

For example, you may notice that a student’s warrior 2 pose needs adjusting so that their arms are more aligned. A detail like this is something that a student may not have noticed themselves, but a small adjustment such as moving their arms slightly, could be all they need to feel the full benefits of the pose. 

As well as helping students achieve a pose, making hands-on adjustments can help them challenge themselves and go deeper into a pose.

For example, say you are teaching a seated twist pose. You may notice that a student seems to have the mobility and flexibility to twist further, but they may not realise it, or have the confidence to do so. This is where a hands-on adjustment can help them get deeper into the twist. 

Plus, making adjustments allows you to build rapport between you and your students by giving them the individual attention that can often be lost when teaching a large group. 

Being able to notice if and how a student needs an adjustment requires an in-depth knowledge of yoga poses and anatomy. 

If you are a newly qualified yoga teacher, you may feel nervous about making adjustments. But don’t worry- the more you do it, the more confident you will become!  

However, here are some yoga instructor tips to remember when making adjustments:

  • Make adjustments slowly and carefully to avoid injury.
  • Always ask permission before touching a student.
  • Don’t make too many adjustments so that students become reliant on you.
  • Don’t spend too much time on one student- make sure to distribute your attention across everyone in the class. 

Yoga Teacher Tip #8- Use Music (Appropriately)

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Many studies such as this one have suggested that when used in exercise, music can have a positive impact on performance. And yoga is no exception! 

From chants and mantras to nada yoga (also known as ‘sound yoga’), sound is a huge part of the practice of yoga. 

With this in mind, our next teaching yoga tip is to consider using music in your yoga class.

By this, we mean playing music whilst you are teaching a yoga class, such as through a speaker in the studio. This is a great way to engage students, as it provides some sensory stimulation, which can help them stay focused.

If you are teaching a sequence-based class such as ashtanga or vinyasa, the right kind of music can also help students find their rhythm and help everyone stay at the same pace. This in turn helps all students feel connected, making for a positive atmosphere in class.

However, there are some things to bear in mind if you are using music when teaching a yoga class:

  • The quality of the music. If you are going to play music in your class, make sure that you are playing it through a good quality speaker system. There is nothing worse than a poor quality sound coming from a phone speaker! 
  • The volume of the music. As well as the quality, the volume of the music matters too. It should be loud enough for students to hear, but not too loud that it is distracting. 
  • The type of music. Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the type of music. Music with little to no words is usually best, so genres such as electronic, ambient or even classical usually work best. Check out our list of the best yoga playlists for some inspiration! 
  • Turn off your notifications. It may sound obvious, but if you are playing music through your phone, make sure to turn off your notifications or put your phone on aeroplane mode! Having a text or phone call come through the speaker will certainly disrupt the zen! 

Although music can enhance your yoga class, remember that you don’t have to fill every single moment with sound- whether it’s music or your own verbal instructions. Moments of silence are just as beneficial!

Moments of silence give your students the chance to collect their thoughts and really focus on how their body and mind are feeling. 

You can do this either by allowing students to rest for a while in a certain pose, or most commonly, by making sure to include a period of savasana at the end of the class. 

Savasana is the final resting pose included at the end of most yoga classes. It is important not only to calm down the physical body after a yoga class, but also allows students to slow down their breathing and take in the benefits of the practice. 

During savasana, we recommend either complete silence, or very gentle, calming music or chanting. This is also a good time to use a meditation bowl, which omits a certain frequency to encourage a meditative state.

Teaching Yoga Tips #9- Create a Good Atmosphere for Your Yoga Class

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As well as your teaching itself, the space in which you hold your class is arguably just as important. 

Perhaps more so than any other fitness class, the space plays a part in how students benefit from the class. This is because yoga is more than just a physical practice- it is spiritual too. Creating the right atmosphere can really help students engage with this side of the practice.

Whether you are teaching in a town hall or a luxury studio, here are some yoga instructor tips to help create a relaxing and positive space for your students:

Create a Good Atmosphere With Lighting

Soft lighting is key when teaching a yoga class, as it helps to create a relaxing atmosphere. Avoid harsh overhead lighting, as this can be overly stimulating. Instead, use lots of smaller light sources, such as lighting candles or Himalayan salt lamps. 

However, always have health and safety in mind! Make sure that it is still light enough for students to see what they are doing, and be careful when lighting candles. 

 

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Create a Good Atmosphere With Smells

Essential oils are a great complement to yoga. Different oils have different properties, so can help stimulate different feelings. 

Make sure to choose the oils suitable for the style of class you are teaching. For example, lemon is an energising oil, which can be good for a fast-paced vinyasa class. Others such as lavender stimulate relaxation and even sleep, so are more suitable for a yin or nidra class.

Incense is also a great way to create a relaxing atmosphere through smells. However, we recommend burning this prior to students arriving, to give the smoke a chance to clear before the class begins!

Create a Good Atmosphere With Temperature

Room temperature can also help students feel as comfortable as possible. Again, this depends on the type of class you are teaching. 

For example, for a fast-paced vinyasa class, the room should be kept fairly cool, as students will generate their own inner heat from the flow. 

But for a more restorative class such as yin, since it is a slower-paced class, students will not be creating their own inner heat. You can therefore have the room at a slightly higher temperature. Heat also helps students relax into deeper stretches. 

And if you are teaching hot yoga, the room temperature will of course be higher! 

When it comes to space and atmosphere, a good yoga teaching tip is to check out the space you are going to be teaching in beforehand. This allows you to do things like light candles and adjust the temperature of the room before the students arrive. 

By going the extra mile to make your students feel as comfortable as possible, they are much more likely to get the most out of your class, and therefore be more likely to come back again! 

Yoga Teacher Tip #10- Remember it Isn’t About You! 

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Perhaps one of the most difficult yoga instructor tips to master is to let go of your ego and remember that it isn’t about you!

As a yoga teacher, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea of a yoga teacher being a ‘guru’ in a position of power over your students. Especially if you have just qualified, you may be eager to ‘show off’ your yoga skills. 

However, whilst your role as a teacher is certainly to guide students and act as a positive role model, it doesn’t mean that you are ‘above’ your students.

Instead, remember that being a yoga teacher isn’t about you- the focus should be on your students. 

For example, instead of demonstrating poses with the mindset of showing off your own skills, only do so if you think that it will benefit your students. Remember that teaching a yoga class is not the time for your own practice, but a time to help others with theirs. 

If students feel like you really care about them, they will be much more engaged in your class, and therefore more likely to come back again! 

This idea of selflessness and service is a core principle of yoga- especially varieties such as karma yoga. So being able to channel this idea when teaching a yoga class will not only benefit your students, but it can also help you connect more deeply to your own yoga practice. 

Yoga Teacher Tip #11- Be Willing to Learn

You may think that once you have qualified as a yoga teacher, you have learnt all that you need to know. But this is not true! 

Part of being a successful yoga teacher is realising that there is always potential for you to learn and grow. Even the most experienced of yoga teachers should be always learning and improving their skills.  

A good way to do this is to simply ask for feedback from your students. This could be done verbally, by inviting students to give you any feedback they may have after class.

You could also ask students to fill out a feedback form on paper, or online via your yoga teacher website or social media. In fact, students are arguably more likely to give anonymous feedback online, rather than approaching you in person.

Here is an example of the type of questions you could include in a feedback form:

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You could also use a survey software, such as Survey Monkey

Most importantly, students may point out things that you wouldn’t have noticed yourself. For example, you may be so wrapped up in remembering your sequence, that you don’t notice that your students were finding the music too loud!

Asking for feedback is an important yoga teaching tip as it will ultimately help you improve the service you provide for your students. This will ultimately make students keep coming back to your classes, especially if they can see that you have taken their feedback onboard! 

Teaching Yoga Tips #12- Stick Around Before and After the Class

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When thinking about how to instruct a yoga class, what you do outside of your teaching time is just as important as the class itself!

So, our next yoga instructor tip is to stick around before and after your class. This will benefit both you and your students!

If you can, we recommend arriving at least 15 minutes before the start of your class, and sticking around for at least 15 minutes afterwards.

Arriving early to your class allows you to relax and ground yourself before you start teaching. This calm energy will then rub off on your students! But if you arrive in a rush and feel stressed, this energy will be shared with your students.

This also gives you the chance to prepare the space for teaching, such as setting out the mats and equipment, adjusting the lighting and lighting incense. 

The time before and after a class is also an ideal time to promote yourself and work on the business side of being a yoga teacher. Making the time to speak to students outside of the class itself allows them to ask you any questions they may have, and for you to give them information such as your next class, where you usually teach and contact details such as your social media. 

 

Start a career as a yoga teacher today!

Become a qualified yoga teacher with OriGym's Level 3 yoga teacher training course

Yoga Teacher Tip #13- Let Your Personality Show When Teaching a Yoga Class

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Our final- but perhaps most important of our tips for teaching yoga, is to let your personality show and be yourself! 

This is arguably a yoga instructor tip that will get easier with time. If you have just qualified, you may be more reserved and nervous- which is only natural! However, as you get more confident, you can start to let your personality shine through more. 

Whether it's your sense of humour, calming voice or a particular hobby, don’t be afraid to let these things show when teaching a yoga class. 

This will help you find your unique selling point, or USP. In other words, the factor that sets you apart from all other yoga teachers.

This is important, as it is what will ultimately make you stand out and keep your students coming back to your classes!  

Establishing your USP will also help you with your yoga teacher marketing strategy, as you can use it to help build a solid brand identity. 

For example, this yoga teacher has made their love of poetry a key part of their branding, from their business name to incorporating poetry into their classes!

Before You Go!

So, we hope that our list of yoga teacher tips has given you some ideas and inspiration for how you can improve your classes!

If you’re feeling inspired and aren’t already, become a qualified yoga teacher with OriGym and start a lucrative and rewarding career. 

Enquire today, or download our free course prospectus to browse the full range of fitness courses we offer. 

Written by Alice Williams

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Alice is a content writer at OriGym. With a first-class degree in French and Linguistics, she loves all things language, fitness and culture. As part of her degree, she spent a year living in France where she worked for a lifestyle blog, gaining professional experience in both translation and content writing. 

When she’s not writing, you can usually find Alice practicing yoga and she hopes to one day become a yoga instructor herself. She also loves running, tennis and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! It was this passion for health and fitness, combined with her love for writing, that brought Alice to OriGym.

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