CategoryGraduates

On Yoga Teaching: Are you Ready to Run a Workshop?

You’re an established yoga teacher, with regular lessons and a foundation of good teaching experience. You’ve been thinking about leading a one-off workshop, but you’re not sure if you’re ready or not.

With the average yoga class lasting only one hour, and a yoga workshop being anything from 2 hours to a whole day, workshops are a great way for students to go deeper into a particular topic, or really challenge themselves physically.

For teachers, they are a way to explore a yoga topic that you love, guide your students to a deeper yoga practice, and challenge yourself to take the next step in your yoga career.

Here are some ways to find out whether you’re ready to lead your own yoga workshop.

You’re confident in your teaching style

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Form
via Unsplash.

There’s no point running before you can walk. If you’ve only just qualified and haven’t got a steady yoga teaching foundation, it’s inadvisable to rush into leading a yoga workshop. By giving yourself at least six months to get into your stride, you will gain confidence in your teaching style, as well as finding your yoga teacher voice.

Only after you’ve been teaching regularly for a while do you get to the point when you can teach your lessons without over-thinking every instruction. The nuts and bolts of the process start to be absorbed into your subconscious, giving your brain more space and time to be creative and spontaneous within the lesson.

You also find what you enjoy most about teaching. Do you relish the challenge of backbends? Do you wish you had more time to give to inversions? Or would you like to delve into the philosophy of yoga? These will give you clues about what topics to focus on in a workshop.

Your yoga business is up and running

Leading a workshop requires a marketing strategy to spread the word, (see On Yoga Teaching: 8 Business Tips for Teachers) and in order to have an effective one, it’s helpful (but not essential) to have a website and a newsletter email programme, such as MailChimp. If you don’t have either of these, then you would at least need some sort of social media presence, such as a Facebook page, and an email mailing list for all your students.

Before you plan your workshop, you need to get all the details in place so you can market it as early as possible. And it’s worth giving an ‘early bird’ deal in order to get students to book in advance, which ensures that they’re tied in to attend. When it comes down to it, you’re only able to give a workshop if students actually turn up on the day.

Your students are ready for more

Another really good way of telling if you’re ready to lead a workshop is if your regular students are ready to attend one. If all your classes are beginner’s classes and the hour is plenty for them, there’s little point planning a three-hour intensive workshop.

It might even be worth discussing it with them before planning it. Ask them if they’d be willing to attend and what kind of topics they’d be interested in. That way, they’re more likely to come along – and hopefully bring their friends too.

You’re ready to add to your income

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As discussed in ‘On Yoga Teaching: How to Care for your Teaching’, a small but necessary part of our incentive for being yoga teachers is earning money. Workshops are one way that we can supplement our usual monthly income, as due to the longer length of the class, and also the extra preparation work, teachers usually charge more for workshops than regular lessons.

This shouldn’t be the main incentive, as being ready as a teacher is the first priority, but if you feel that you’d like to add to your income stream, there’s no harm in thinking about offering a workshop, which has the potential to bring in substantially more than your regular classes.

You’ve got a venue in mind

It might be that your regular studio or hall is fine for a workshop, but sometimes it might be worth thinking outside the box in order to attract students to pay more and spend more time at a yoga workshop. In the summer months, it might be worth finding a studio that has outside space so that part of the workshop could be held outside. Or perhaps you can find a venue with a cafe so that students can get some much-needed refreshments after their workout. It’s worth ensuring that the venue you have in mind is easily accessible, and also not too far from your regular student base.

I recently held a workshop with a beautiful garden outside. At the end of the workshop, the students sat outside and had tea and homemade cake which I brought along with me – which was a lovely way to round off the event. After all, everything’s better with cake.

Perhaps the venue might also be happy to help you market your workshop, which takes some of the pressure off you.

You’re ready for a new challenge

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Last, but not least, you need to be ready for a challenge. If you’ve ticked all the boxes above and haven’t got around to leading your first workshop then perhaps you’ve been putting it off out of fear. So don’t hold yourself back! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Leading your own workshop is an excuse to ‘geek out’ on a specific yoga topic that really excites you. If you feel ready to lead your students through a more advanced series of poses, or to really hone in on one particular area, then you’re ready to lead a workshop.

If you’re not sure, then take a look over your recent lesson plans for clues. Are there more complicated poses that you’d like to attempt in your classes, but that you never quite have time to fit in? If you’re still unsure, then don’t rush the workshop process. Make sure you feel comfortable with your content first.

Finally, remember that workshops are a chance to have fun and to have even more time to enjoy leading your students on their yoga journey.

Poppy Pickles
Cater yoga training to your life

On Yoga Teaching: Common Mistakes That Harm Yoga Teachers

Most people wouldn’t regard being a yoga teacher as a particularly taxing or harmful career. But there are pitfalls that many of us fall into as we progress and learn as yoga teachers.

Teaching yoga is a very physical job. Not only is there the physical aspect of demonstrating the yoga asanas, but there can be equipment to lug about, studios to travel to, and of course all that practice that we put in as teachers to stay ahead of the game.

Plus, we are setting up our own businesses (more to come on this topic in the next article in this mini-series) and the mental stress that comes with that responsibility.

With all of these stressors, over time, we can unconsciously harm ourselves. Practicing ahimsa, or non-violence, for ourselves not only keeps us healthy as teachers, it models for our students how to practice self-care.

Practice – Getting the Balance right

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All yoga teachers know in their heart of hearts how important their practice is. As Pattabhi Jois famously said, ‘Practice and all is coming’.

But most of us don’t have the luxury of ten hours a day of uninterrupted time to put aside for our practice. We lead busy lives and often have two (or more) careers to juggle, not to mention other demands on our time, such as family commitments, social commitments, hobbies or studies.

On the other hand, there are those that prioritise their physical yoga practice above all else, getting up at the crack of dawn or striving to get to more and more advanced poses.

The path of not practising enough, and practising too much, can both lead to self-harm.

If you’re struggling to fit in your own practice, ask yourself if it’s really because you haven’t got time, or because you’re not prepared to make time.  See ‘5 Top Tips To Fit Yoga Into Your Busy Schedule’  for more ideas on how to carve out some space in your daily life for some ‘you’ yoga time.

How do you know if you’re doing too much? Are you tired all the time? Is your body hurting? That dull ache in your muscles after a really deep practice is one thing, but if you’ve got new pains in your joints then it might be a sign that you’re working too aggressively. After a concerted effort on my handstand a while back I noticed that my right wrist was in pain. After ignoring it for a while, I realised that I had to just stop for a bit, and it soon healed with some rest.

So how much practice should we be doing as yoga teachers? Some hardcore teachers suggest that you should practice for twice as long as you teach. However, it’s hard to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach. As a yoga teacher, you have got to listen to your instincts.  Getting to know your own body and when it’s not doing enough, or doing too much is part of the job. Try scheduling at least two longer practices a week at a set time, and then take it from there. We’re aiming for perfection, but take it one day at a time.

Lessons – When to Say No

As a yoga teacher, the main source of steady income is your weekly lessons. There are many different ways to approach your lesson schedule. If you’re working for a studio, you’ll have a set slot every week. If you’re your own boss, you might want to run 6 – 8 week courses targeting particular groups of people, such as beginners.

When you’re starting out, it’s very tempting to say ‘yes’ to every teaching opportunity.  Then you find yourself rushing all over town and not giving your classes the time and attention they deserve, as well as burning out yourself. It’s wise to start with just a few classes a week in order to build up your experience and your core student base. Then, once you’ve got a few classes under your belt, it might be time to add a few more into your schedule.

Helping your students too much – ‘Helicopter’ Yoga teaching

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This could be a controversial one, but it’s easy to do too much for your students. As yoga teachers, we are seen as compassionate, holistic and caring. And of course we are all of those things (apart from when we’re pre-menstrual). This can lead to the misconception that we are there to ‘care’ for our students, while they sit back and let us do all the work for them.

Especially when starting our yoga teaching career it’s tempting to rush around trying to please our new students. We get their equipment for them, we endlessly adjust them, we carry around very heavy bags of equipment from place to place and so on. But are we actually helping our students by bending over backwards (sometimes literally) for them?

At a workshop I went to once, the senior teacher there told us teachers to encourage our students to invest in their own equipment. After all, she pointed out, you wouldn’t turn up at a tennis lesson without a tennis racquet. Put that way, it made sense. Of course, this isn’t an issue if you teach at a fully-equipped yoga studio, but you get the idea.

The teacher-student relationship is a tricky one to get right. We need to retain authority without coming across as school-marmish, but we will harm ourselves and our role as the teacher if we ‘baby’ our students too much. It also means that the students don’t take responsibility for their own practice, which can be dangerous for them too.

Lesson Sequences – Overplanning  and Underplanning

Another important element of yoga teaching is planning yoga lessons. To begin with, most excited newbie teachers spend hours painstakingly putting together radical, original lesson plans. And they would never repeat a lesson plan twice, because that would be boring – right?

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Wrong. Repetition is the absolute bedrock of yoga practice.  Without repeating the same yoga poses, time after time after time after time, they don’t get absorbed through osmosis into the very marrow of our bones. Don’t be afraid of repeating, or tweaking lesson plans for the same group of students.

Having said that, especially if you’re teaching beginners, there is an element of keeping the lessons fresh to keep them engaged.

But there are ways to minimise the mental stress on you as a teacher, without letting your students down. Pick a theme for the week and then vary it slightly for each class. If a student comes to more than one of your classes, then lucky them that they get a second chance to enjoy your class. Archive your lesson plans and then go back to them after a few months have elapsed – your students are unlikely to have memorised every class.

It’s not as common to underplan lessons, but any teacher who has knows that it feels deeply unsatisfying. And especially if you’re new to it, it can be scary to get to the end of your plan and still have ten long minutes to go, and a class-full of expectant students sitting there looking at you. Usually, your training kicks in and you can improvise, but it’s better to cut poses than not to have enough.

The Core Message

Teaching yoga is an intensely satisfying career, but we don’t need to sacrifice our own well-being in order to be good teachers. Remember that old adage of putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others on an aeroplane? That applies to yoga teaching too. We can’t give the best to our students if we’re not giving the best to ourselves first.

Poppy Pickles
Teach Pregnancy Yoga

On Yoga Teaching: 8 Business Tips for Teachers

This scenario might be familiar to some yoga teachers…

You’ve passed your yoga teacher training course! You’re now officially allowed to teach yoga to other people AND get paid for it! You’re euphoric and relieved! And then you realise that you now have to set up your own yoga business, and the learning from scratch starts all over again.

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Becoming a yoga teacher is often not a career move that is motivated by money. It’s true that a very few of the most successful teachers probably make enough to live on – and possibly buy a holiday home or two – but for most of us humble yoga teachers, it’s a part-time career or a flexible job that fits around the kids. The primary motivation for most people to make that transition from student to teacher is because they love yoga.

They love what it’s done for their body, mind and emotional well-being, and they want to share and pass on those benefits to others. This holistic and compassionate motivation often doesn’t coincide with the entrepreneurial acumen that’s required to set up your own business.

So for those newbie teachers out there who are scratching their heads (or yawning) at the thought of the business side of becoming a yoga teacher, here are eight basic tips on how to get started.

1. Decide on a Name

It might be as simple as your own name, followed by the word ‘Yoga’. Or, you might feel that you’d like to have a more distinct brand name. Either way, until you’ve decided what your new business is going to be called you can’t really get started on any of the other things you need to do to get your business up and running.

If you’re struggling to decide, search other yoga businesses and make a list of the ones you like the sound of. Or just stick with your name for now – there’s no reason why you can’t re-brand later on down the line.

2. Get Organised

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You might not have been best friends with spreadsheets before becoming a yoga teacher, but you’ll need to now. Set up a spreadsheet that keeps track of all your classes, students, revenue, expenses and everything else relating to your yoga business. If you start from day one, filling it out after every lesson, it will just become part of the process and isn’t a big headache at all.

3. Work Out a Marketing Strategy

There are so many ‘business-y’ phrases that sound much more complicated than they really are. A marketing strategy can be as simple as printing out a poster and putting it up in your local community centre – or in the local vicinity of where you’re starting a new class. Many teachers vouch that you can employ every marketing tool in the box and when it comes down to it, the best marketing is good old word of mouth, which only works once you’ve been teaching a while and have regular students.

So when you’re starting out, it’s worth investing a bit of time and money into bringing in new students, whether it’s through targeted Instagram or Facebook ads, or getting some flyers printed. And spread the word to your friends and family!

4. Open a Business Bank Account

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific business bank account (although that might be worth looking into), but just make sure that the money from your yoga teaching gets kept separately to the rest of your income so that you can keep track of how much you’re earning. It also means you can pay for any yoga teaching expenses out of that account. That way you can easily keep track of whether your yoga teaching business is profitable  – or not.

5. Check that you’re Covered

PLI (Public Liability Insurance) is a must for all yoga teachers. It’s worth checking that you’re covered now that you’re a fully-qualified yoga teacher. If you’re being employed by a yoga studio, they might have blanket cover for all their teachers, but it’s always worth checking. There are also different categories, such as if you teach from your home, or go to other’s homes to teach privately, you might need to add a clause to your insurance.

6. Get au fait about Tax

This simple little word has given self-employed people the horrors for centuries. If you’re self-employed, which most yoga teachers are, you’ll need to work out what tax you’ll be likely to pay by the end of your first year of teaching. I’ve set myself up as a sole trader, which is the most straightforward way to pay your taxes. At the end of the financial year, you’ll need to fill out your self-assessment tax return and submit it to HMRC before the deadline, so they can let you know how much (if any) tax you owe.

The most important piece of advice on this front is not to get intimidated by the whole thing. As long as you keep track of your income and expenses – and keep receipts – you’ll be fine.

7. Get networking!

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Now you’re qualified the best way to get your business up and running is to spread the word! Shout about it (literally, and online) and you might just find that there are opportunities waiting for you. If you’re not ready to set up your own classes,  let other yoga teachers you know that you’re available to cover lessons. That way you get to increase your teaching experience without all the hassle of actually running it yourself. Then, when you’re teaching your own classes, you can ask those teachers to cover your classes – a win-win situation. There may also be teachers who, for whatever reason, might be looking to hand over a pre-existing class to an enthusiastic new teacher.  That way you get a class with a student base already.

8. Ask for Help

It’s easy to think you can just do it all on your own. But actually there are so many people out there who are willing and able to help you, and it makes all the difference. If it all feels overwhelming, admit it! If you’ve never had to do your own marketing, ask a friend who has. Struggling to work out how to do your accounts? Then hire an accountant! First and foremost, you are a yoga teacher, and sometimes it’s ok to admit that there are some things you can’t do as well as teaching yoga.

Poppy Pickles

Mamas in Class. Teacher’s Guide – Part II

As a society, we give expecting mums a lot of focus. There’s pregnancy yoga, an array of body therapies, pampering sessions and baby showers. The birth itself is the spotlight. We make birth plans, go to active birth classes and everyone is really excited about the due date. All this energy disperses after the little one is earthside. Partners go back to work. Doulas and midwives no longer visit. Friends and family return to their lives. A mum is left on her own with a brand new baby, most of the time feeling absolutely out of her depth.

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Here’s how to talk to that mum, in and out of class:

  1. Help her adjust to her new body shape
  2. Help talk to her about her pelvic floor
  3. Teach her some breathing techniques
  4. Give her the skinny on what to do after a c-section
  5. Explain why antenatal yoga before 6 weeks may not help
  6. Suggest a checkup on her tummy for muscle separation
  7. See if she needs ideas for quick, nutritious snacks she can make with one hand
  8. If you know any reliable postnatal doulas, share their details with her.
  9. Be observant. Does she look sad and down consistently? Be diplomatic but if needed, suggest psychological support.
  10. Don’t make her baby the focus. Focus on HER.

To be a yoga teacher is a vocation. It is more than showing how to perform a complex stretch correctly. To many of us, it is about building mini-communities. It is about helping our students achieve both physical and emotional health. A good yoga instructor usually has regulars that come back for years. It is especially true for those of us who teach pregnant and postnatal yoga. We become trusted advisors – our recommendations and tips matter.

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Things teachers hear from their pre and postnatal students can range from:

  • “When I was in labour, I heard your voice”.
  • “I used that breathing technique you taught me”.
  • “I remembered one of the positions you taught and used it”!

The same is true for postnatal students coping with new body shapes. Mums with children in their teens can still recall cruel or unkind words from an unsympathetic teacher. Personally, when visiting my parents, three months after the birth of my son, I went to a local postnatal class. When I tearfully confessed to feeling flabby and weak after my emergency c-section during the class-closing circle, the teacher curtly observed “It is important to strive hard to achieve a natural birth. It is equally important not to let yourself go after the birth.” Needlessly to say, I never returned to that class.

Each person arrives in your class for a reason, whether we know it or they know it. Don’t attempt to be wiser/more experienced than you are. Being yourself is best. Admit to gaps in knowledge. Research questions you couldn’t answer and return to the topic next week. If you don’t have children of your own and never birthed, you still can lend a sympathetic ear. It is better to listen than give unsolicited advice. If she does ask you for your opinion, be tactful and diplomatic. If you do have babies, this is even more important – stay neutral and grounded. It is so easy to get lost in your own experience when talking to other mums!

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I feel that yoga class fulfills more than one need for a postnatal mum. It gives them gentle physical activity. It gives time away from their home and all the demands at home. There is the internal space that yoga gives, something postnatal mums desperately need. Finally, there is a community of individuals who are all in the same boat – potential new friends.  And there is you, giving support, not only in downward dog.

First, listen. Then listen more.

Hanna Skomra

YogaLondon and Oxford joining forces

YogaLondon’s exclusive course on the Philosophy of Yoga is run jointly by YogaLondon (YL) and the prestigious Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS). We talked to our very own co-founders, Edward Serrano and Rebecca Ffrench, who gave us the inside info on this new partnership.

  1. How did the partnership between YogaLondon and the OCHS come about?

Edward: A couple of years ago, when Rebecca was half-way through her MSt at Oxford University, she skyped me sounding pretty excited about a conversation she’d had with one of the Executive Directors of the OCHS. She asked me what I thought of an online learning partnership between YL and the OCHS. My response was ‘Of course!’ Of course I want to pair up with Oxford University!

Do I want to have a microwave meal of yoga or a gourmet entrée of yogic delights?

Because with the OCHS that’s exactly what we’d be offering.

  1. How are YogaLondon and the OCHS a good match?

Rebecca: YL and the OCHS are really well matched. We both have a passion for our particular area of study and strive to be the best that we can possibly be.

Edward: It’s an evolving partnership. Although the OCHS is a recognized branch of Oxford University, they get little or no funding, so they have to go out and make their own money, which is where their online courses come in. The online courses enable them to fulfill their ultimate aim of furthering Hindu studies throughout the UK.

And I think the motivation for the OCHS was that they’d seen that YL had been around for a while, and most importantly, work exclusively in yoga education, rather than a smorgasbord of everything and anything to do with yoga. To put it simply, we were able to provide the type of audience they needed.

  1. What does the OCHS bring to the YL learning experience?

Edward: To be frank, we’re the only yoga teaching company in the world that we know of to have an alliance with OCHS. We have an opportunity to introduce Oxford University trained tutors to our students, which adds more world-class knowledge to our teaching staff, which has always been our focus, providing our students with the best tutors.

I think that the quality that the OCHS brings in their knowledge of Hindu studies and the philosophy of yoga is unlike anything else that one can hope for in London. I don’t mean to demean the work that anyone else is doing, but when you’ve got a powerhouse like Oxford University with experts who’ve dedicated their entire lives to a particular subject matter, it really makes for an incredibly deep and powerful learning experience.

  1. What will the joint ‘Philosophy of Yoga’ course involve?

Rebecca: Because ‘The Philosophy of Yoga’ is an optional part of the 500-hour Advanced teacher-training course, it includes curriculum elements for it to count towards those 500 hours.

Photo by Diego Duarte Cereceda on Unsplash

The theoretical content is delivered over a weekend by an OCHS teacher actually in front of you, which leads to an exponentially greater learning experience. For one thing, you get to ask them anything. The practical content will be delivered by our experienced YL teachers, balancing the theoretical experience with expert practical tuition.

  1. Doesn’t YL already cover these subjects?

Rebecca: On the 200-hour teacher training course we include ‘introductions’ to a variety of philosophical topics, but on this course the experts at the OCHS give a much deeper perspective on how the vast patchwork of ideas and philosophies, from Vedanta, to Tantric practices, to the Bhagavad Gita, have evolved into the yoga of today.

  1. Is the course exclusive to graduates of the YL teacher-training course?

Rebecca: No, this immersion weekend course is for absolutely anyone. You don’t even need to be a yoga teacher to attend. It’s open to anyone who loves yoga and is interested in the philosophy behind it.

  1. Will YL continue to work with OCHS?

Edward: Beyond the quality of the OCHS it’s an opportunity for YL to really show its commitment to the education of yoga. By partnering up with OCHS we’ve made a powerful statement that we’re really serious about education – education is who we are and what we will always be.

We’re also excited about the opportunity for the partnership to develop. Since the initial contact, the relationship has metamorphosed into a far deeper, much more collaborative one. Now, as well as promoting their online courses, we’re working and teaching together on the ground. Just as exciting, if not more, is the potential for the relationship to evolve – who knows what will happen next!

 

For more information about this course, please click here. Additional information is also available for YogaLondon’s 200-hr teacher training, our advanced trainings and in-studio workshops. Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies offers a number of online courses which can also further your yogic knowledge. Learn more today…

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Zen Monkey, a sub-division of YogaLondon, is an online conduit for yoga students and teachers to share ideas and develop a catalogue of content that is informative, creative and fun. We are a community founded from the collection of writers and yogis we've mentored, worked with and been inspired by. Together, we are building a tribe that shares the tools, the inspiration and the motivation to lead a healthy, mindful and sustainable life.