Sep 4, 2011

Yoga Teacher's Blueprint: Our Holy Grail For Teaching Yoga

Yoga Teacher's Blueprint
 Our Holy Grail For Teaching Yoga
September 4, 2011

When others come to your yoga class, it is an honor. You are not "special". A good yoga teacher does not need attention. To be truly affective and magnetic, yoga teachers must practice living the teachings, and not just "know" the teachings well or apply charming wit in class. 

   Bowing in kindness, compassion, and service is the greatest gift you can give your students along with getting your hands dirty by actually doing the work and "getting" what is to be skillfully articulated so it is received efficiently.

   Gather your knowledge earnestly and urgently and then be even more kind, warm, inviting, funny, judgement & favoritism free as a result. The first thing I look for in a yoga teacher is, are they authentically happy and are others happy around them? Do they actually do their best to prescribe to the teachings in their overall life? Do they have a regular, knowledgeable yoga practice? Are they comfortably deep? Does what they teach actually work? Are they consistent when challenges arise? Do others come back and do I want to come back? These are the things we must consistently ask ourselves. The greatest teachers are willing to explore getting better, and encourage their students to come along with them.

   This is a Holy Grail of key notes, or "bindus" for our Swans. These bindu key points have been absorbed throughout my years of teaching and implementing yoga, in blessed settings, with Master teachers, and high resonate teachings. For our Swan River Yoga Teacher Trainings in our 6 month program, these key elements will assist the certified teacher as a holy check list. This is a paradigm that has assisted my refinement through the years. It is one that is ever expanding. Our teachings are not static, and I find the greatest teachers are willing to explore getting better, and encourage students to come along with them. If we teach with the same quality and content each year, our students will not grow. It is vital as a yoga teacher and healer to continue to finesse with passion and enthusiasm, so others are moved and inspired by every yoga class that they experience. One class is a big deal and could be THE thing that shifts someones life.

   I encourage yoga teachers or students to be to read this, no matter what your style of yoga is. It is meant to uplift and bring impeccable teachings to our community. For our Certified Swans, it is a must, and to graduate or call oneself a Swan Teacher, this is our Holy Grail Blueprint of which you experience in our classes.

Key notes for creating the optimal experience in sequencing & leading a class.

These are things I look for in a complete class:

5 elements of a Swan River class incorporated. Every yoga teacher at Swan River must do this...
1. Dharma Talk. Inspire their mind.  Air/Vayu
2. Chant/Devotion. Stoke their heart.  Fire/Agni
3. Breath and/or meditation. Give them grounded tools of independence. Earth/Prathivi
4. Equal balance of alignment instruction and flowing asana. Neither one not the other is to be left out. Siva/Shakti is present.  Water/Jala
5. Theme infused 3 times throughout the class. Tell them why they are doing all of this. The metaphysical must be there as much and in tandem with the physical. Ether/Akasha

  ( Tirrumanavalai Full Moon Siva Pilgramage in India Feb 2011.  Shiva/Shakti, Ardhanarishvara, is in perfect balance in every class w pose/repose, physical, metaphysical, alignment/flow.

5 Bindus points to articulate/call out a pose to a  student, closest to this order as possible:
1. Name in Sanskrit and English
2 .Gross form- the obvious structure of the pose
3. Alignment- detailed according to your theme & from the foundation up
4. Theme/Metaphysical (3 times minimum throughout the class)
5. Breath steady and even like a human metronome

5 Bindus for a complete and successful dharma talk. Align with the energies currently exisisting for the best theme of your yoga class.
1. Name the title
2. Say the title 3 times during
3. Relate a personal story
4. Include and tie in a yogic philosophy
5. Relate to how they will practice this on the mat

*A students should be able to name the theme of your class after they take it.

(Swan Teacher Jacksun listening to the Dharma talk. The theme of the talk is based on what is happening in the moment for efficacy and relatibility.)


*Do not do yoga with your class. You are there to serve them. Once you have taught for 10,000 hours or 10 years, you may consider this.
*All poses are linked and always instructed with the correct breath. Never overlook the importance of transition.
*The alignment and form (note the difference) is instructed from the foundation up always

*Narrow down your alignment instruction by relating it to your theme for focus
*Move from gross to more subtle, or easiest to most challenging.
*Use the bell curve, which peaks 2/3 into the class
* The most challenging poses are complete after the apex of the bell curve
*Always have a peak pose, and infuse the theme in the peak
*Take out all unnecessary words such as "try to", "on the inhale", "from here", "sorry", "please", and all "ing" words.
*Always compliment, and speak in the positive. No "do nots" or "if you can't"
* Compliment first before correcting. Correct general issues first, before detailed issues.
*In general, do not give the students choices. Do not give into their preferences. Instruct everything, and instead, provide modifications and variations.

(Moving Shri... Interact with your students so they feel you, and feel that you are there for them. Walk around the room, and do not stay in one place as you teach)

*No more than 3 demos in an Open level class. Students need to exercise.

*Keep it dynamic and in the appropriate length. Do not stay there too long.
*Pick students to demo more than doing the demo yourself.
*2 types of demos. Demo correctly and appropriately.

1. Informal Demo: when they are in flow, but in clear confusion, and looking around the room. Give them a quick visual but do not stop the class.
2. Formal Demo: Linked to your theme and purpose, stop the class officially. Have them gather around. Be sure everyone can see. Go through, in detail some key information that you want them to work on. Then have them go do it, or assist one another in doing so.
       (A formal demo, where everyone is gathered around to view the shoulder loop. Anahata was the Theme of the class, so the demo relates to the theme. Workshop at Krama in San Jose, Costa Rica)

* Circle the entire room clockwise during the warm up to see where your students are at that particular day, their mood, observe new students capabilities, what they need to work on, and to move the energy in the room.
*Stand in a place where you are always facing them when holding poses.  If you have them face the right side, move to the right side of the room so they see you.
*Stand in a place where you get the best eagle eye possible.
*Do not move around while they are balancing.
*Get out of their periphery when they are balancing.
*Best to not stand behind them. It throws them off.
*Do not stand in one place for too long. It will stagnate the teachings.
*Move the energy of the room with your body by walking around, and keep it orderly.
*Never sit down. Work just as they are working.

(Keith Porteous, Co-owner, adjusting in a sequential order at our First Grand Opening of Swan River Yoga Mid-City Mandir.)

*Assist in a sequential order in the room, moving from one person to the next. Every person has something to work on. Do not scramble all around the room unorderly.
*Assist gross alignment first, and the most critical for safety.
*If you assist them on one side physically, you MUST do the other. Remember who you assisted.
*Know everyone's name, and call them out.
*Do verbal assists first before physical to empower their capacity.
*Do global verbal assists first (when the majority of the room is doing something out of alignment) before personal assists.
*Do not ignore new students, nor stagnate the flow of the class by over-assisting them.
*Provide props right away when necessary and have them nearby

*Breath with them, and move them with their breath

          ( Pincha Mayurasana assist, where everyone will be encouraged to assist one another in Mandeville, LA)

*Be dynamic, like you are doing the pose with them in your voice.
*Do not use a monotone voice.
*Keep it real and not fluffy.
*Use encouragement. If it is hard, use that inflection in your voice. If it is an internal pose, guide them spaciously with your voice.

*Be sure they can hear you, and that your volume is perfect
*Use a lower resonance and pitch in general for better absorption
*Bring the voice up to the upper palate and nasal range so you do not blow your vocal cords
*Pose/Repose...Have moments of silence in every class where you do not talk at all and the room is silent.

*When nervous, listen, and speak from the heart.

(Black and Gold Who Dat Superbowl Yoga class. Align with the season for the optimal theme of your class.)

Examine afterward:

*Did the above blueprint happen, and what can be improved?
*Was the class all about serving them?
*Did you set your "stuff" aside appropriately to teach them?
*Did your student leave life affirmed, even if they were challenged, having a hard day, or where new?

*Was the class moving?
*Did you invoke a sense of community?
*Did they get greeted by you, if not vocally, energetically, no matter how large the class was? Did you look at them in the eye?
*Did you touch every single person in some way?

*Did you push them to their edge, and no further?
*Can they apply this in their life, and did you remind them to?
* Did they experience kindness, joy, creativity, celebration, learning?

*Did you do your best as a teacher?
*Did you do everything from the heart?
*Were the 4 tenets of a Swan River Yoga class there? 
1. Community 2. Integrity3. Art 4. Beauty?

                                             Lotus flower in Portland OR

Congratulations dearest yoga teacher! You have offered up an impeccable class if everything has been checked off of this list, which will ever expand and refine also. 

 (Santa Teresa Shiva/Shakti Yoga Retreat 2011.)  Check in as a yoga teacher... are the students  life affirmed, and were they moved in some way?)

Remember, every student that comes to you is a messenger, mirroring to you Divine gifts. Leave your stuff behind, and bow to them, the real teachers. Namaskar


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