by Sarajean Rudman


Keeping your yoga teaching fresh and inspired is not only great for your students, it’s essential for you. Your students can sense when you’re feeling stagnant, just as they can tell when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, and they will reflect that energy back to you.

When planning for a yoga class, there are several things to take into consideration: Is it a vigorous, moderate, beginner, or gentle class, or one designed for a specific population? What will the students need/expect? What can you bring from your own life and experience today? As yoga teachers, plan as we might, we need to be able to hold those plans loosely and be willing to accommodate the circumstances of the class (location, noise level, etc.) and the needs of the group. Keeping a malleable perspective encourages us to stay in the present with our students.

Planning your class as you would a narrative—with a beginning flow, a middle flow, a “peak pose” that you build up to, and an ending—creates a structure within with you can play and be creative. Working on a peak pose over a series of classes can be a powerful way to keep your students coming back for more and always learning.

Even if you’re teaching a sequence that remains the same every time, there are ways to tap into creativity with each class. Bringing a particular intention or focus to the practice can change the overall bhav, or tone/internal experience, of the flow. For example, if you sense that your students need a more energetic practice, you can inspire that energy with your enthusiasm, the timbre of your voice, and the words you use.

We asked a selection of Kripalu presenters and faculty to share how they keep their teaching fresh, for themselves and for their students.

Sage Rountree, author of several books on yoga for athletes and yoga sequencing:
Our practice grows when we have a good balance of consistency and variety. First, we need the consistent elements of a class: a warm-up, standing poses, mat poses, and a closing sequence. Then, we need variety to keep students engaged and adapting. Too much consistency and the class gets stale; too much variety and the students are confused.

Jennifer Reis, Kripalu faculty member and teacher trainer for the Kripalu School of Yoga: Yoga sequencing for me is a creative process similar to art-making and meditation: I listen to the moment, and images of what needs to happen show up on my inner screen. I am simply following it, trusting that this moment is revealing what is true and fertile. I’m never quite sure what will happen next, and that keeps it alive and exciting.

Janna Delgado, Program Leader for the Kripalu Yoga in the Schools (KYIS) project with the Institute for Extraordinary Living and cofacilitator of KYIS teacher trainings: A quick check-in at the start of class can give you great information and inspiration for the class, plus it builds a connection between you and your students. I also customize my classes based on the time of day, the season, the weather, etc.

Jurian Hughes, Kripalu Yoga teacher trainer, a Let Your Yoga Dance® trainer, and a Kripalu faculty member: I am constantly reminded of the wisdom of the phrase “Planning is priceless, plans are useless.” I may have plans for an energizing, playful practice but, if most of the room is in Savasana before we even begin, I have to rethink! I try to stay open to what’s present in the room by watching before and during a class for clues to use in adjusting my approach.

Allison Gemmel Laframboise, Kripalu Yoga teacher and cofounder of KDZ: The Kripalu Drummers: To keep my yoga teaching alive and creative, I ask myself, “What can I say to my class today about yoga that is real for me right now, in this moment?” This connects me to my truth and helps me deliver a fresh and authentic experience.

Ellen Rose Cunningham, Kripalu Yoga teacher and Content Manager for Kripalu’s R&R Retreat and Healthy Living programs: I am a better teacher when my personal practice is strong. Having that touchstone each day to my interior landscape helps me guide a deeper internal experience for the students.

Ray Crist, Kripalu Yoga teacher certified in Reiki and Thai Yoga: When you stand in front of a group, your job is to lead. Bring up the volume of your voice and slow down your pace. By stepping fully into that role, you allow the students to surrender into their practice and not have to think, but rather feel, allow, and experience.

Sarajean Rudman is a yoga teacher and the former Intern for the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

PHOTO: John Dolan

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