How do yoga teachers transform their students more deeply and even create a sense of community in their classes? Mentor Trish Brown offers some advice.
I don’t know what my students think of my teaching beyond the fact that they do or don’t come back. I have also noticed some yoga classes seem to bond closely and have a good time while in other classes people barely know each other’s name. How can I take my classes to a new level where I know real transformation is actually happening beyond just the physical benefits? Vanessa Damm, Canberra, ACT
There are simple things you can do to take a person’s experience of your class to a deeper connected level.
Connect with your students
I believe it is fundamental to get to know your students well because your relationship with them is important in determining how much they will get out of your class and want to keep coming back.
In my experience most students don’t come to your classes just to be instructed in yoga. As much as they come for the physical health benefits, they also come to be nurtured and cared for, to learn how to live without stress, and to meet with like-minded people. To really get to know your students I’d recommend allowing a good block of time before and after class—invite them to let you know how they are, and to give you feedback.
Use their names regularly when you teach, and compliment them when they are doing something well. They will also get to know each other better as they hear each other’s names.
Interaction is key
Try doing some partner yoga or even doing some work in a circle where people face each other. This takes people off their mats, their separate islands, into a situation where they gradually let go of their self-consciousness and have fun interacting. Over time they may even bond to the point of connecting with each other more, possibly meeting after class for a chai and chat.
Make your classes mean something
When you know of particular issues in your students’ lives, it is a wonderful opportunity to program specific themes, postures and sequences into your classes that you know will help their body, mind and emotions. What you do in this way for one student will benefit the whole class, and in my experience the student concerned is always grateful for your love, concern and practical help.
Consider dedicating the peace generated in your class to others (specific people or even a country or region) who may need that peace. In difficult times it helps your students to know they can do something meaningful, while the yoga helps them to feel better inside. But don’t just focus on tragedy or sadness. Look for reasons to celebrate, too. Mention someone’s birthday (if you know they are OK with that) or do something special on the last day of the term, such as a special yoga sequence or relaxation that’s new to them. Or perhaps give a small thoughtful gift at Easter or Christmas.
Stay in touch
There are a myriad of ways to help your students stay enthusiastically connected with you and each other outside class times. Consider writing a blog or email newsletter where you provide yoga tips, news of your latest workshops and inspiring yoga web links. Have a website or Facebook page where you encourage a discussion about yoga. This allows people to link in with you, and each other, even if they live at a distance.
All of these techniques create a safe, nurturing environment and a wonderful sense of community, so the union traditionally associated with yoga takes on new meaning for both you and your students.
Trish Brown has 30 years of experience teaching yoga. As co-director of Dru Australia, she coordinates its teacher training courses and leads workshops internationally. Visit www.dru.com.au