How to instruct a Yoga session

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In order to deliver and instruct the safest yoga classes possible for all practitioners, it’s ideal if you are able to perform an overall fitness assessment for each individual so that limitations and body ability may be known. Unfortunately, this is quite impossible in a normal yoga session environment.

Non-verbal communication in a yoga session

Your facial expressions and body language are very important when instructing a class. This is especially when teaching classes with mixed cultures and nationalities.

Use the SOFTEN acronym to help you with your non-verbal communication. It will help you to deliver a kind, compassionate and loving class:

  • S = Smile (a genuine smile)
  • O = Open posture
  • F = Forward lean
  • T = Touch (lightly touch the muscle or limb which needs adjusting)
  • E = Eye contact (hold eye contact for a second when you are in a student’s space so that they feel more comfortable)
  • N = Nod in agreement or disagreement. Head gestures can soften your whole approach.

Adopting your communication to meet your participants’ needs

When you use verbal communication to instruct or guide the participants through a yoga programme make sure that you speak clearly and audibly. Ask if everyone can hear you. if you are not loud enough practitioners will struggle to follow. It is too loud it may be annoying.

The manner in which you deliver your instruction will help students to feel encouraged, motivated and claim. Your pitch is vitally important as is your tone. Yoga, although sometimes very challenging, should be conducted in a peaceful and calming environment. There is so much noise pollution out there in the busy world so coming into a yoga class should give students a break from the hustle and bustle. Poor music selection can totally disturb the atmosphere and the quality of a yoga class so be especially careful when choosing.

Instructions need to be to the point

The instructions that yoga instructors issue need to be concise and to the point. Practise your classes beforehand. Know how to instruct the participants into and out of poses and ensuring food alignment. Explain the exact actions of a motion that go into a yoga posture. Make sure you reference the most important joint movements in order beginning with the most important.

Explain the benefits of the poses, how it affects them physically and emotionally. Try to take the participants on a journey into their bodies and minds. If a student cannot hear you or if they find the instructions confusing they will become stuck in the chatter of the mind and feel disconnected from themselves, the teacher and their practice.

Ask questions like:

  • Does everyone understand?
  • If you are not sure then go into Tadasana or Sukhasana and I will come and assist you. Alternatively, just put your hand up.

This will assist students with feeling more comfortable if they find themselves a bit lost or stuck.

By watching the participants and monitoring their process you will be able to see how they are coping. You may need to suggest a recovery pose if you can see that a student is becoming frustrated with themselves. Child’s Pose helps to drop the ego below the heart and will give them the patience that they need to carry on.

Remind students that yoga is a very personal journey and not a competitive sport. It might help to tell them how it felt when you first started or how long it took to perform a challenging pose and how rewarding and wonderful it felt when your body could do it!

How to prepare a Yoga class

It is always wise to plan a series of Yoga classes which will provide both a physical focus in order to guide your choice of postures and a practice focus to help your students to explore a significant Yoga principle. The intention is to put forward guidelines for creating a coherent and thoughtful Yoga class experience. Proposals are broad enough to allow you the opportunity to select poses that are appropriate for your students.

Three of the main elements of planning yoga classes


This is the feeling-tone of your class. You are not required to choose it ahead of time but it can be useful to consider how you want your students to feel during your class in order to moderate your poses, pace and tone of voice based on this.


Your sequence of poses/practices should be carefully chosen to progressively warm up the body to prepare for more challenging poses and balance the nervous system.


Your theme is the thread that ties together the different parts of your class. The easiest way o add potency to them and to make it more inclusive is to include a paradox or relationship between complementary contradictions.

Themes may be as simple as a single word or idea or complex and multi-layered. Usually, simple is better unless you are unpacking the theme over the course of several weeks or months.

When your theme is complex try to instil its relevance into one core message. A central message is a short sentence or phrase which sums up why this theme is relevant and interesting. When designing a core message try to make it strong, provocative, clear as well as succinct.

Planning all three of these items for each yoga class is complex and a lot of work. Here are some ways to access class planning:

  • Establish or borrow a standard balanced class sequence which you use for every class. Change the Bhavana and/or the theme.
  • Select a theme and teach it for a week. Modify the sequence based on your students’ needs.
  • Select a theme for the month and modify the sequence each week or each day you teach.
  • Unpack a more complicated theme over a period of several weeks or months (for example the yoga sutras or the chakras).
  • Sometimes two or even all three will overlap, in other words, your Bhavana could be the same as your theme, for example, compassion.

Your relationship to designing your classes will evolve as you gain experience as a yoga teacher. Some of the yoga teachers will become more complex and sophisticated with their plans as they gain experience. On the other hand, some will need less and less advance planning.

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