If elementary school teachers create lesson plans and college professors develop syllabi, what do you teachers do to prepare for their class?
Before your class begins:
- Take a moment to observe your own body, breath, and mood – Let’s face it, we bring ourselves into the yoga room when we teach. Yes, it would be nice to say, “I check myself, my ego and my issues at the door.” But, the truth is that we usually don’t. Not completely, at least. So, pause for a moment before you teach—before you reach the studio if possible—and become aware of what is happening inside of you. Taking a moment to observe what is happening inside yourself will help you stay mindful and grounded when you teach.
- Have a clear sense of what you have been practicing lately – Your practice doesn’t dictate what you’re teaching, but it will inform what you’re teaching. After all, class isn’t about you—it’s about your students. However, good, skillful instruction comes from your direct experience. As you develop your plan for class, begin with what has been resonating in your practice lately.
- Have a plan (or not)—but, know what themes you want to work with in class and how intense you plan on making it – Some teachers operate best with a clear, detailed plan for class. Other teachers are better with improvisation. Both models can work—and, usually, most teachers combine the two. Whether you’re a planner or a gunslinger, it is essential that you treat the class like a learning experience for your students and have an idea what you’d like your students to take away from their experience. Sure, you can leave yourself open to changing your plan, but have a theme, pace, and intention in mind before class begins.
- Be a good host – Imagine that teaching a class is like hosting an event at your home where each participant has to pay $15-20 to participate. If you were the host of such an occasion you’d default to basic social protocol and be nice to everyone and introduce yourself. Remember to follow these basic rules for making people feel welcome in your presence when you teach. While you’re at it, do your best to learn your student’s names. Believe it or not, most students don’t feel terribly comfortable coming to a class if they don’t already know you. Students are often intimidated and somewhat intrigued by the teacher. Spend your energy putting them at ease. Not only is this the reasonable and humane thing to do, but, for heaven’s sake, your students are paying top-dollar for their experience.
Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.
Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.