Have you ever been in a yoga class and been jarred out of your peaceful savasana by a teacher who speaks too loud, turns on bright lights, or makes a loud noise to “bring you back to your body”?
I was just in a class a couple weeks ago where this happened. Savasana was only 3 minutes (she announced this to us) during which the teacher was quiet, she turned down the lights, and left on quiet music. All of these things were great, but when it came time to rouse us and close the class she abruptly turned on bright lights and spoke in a normal teaching voice volume. Both of these things combined jarred me out of my peaceful state and left my heart racing. In one word I would describe this as unpleasant.
Below are some tools that I use to make my classes great. I always strive to make my classes a class that I myself would want to return to again and again.
- Your Intuition
- Your Voice
Have you ever been in a Vinyasa or Power class that has been way too dark? Dark rooms tend to encourage relaxation. This is perfect for a Restorative or Yin class, but not so great first thing in the morning for a Power or Vinyasa class.
Conversely, have you been in a Yin or Restorative class that was too bright? It feels like everyone is looking at everyone else and you are under a spotlight. “Ughhhh, I’m here to relax sister!”
Even in a Power Vinyasa class I turn the lights down significantly or off entirely during savasana. If you must turn the lights back on before the closing “Namaste”, do so gently and slowly. If turning them back on slowly with a dimmer switch isn’t an option, I suggest you consider leaving them off until you have closed completely and the students need to get up to leave.
Most gyms have policies about having open flames inside the building for safety purposes, but LED candles are a great substitute. If you teach in a studio open flames usually aren’t prohibited, but be sure to ask first.
Again, candles add a really nice atmosphere to a Yin or Restorative class, but aren’t really necessary for a class first thing in the morning or a Power Vinyasa class. 1 or several are great, just don’t go overboard. Set them up with thought and see if it looks nice or cluttered. Sometimes less is more.
Next to lighting, music really sets the tone for your class. If you are teaching a flow class, upbeat music (with or without words) will help get the energy in the room flowing. However, if you want your students to center themselves and breathe with intention before beginning, don’t start playing the Arctic Monkeys from the get go! Silence or some meditative/nature sounds music is great way to get them to relax prior to warming up. I like silence, but if you are teaching in a gym atmosphere sometimes some soothing music is better than listening to the kids shout and run past the doors.
Silence for savasana is great too, but again, sometimes music is preferable to listening to the normal human noise that comes along with teaching in a gym setting. You might also want to consider playing it for just a few minutes and then having silence for the last minute or so of savasana. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something YOU’D want to listen to during meditation or savasana. If it has loud jarring sounds it’s probably not the best choice.
Essential Oils and incense are great additions to yoga – in my opinion. HOWEVER, if you are teaching in a very small space with no windows, I would not suggest using incense. It can get very stuffy very fast and not only that, there are many people who can’t handle the smoke from the incense or the scent.
Essential Oils are much less strong and typically have softer scent when used in proper proportions. When I use EO’s in my class I ask at the beginning of savasana if anyone does not like them to raise their hands. Sometimes I will have 1 or 2 people raise their hands, but for the most part no one does. If we have 7-10 minutes for savasana or just a small class I will go around to each student and hold my hands 6-12 inches away from their face and tell them to breathe deep. If I have a large class and 5 minutes or less for savasana I might rub some oil in my hands and just tip toe around the room so a very light scent fills the air.
The type of oil you use also depends on the class. For something in the morning or a flow class I would suggest something more uplifting like rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon, orange, or peppermint, or even a blend of those scents. For example, eucalyptus and lemon go wonderfully together. For an evening class I would suggest something soothing like lavender, chamomile, or bergamot. There are also some great pre-blended scents out there. Whatever you choose, just make sure it isn’t too sweet as it should appeal to both sexes.
This isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. You really just need to work with yourself and see what you observe. You can do this anywhere. When you walk into a coffee shop what do you feel? Are there places that you don’t like to go because it makes you feel tired or run down? Are there shops you love to visit because it just feels good in there? Are there friends you always go to when you need to vent and different ones when you want to go out for a night on the town? You get the idea. These are all different forms of energy and getting a read on them.
Maybe next try getting a read on the energy of the students to see where the class might be heading or to get them to liven up if it’s a vinyasa or power vinyasa class. Reading the energy in the room is quite simple once you get the hang of it. This can seem like kind of a far off idea if you aren’t used to it, but it’s a simple as observing the area and reaching out with your intuition and energy body to feel the space. I’ve found that the majority of yoga teachers are doing this in almost every class. There have been a few that seemed as though they had no idea where their students energy was and was unable to bring them back together as a group when needed. Again, this is an intuitive process, but is completely accessible to everyone, it just takes practice.
Your voice is actually more powerful than music, lighting, and scents. If you speak too softly in a flow class the energy won’t be where it needs to be and the students will get frustrated having to strain to hear you. If you speak too loudly in a restorative or yin class the students won’t be able to relax fully.
If your tone of voice and volume of speaking is correct you can lead a class without any music at all. Your voice sets the tone for the class and directs the students not just for sequencing, but encourages them to move together energetically.
Soften your voice during savasana and restorative poses. If your students can’t hear you over the music, the music is too loud. Keep your voice tranquil as your rouse them from savasana and during an inspirational readings/meditations. I can’t stress this enough. Your voice volume and tone can discourage students if they don’t match your words on an energetic level.
That’s all for now. Just remember, be genuine, be kind, be light. Yoga isn’t so serious and we all need to laugh at ourselves once in awhile. I laugh at myself when I teach whether I misspeak or loose my balance. Your students look up to you, make sure to keep it real.