This post originally appeared on the blog of Jasonyoga.com. I was thrilled to share with my friends, Jason and Andrea, my best tips for teaching workplace yoga.
Six years ago, after completing Jason’s 200-hour training, I committed to teaching yoga full time. A few years later, out of nowhere, I was asked to sub a corporate class full of scientists.
I recall nervously walking into the conference room where class was to be held and seeing carpeted floors, minimal props, and office furniture against the walls. The whole vibe of this “classroom” was completely different from a yoga studio. I quickly realized I’d have to shift my teaching style to meet the needs of the students.
That day—and each day since—my goal has been to create a space where my students can leave their deadlines at the door, clear their minds, and inhabit their bodies. The opportunity to help my students thoroughly shift their state during a real-world, less-than-ideal moment is immensely challenging and rewarding.
I wrote the tips below to help you create a bridge between studio teaching and workplace teaching so that you can offer more accessible, effective, and beneficial classes.
1. Be On Time
Your students are at work and will often have to eat a quick lunch or join a meeting after your class. Respect their time and need for punctuality.
2. Make them Feel at Home
Remember that part of your job is to help them feel invited and at ease. Share some of your personality or humor to break the ice. You may have beginners who are freaked out!
3. Make it Accessible
Use clear, everyday language. Aim to make the practice as accessible and unintimidating as possible. There’s no need to alter your voice as this may weird people out. Instead, speak to students in your typical conversational style. In most workplaces, it’s a good idea to hold off on chanting (at least in the beginning). I also pare down my use of Sanskrit so that people feel like they can immediately connect to what I’m saying.
4. Speak Succinctly
Limit your number of instructions to 2-3 per pose. Think of how much information people are bombarded with in their workday: In a yoga class, they can only digest so much and don’t need extreme details.
5. Offer Landmarks
You’ll likely have new students who are nervous and feel disoriented. When you instruct, use landmarks as cues, such as ‘Reach your arms up toward the ceiling.’ They won’t have to remember their right from their left while they’re in a new shape — and neither will you!
6. Hold the Space
Provide space for students to feel peace and experience quiet. There is no need to talk the whole time.
7. Emphasize Letting Go
Let them know that it’s OK – even optimal – to use this time to let go of tension. Teach them how to balance effort with ease by encouraging them to take rest and back off of intensity when they need to. Teach stress-relieving techniques like breathing through tightness or difficulty or breathing out tension as they exhale.
8. Avoid Partner Poses
They’re typically inappropriate in a work setting. Would you want to adjust your boss’s hips in Down Dog or holding your co-worker’s gaze during a partner squat? Didn’t think so.
9. Go for the Tight Spots
Stretches for the neck, shoulders, wrists, and hips are winners. Your students are probably engaging in repetitive activities (sitting, typing, etc.) that make these areas tight. Additionally, be sure to teach to what you see, especially those with injuries or conditions.
10. Explain Savasana
At first, your students may find Savasana strange. Offer an analogy they can appreciate (like adult nap time while awake or horizontal meditation with your eyes closed).