How To Teach An Awesome Livestream Online Yoga Class

How can you teach yoga classes online skillfully and effectively? In this article, we’ll look at the three components you need to consider to deliver an authentic, valuable online experience for your student. (Looking for technological tips? Check out this article on teaching online, or teaching pre-recorded yoga classes.)

Own Your Classroom

Just like teaching a studio class, you need to own your classroom. Owning your classroom means that you actively and mindfully manage the class environment so that you can create the best possible experience for your students.

Consider: when your students enter your “studio” (your online classroom), what do you want them to feel? Choose your background, lighting, and accent pieces (plants, sculptures, paintings) to create the mood that you want for your online studio. Think of adjectives that may describe your ideal environment, and create your space accordingly. For example, creating a studio that is “restful, calm, and soothing” is different than a studio that is “uplifting, vibrant, and funky.” Have fun designing your space in a way that supports your class intention.

Treat your online studio like a real studio experience and create guidelines that will manage the experience accordingly. For example:

  • Do you request that students keep their videos on?
  • If so, do you help students to position their mat and cameras so that you can see them (this is akin to helping students place their mats at the beginning of class)?
  • Do you allow latecomers into class?
  • Do you address students who leave early? (Or provide expectations around those who need to leave?)
  • Do you provide a link to a curated playlist for music?
  • Do you educate your students in advance about props or items they may need for class?
YYoga At Home

Demo’ing vs. Watching

The most impactful component of your online teaching is your decision to demo the class or watch the class. When you demo the class, you do the practice on your mat with the students. When you watch the class, you turn on gallery view and instead watch the students’ practices. There are pro’s and con’s to each.

Demoing: Pro’s and Con’s

  • Allows students to see the teacher practice (good for new students or visual learners)
  • May be easier for you to cue the class if you are doing the practice
  • You may be able to offer more complicated transitions since students have a visual reference
  • Students may not feel “on the spot” as they may be when the teacher is watching them
  • You cannot see the students or interact with them while you demo

Watching the Class: Pro’s and Con’s

  • Opportunity to give students personal feedback and use their names; helps create connection and community
  • Could make students self-conscious of being watched
  • Requires very clear verbal cueing if students don’t have a visual guide for practice
  • May be more challenging for students to follow the class who aren’t native to your language
  • May be harder for beginners to follow

Your choice to demo or to watch will be determined by the level of your students and your class intention. You can elect to partially demo and partially watch if you wish, or you could choose to spotlight (pin the video) of a willing student who can demo the class so that you can watch your students.

Tip: if students’ names appear on their video profile (as they do in Zoom), you can ask your students to rename their profile as “No Assists” if they prefer to not be given verbal assists.

Creating Community

Teaching online can provide a nourishing opportunity for students to connect with you and with their peers. Here are some suggestions for creating community online:

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early for the class to connect with students
  • Stay 10-15 minutes after class to connect and answer questions
  • Have students turn off their mics before and after class to connect
  • At least before and after class, ask students to turn on the video to say hello
  • Use students’ names; if you are offering verbal assists during class, point out what students are doing well and acknowledge them
  • Ask students to input their names (so in their profile, their names are visible (rather than listed as “IPhone 768” or the like)

Final Thoughts

Even though online teaching is a different than teaching in person, you can still take care to create a specific and intentional experience for your students. By embracing the particular opportunities of teaching online, we can still help support a powerful, connecting, and engaging experience for your students.

How To Offer An Online Yoga Teacher Training

Photo of woman with laptop

Given the challenges of meeting in person during COVID, most yoga teacher trainings have had to move their trainings online in order to accommodate social distancing. Yoga Alliance – notoriously sticky about allowing for online course hours – is allowing schools to teach online through the end of 2020 as a way of supporting studios to keep teaching during this strange time.

However, part of the magic of a yoga teacher training is that it is in person. So how do you take a course that has been designed to be face-to face and move it into the online space?

Take a deep breath, studios and teachers! Here are five tips to help you out.

1. Livestreaming Tips

There are actually some nice benefits to livestreaming your yoga teacher training rather than teaching it in person:

  • You can require students to keep the video on (make this mandatory), which keeps them from hiding in the “back of class.”
  • You can record the session so students can have access to the material again. Yay!
  • You can share your screen to easily present online resources, such as presentations, images, videos and other fun links.
  • If you’re using Zoom, you can use the “breakout room” feature to have students do activities together as a smaller group – which can mimic in-class activities.

When you’re livestreaming, I highly suggest that (like your classroom experience) you vary your activities. Lecture a bit, then have students use break out rooms to do activities or reflect in a smaller group, lead practices, get them on their feet, have them take a poll, have them do an online quiz on the material you just covered, show them online presentations or other relevant and curated material.

As a best practice, restrict your “lectures” to small chunks. I recommend that you talk for no more than six minutes before having students engage or work with your material. Also, whenever possible, engage them students actively. Put the onus on them to do activities, come up with solutions, or even present on a topic that they have researched.

2. Practice Video Tips

The greatest challenge to taking a yoga teacher training online is that students aren’t teaching other humans in person. If you want someone to learn to teach an in person yoga class, then they need to practice teaching an in person yoga class. Teaching on Zoom is not the same, because you don’t have to “work” the room the same way, see students, use your physical body language, deliver as many verbal assists, do hands on assists or hold space.

Your greatest challenge in delivering an online yoga teacher training is addressing these limitations. Here are some ideas:

  • If possible, meet in person for practice teaching while social distancing. You can put a mat 6′ from someone else. You can meet in smaller groups. Though the student can’t walk around the room in the same way, the trainer can assess the student’s body language and vocal projection.
  • Have students practice teach in environments that mimic a real classroom. Have them teach family members, or put down mats or objects to represent students in a classroom. The more “real life” their practice teaching can be, the better equipped they will be to teach when they leave your training.
  • Use video. Have students record and submit assessments to the trainer, as well as practice teach live to your online group. When they record themselves, they will invariably wind up practicing a few times before they submit their recording – bonus!
  • Provide clear rubrics that detail what skills students need to demonstrate in order to achieve success. Not only can you use these rubrics to assess their practice teaching, they can use them to record themselves and self-assess, or assess their peers.

Need help with your livestreaming? Check this out.

3. Use Pre-Made Resources

Let’s be honest: livestreaming an entire 200-hour yoga teacher training can be tiring. Are there already built resources that you can use to support the student experience outside of livestream hours? YouTube videos, recorded classes from your studio, articles from reputable magazines, assigned reading in your manual?

Now, there is a HUGE caveat to this: all resources must directly support the learning objectives of your teacher training. If you choose to let students use outside resources – or you use them during class time – you must be very clear that they serve your learning intention, the training’s vision, and are very clear. Putting together a bunch of disparate resources because they’re interesting won’t work; carefully curating resources that directly support your training objectives does.

4. Plan For Interaction

This may seem obvious – and it’s actually less relevant to livestreamed yoga teacher trainings than to asynchronous trainings – but it’s important to deliberately create opportunities for student-student interaction and faculty-student interaction.

For student-student interaction, consider putting students in buddies, small study groups, assigning group projects/ activities, having peer-peer practice teaching assessments, or integrating discussion forums.

For faculty-student interaction, consider personal check ins, small group mentorship, email availability for questions or “office hours,” or Q&A forums (for example, create a Google Site). Also, be very clear upfront how students can get in touch with faculty for questions and what the response time should be.

5. Assess

Assess, assess, assess. Remember, the training isn’t about what you tell your students, it’s about what they can do. Regularly provide opportunities to assess their skills and give them personalized feedback. Covering less material and incorporating practice/ feedback is far better than covering a ton of different material. By assessing your students regularly – and giving them real tasks – you will set them up for success, online and off.

Bonus: here are some tips from the Yoga Alliance site on offering online yoga teacher trainings. Also, check out the “student-side” article that I’ve written. It includes a list of questions that all online teacher training programs will want to be able to answer.

Students: What You Need To Know About Online Yoga Teacher Trainings

Girl sitting at computre

COVID-19 has struck. Yoga Alliance has given the thumb’s up for online yoga teacher trainings through the end of 2020. And now there is an onslaught of online yoga TT’s cropping up worldwide.

Online yoga teacher trainings seem great: convenient, often well priced, and timely. But are they good? Here’s what you need to know.

About Online Education

When planned properly, here’s what online education does really well:

  • Allows students to study material at their own pace (some students may like to move slowly, some will move quickly; having material online allows the rewatching of videos).
  • Allows students to study material when it fits into their lives (at different times of day and on different days).
  • Can be very useful for learning brain stuff. In yoga, this translates to taking courses on yoga theory, sequencing, philosophy, some anatomy, and history.

Here’s what an online yoga teacher training has challenges with:

  • Teaching material where you need to touch a physical body on hand (like learning hands on assists).
  • Teaching asana labs, or looking at variety of bodies in 3-d in real time.
  • Mimicking the environment of teaching an in-person class (if you’re going to teach an in-person class, you need to practice teaching real people in real-time).
  • More challenging to create community and sense of connection between the students.

100% Online Yoga Teacher Trainings

Some schools are moving all their training hours onto Zoom and livestreaming their programs. This is a great stop gap measure and I personally can vouch the quality of two schools – YYoga and YogaWorks – that are using the method to support their teacher trainees. After all, it’s very tough out there for yoga schools right now; livestreaming a TT can be welcome solution to keep your program going and to connect with your students. Meeting in real-time in a virtual space is the next best thing to meeting in person. This is called synchronous learning, where everyone shows up in a virtual space at the same time.

However, there are some limitations with livestreaming an entire yoga teacher training that you should be aware of (which is why Yoga Alliance is permitting online learning as a stop gap rather than fully embracing it for all course hours). If you want your trainees to teach a group class in-person, then it’s better that they practice teach in-person students. Teaching on a zoom call is not the same thing. Schools that need to deliver a 100% livestream course would do well to consider some innovative solutions to address this particular missing link, such as:

  • In-person teaching at a safe social distance, perhaps with limited numbers.
  • Having students recruit other members of their household to teach so that their online teachers can watch them teach a “class with students” via livestream (get your family to sign a waiver :).
  • When students practice teach, have them mimic being in a real space. Lay out mats to represent students so that your online trainer can watch how you navigate a real room.
  • Utilize the online format to practice skills such as verbal alignment corrections in real-time.

Although the 100% livestream option is a good stop gap, it can also miss out on some advantages of online training: namely, the ability for students to work at their own pace at their own time. This is called asynchronous learning, where students work by themselves, rather than having to meet a group online at a specific time.

However, for asynchronous learning to be effective, it must be well-planned and well-crafted. They cannot be easily thrown together, but must be structured with love, skill, and care. To give you an idea, it takes at least 8 hours of work for every asynchronous course hour. That means that creating a 200-hour teacher training would take 40 weeks of working 40 hours of week, or almost a year. Yikes! That’s a long time. So if the training that you are considering is not 100% livestreaming, but is using asynchronous learning, then it’s a good idea to ask a few questions about how they created their asynchronous content.

What You Should Ask

Taking an online yoga teacher training now may be an excellent opportunity for you to deepen your love of yoga, fuel your passion, and advance your practice. And as I mentioned, there are many reputable schools (like Yoga Works and YYoga) that have moved their courses online to accommodate the times. Hybrid schools such as DoYogaWithMe blend online learning with in-person components to take advantage of both modalities. However, there are probably also some schools out there that may be jumping on the online train that aren’t fully prepared. It’s important that you can ask some questions so that you can tell the difference.

To protect your investment and the quality of your experience, here are some good questions to ask your school before you jump in:

  • How is the training delivered (how many hours of the training are online versus in-person)?
  • Of the online hours, how many are synchronous (requiring me to show up at a specific time in a livestream) versus asynchronous (where I study, watch videos, read, or move through course material on my own)?
  • What kinds of activities happen in those online hours?
  • What kinds of activities happen in asynchronous hours?
  • How are you encouraging peer to peer interaction? (This is huge for having a good experience.)
  • How are you managing/ enabling faculty to student interaction? How much contact will I personally have with faculty members? (Also huge.)
  • How will you assess me – both at the end of the training, as well as during the training – to make sure I’m learning how to teach effectively and safely?
  • How will you assess the advancement of my own personal practice?
  • If we’re 100% online, what kinds of activities will you provide to ensure that I can teach a group public class?
  • If you have online content (not livestream), where did the content come from and how was it organized (ie: recordings of previous trainings, YouTube videos, etc.)?

Any yoga teacher training worth its salt will be happy to sit down with you and discuss these details. For a more generalized look at how to think about yoga teacher training, check out my article with Yoga International, “How To Choose A Teacher Training.”

How To Record, Edit, & Upload An Online Yoga Class

Rachel Scott recording online yoga class

As everyone looks for ways to connect with their communities, I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned along the way about recording and uploading an online yoga class. Make sure to check out Five Ways To To Livesteam An Online Yoga Class and Five Best Practices: How To Teach An Online Yoga Class, where I cover the technical aspects of space, sounds, lighting, teacher presence, etc. Those elements remain the same, whether you’re recording or livestreaming, and that’s a good resource to check out.

In this blog, I’m going to look at how you shoot, edit, record, and upload classes, which is a slightly different animal than livestreaming. I am also going to assume that you are a DIY’er, and may not have the budget to have a video team on your payroll.

Before we jump in, let’s look at of livestreaming versus recording.


  • Less time commitment (the work is over once your stop streaming)
  • More “in the moment feel” (you have to welcome a little messiness and screw ups)
  • Can connect directly with a live audience
  • Can record and post later

Benefits of Recording / Posting

  • Can control final product more
  • Can use two cameras
  • Requires post-production skills (editing, uploading)
  • Generally requires a more polished look
  • Available for posterity forever!

How To Record A Class

The easiest way to shoot your class these days is on your phone. The internal videocam on your computer just won’t have enough power, unless you buy an external webcam. Nowadays you can shoot as high as 4K on your phone. However, I don’t think 4K is necessary for your average class video just because it’ll eat up a lot of storage space on your phone and computer. Personally, I record in 1080p HD at 30 fps (frames per second). If you’re an Apple gal like me, go to Settings, Camera, then “Record Video” to see what you’re setting is at. When we record, we’re always balancing video quality, with “How much damn space will this file take up??” Apple has an excellent compressor, so you can get high quality video at not too high a storage space price.

Now, if you have a video recorder, you can shoot on that as well, you’ll just have to off-load your video footage to your computer afterwards.

You must have good audio. Your students aren’t going to watch your video so much as they are going to listen to it. Bad audio will kill the experience. And if you are recording and uploading, students will expect the audio to be nearly flawless. (For my audio tips, see, Five Best Practices: How To Teach An Online Yoga Class.) Unless you have a wireless body mic, your sound won’t be great because you’re likely demonstrating the class as you go.

However, as a low-cost solution, you could record the visuals of the class for practice (without talking), then record a voice over to replace the audio. It adds some work, but in a pinch, that’ll do. Recording the v/o (voice over) later helps because you can 1. sit next to your mic, and 2. not move.

One Camera Shoot

If you are recording a class, you can edit the footage after you shoot it. Therefore, you get to choose: one camera or two?

If you’re just starting out and don’t want to do a lot of editing, then have one camera. Accept that you will make mistakes or need to do cross-fade cuts if you mess up.

Pro Tip: if you screw up during the class flow, pause. Stay still. Take a breath, then go back a few beats in your “script” and do it again. Later, you can splice those takes together and remove your mistake. And if you’ve stayed really still, when you cut them together, students probably won’t even notice.

Two Camera Shoot

The benefit of shooting on two cameras is that you can go back and easily edit out mistakes. The bummer? More editing.

If you shoot with two cameras, then place one directly in front of you one diagonally to the side. Make sure to check both angles in advance to make sure they capture you (and remember, you’re going to be moving all over the place and lifting your arms over your head, so account for that. We don’t want your hands to get cut off :)).

Pro Tip: when you’re shooting with two cameras and you’ve got them rolling, clap your hands loudly. The clap will show up as a sharp spike in the audio and allow you sync the footage easily if you need to.

I recommend that you shoot your class straight through. Don’t restart the camera unless you really need to. You can note down where you’ve made mistakes if you need, or just assume you’ll be watching all the footage again and will catch the mistakes if you’re editing.

If you prefer to shoot in small bite-sized pieces, you’ll have a lot of video files. In this case, I recommend that you “slate” your videos by holding up a little whiteboard that keeps count of the shots. If you have a lot of videos, editing can get confusing if they’re not well-labelled.

Pro Tip: when you’re recording, speak slowly and leave pauses. Those pauses are gold when you’re editing, as it will allow you to make cuts.


Candidly, I’m an Apple gal through and through. For easy editing apps, I’d use IMovie. It’s intuitive and plays nicely with your phone videos. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to edit a yoga class. If you’re new to editing, then stick with IMovie rather than spending money on Final Cut or Adobe Premiere (good lord, those programs will overwhelm you with options!). If you’re using different software, you may need to export your videos from your IPhoto library in order to edit them. It’s not hard to do, but it may be an extra step.

Pro Tip: There is a phone app for IMovie, but I prefer to edit on my computer as it’s far easier to see what you’re doing.

Tips For Editing

How to edit is beyond the scope of one blog, but let me give you my top tips:

  • Add a title screen (if you need help adding an intro to your YouTube video, check these guys out at Design Wizard)
  • Edit out glaring mistakes (by cross fading if you’re on one camera, or by cutting between camera shots if you’re on two)
  • Record a short (30 second), friendly intro to the video where you tell people generally what you’re going to do, how hard the class is, and let them know if they need any props
  • If they do need props, give them “home friendly options” in case they don’t have yoga gear. Ie: you can use a scarf instead of a strap. Remember, they’re practicing at home.
  • Do NOT use music. You probably don’t have the rights to use it. If for some reason you do (musician friend gives it to you), then input it as a second track in editing – obviously don’t record it while you’re recording your video. Or – my preference – create a Spotify playlist and link to it. Students can play it if they want to on their own.
  • End screen, add ways to stay in touch, why not!

How To Post

If you’re trying to get your work into the world and use it as a “get to know me” tool, then post your content to YouTube. This is where people look for everything. Make sure to use add tags so that your content is searchable.

I recommend creating a graphic thumbnail for your video personally rather than using one that YouTube auto-creates. You can use a free editing software Canva. You want your thumbnail to reflect the content of the video, and also include in nice text what the title is. Check out Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube to see what I mean.

If you want to have a membership site, then obviously you won’t be posting these on YouTube. Vimeo is a great solution for video (unlike YouTube, they don’t stick advertisements in the middle of your content or promote other channels). However you pay for it (Vimeo makes their money off you rather than advertising).

You could turn Vimeo into a membership site by having people pay to get the password, or you could use a platform that manages content and access for you. I’m mostly familiar with leveraging education sites such as Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi for this purpose, but there are other video management systems, too, like Namastream. If you want to host your videos to your own website, you may need to get around file size upload restrictions.

Pro Tip: If you need to make your videos a smaller file size, a handy tool for is an app called Handbrake.

A wonderful low tech way to share your stuff it to send your subscribers an email with the video link, for example, to a Dropbox file, where they can stream it for themselves.

With so much free content out there, I recommend a combination approach. Post some of your content out there for free so that people can get to know you. However, then you can point students in the direction of your paid content. For example, post 15-minute mini classes on YouTube, then have students who want the 30 or 45 minute class to check out your paid stuff on Vimeo.

Final Thoughts

Whenever you’re filming, choose authenticity over perfection. Your students will want to connect to you because of who you are; not because you can speak perfectly for an hour of class time. Resist the urge to fix everything. Students want to feel the real you. Remember that beyond the camera are real people who are looking to connect, breathe, and feel better!

Questions, comments, resources to share? Put them below!

Five Best Practices: How To Teach An Online Yoga Class

how to teach an online yoga class

As we make the transitions to teaching yoga classes online, it’s important to do it well. It’s easy to make a rookie mistake and lose your audience. Whether you are streaming or recording, here are five practical and simple tips for teaching online yoga classes that will make a huge difference in the quality of your offering. Although these tips are designed for live streaming (as we’re not discussing editing yet), they are also useful for those of your who are recording. (For specific tips on livestreaming, check out, “How To Livestream Classes.”)


Teach with a clean, spacious, uncluttered background. If you check out our DoYogaWithMe Videos, you’ll see that we take a lot of care to make sure that the background is clear and free of clutter. This is easy to do; pick a wall in your house that has a good amount of space (ideally you want a clear horizontal stripe of at at least 10 feet), then move everything away. You usually won’t teach with a window in the frame because of lighting issues (see point #2), but it really depends on the orientation of your window. I prefer light or white walls when possible to create a clean, airy look. Usually you’ll place your mat horizontally along the wall. A small altar space or nice wall hanging/painting can work, depending on your space. If you have a tripod, outside can work, too.

Key Points:

  • Clean background
  • Remove clutter and distracting objects
  • Place select “yoga” objects in frame if desired

2. Lighting

When you shoot, make sure that you don’t have light behind you because it will flood the camera’s sensors and may make you look dark. For this reason, you usually won’t teach with a window in the frame behind you, unless you are sure the light won’t blow out the camera (exceptions: on YouTube, YogawithAdrienne teaches against a window and it looks great). For this reason, you often won’t put a bright lamp in the frame with you, as it may cause you to look darker. You want to be well lit from the front and sides. Natural light can be amazing (if you are opposite a window), as long as you’re teaching in time when the light won’t change dramatically. Although I’m frankly a fan of warm lighting, “daylight” LED lights mimic the sun most closely, so you pop a few of those lights into your house lamps and see how it looks. Newer mobile phones (like the IPhone 11) have amazing cameras and light sensors that can accommodate a wide variety of environments. In yoga, we turn a lot. So before you shoot, do a test shoot in the space where you practice a few differently facing poses to make sure that you don’t go dark when you turn a certain way.

Key Points:

  • Avoid bright light in the shot with you
  • Add light from the front and to the sides to make sure you are fully lit and avoid shadows
  • Daylight can work well if you’re opposite a window

3. Audio, audio, audio

Audio is where most videos fall apart, and this is where you may need to make an investment if you want to do this long term. When students practice with you, their key connection is not visual; it’s audio. Bad audio will be very distracting and cause them to tune out.

There are two key problems: live rooms and teacher movement.

Problem 1: Live Rooms

If you are in a room that is very “live” – ie you have a lot of hard surfaces – the sound will echo and sound poor. It’s very hard to fix after the fact. (Check out my early YouTube videos for a demonstration of this problem). To fix a live room cheaply, take all of the pillows in your house and pile them on hard surfaces to buffer the sound. Hang blankets on walls out of sight of the camera. You want to room to be as “dead” as possible. You know how sound studios have foam stuck to the walls and ceilings? You can also go get some foam padding from Home Depot and put it all over the place. Do a test with your camera to assess your sound before your record or livecast.

Problem 2: Body Movements

Teaching yoga is different from most livecasting in that you need to move and face a bunch of different directions. For this reason, your audio will change (because you’re not always facing the camera). In an ideal world, you use a microphone on your actual body (bonus: this usually eliminates Problem #1 – the “live room” issue- yay!).

Cheap solution: To solve this sound cheaply, use your wireless headphones, like your Apple Air Pods. The bonus is that these will connect directly to your IPhone, usually eliminating challenges with connecting your audio to your phone. Sure, you’ll have them stuck in your ears, but people will be able to hear you clearly.

Investment solution: I use a Sennheiser Wireless Lavalier.

Sennheiser Lavalier
Sennheiser Lavalier (what I use)

At around $500 USD, it’s an investment, but worth it in the long run. You can hear that there is a huge difference in sound in my newer videos where I’m moving.

Me teaching with a lavalier

While there are mics out there that will connect directly into your IPhone port (via a lightning port), by getting a simple adapter you can vastly expand your option. The adapter (note the three rings around the plug rather than two) is called a TRS adapter) and it will connect your mic into the headphone jack of your IPhone (or more accurately, it plugs into the headphone jack IPhone adapter that you’re probably familiar with).

Adapter for connecting mic to phone

Using this adapter is not hard, but if you get the wrong one it won’t work. I’m also going to point you in the direction of an amazing resource over on YouTube: Primal Video. They are tech gods with lots of goodies. Here’s a video specifically on mics for mobile phones and adapters if you want to dive into this issue further.

Note on music: to keep audio simple, I’d recommend having your students play their own music (or – fun solution – create a Spotify playlist that is directly catered to your class and prompt your students to start it from home during the class) rather than trying to feed music into your live recording. To start, keep it simple.

And pro tip: if you’re using a mic, the sound is being picked up very close to you (like on your body), so don’t shout to reach the phone 🙂

Key Points:

  • If possible, use a body mic so that your audio is consistent when you’re moving
  • If you’re using an external mic, make sure to get the right adapter so that you can plug your mic into your Android or IPhone and it works
  • Make sure that the room is not too “live” and echo-y, as that is very hard to fix after the fact if you want to record the session for posterity

4. Camera position

Obviously, where you put the camera is important as this will act as your audience’s eyes. You want to shoot in landscape (horizontally). Unless you have a lot of space in front of your mat, you’ll probably want to lay your mat horizontally so that you can see your whole body. You need to test the camera shot to make sure that is it capturing you fully (in other words, your hands don’t get cut off when you reach them overhead).

I’ve done plenty of shoots where I have simply propped my phone up on a bookshelf in order to record. However, I recommend you use a tripod for a few reasons:

  • It’s soooo much less frustrating to get the position accurately and easily with a tripod
  • You can angle the phone to get the right shot (if you’re leaning the phone against books, it will tend to shoot up rather than down at you)
  • You don’t have to worry about the phone down falling mid shot.

My recommendations: get a decent tripod. It’s worth it. You want one that can lift up high enough to capture you straight on (so don’t get a tiny one that’s only for IPhones; get a real one for cameras). Here’s a suggestion (Manfrotto’s compact aluminum tripod), but you have tons of options on Amazon that you can search out. You’ll also purchase an adapter for your tripod so that it can hold your phone. I personally use this Kobra adapter. Again, while you could buy a “tripod for IPhones”, I recommend getting a legit tripod, then just getting the adapter so your phone can attach to it. You’ll get a better product.

Kobra adapter (attaches phone to tripod)

Key Points:

  • Shoot landscape
  • Use a tripod if you can
  • Test to make sure that the camera can capture you in all your poses

5. Teaching presence

Ironically, you can’t rely on your video. I want you to imagine that you are actually teaching through an audio podcast. Here’s why:

  • Students may not have a big enough computer (or phone) screen to see you clearly
  • They won’t be able to see you most of the time (for example in forward fold or downward facing dog)
  • They won’t be able to see if you’re lifting your right or left leg easily (like in class), so you have to be incredibly specific in your cues
  • You don’t want them to have to move their computer around during their practice to keep watching you

For all these reasons, you must lead your students verbally through the practice impeccably. Be very specific about rights/lefts, cueing directions, and transitions. Do not rely on the visual. It’s a great opportunity to refine your verbal cues.

Also, if you screw up – no apologies! Carry on as you would in a normal class. Cop to any mistakes if you need to, but sally forth without hesitation. Just because it’s video doesn’t mean it has to be perfect, and students love you to be human.

Key Points:

  • Use impeccable, clear language (don’t rely on video)
  • Embrace imperfections! Be human and carry on.

Final Notes

It’s going to feel weird if you’re not used to teaching with a camera. Pretend that there is a fun student right behind the lens that is loving everything that you are doing – because there is! Treat the camera as that friendly student, and look at them frequently and directly to check in (particularly at the beginning of class when your virtual audience is probably looking at you). If it helps, tack up a photo of a real student directly behind your camera so that you feel like you’re talking to someone real.

Keep in mind: though it’s mediated by the camera, you’re teaching to real students beyond the lens. Remember them, and enjoy the opportunity to share your teaching.

Five Ways To Livestream An Online Yoga Class

Live Streaming Video

Can’t meet face to face?

If you’ve never used tech to go online before, it can seem intimidating. Here are some tips and my favorite tools to get you started easily. In this post, we’re looking at “live” aka “streaming” options, which put you online in the moment. Also, for more info on how to shoot well, check out my tools and tips for “How To Teach Online Yoga Classes.”

1. Facebook Live

Facebook live is great for a quick check in, or live streaming a class or conversation in real time. Because the time limit is so generous (8 hours), FB is a great option for longer streams.

You can save the video to your profile to people can see asynchronously, and you can also save it to your camera roll to preserve for posterity. One note: Facebook is not an archive; people see your posts basically the day you post it and that’s it. So if it’s a good video, you will want to save it and post it elsewhere for posterity (I tell you how, below).

Now, you can post publicly, or you can post privately to a group. So if you want to use FB to livestream, but manages who sees it (for example, you’re streaming to a group of students who have paid to have access to your online classes), you can easily manage those permissions.

The Summary

  • Time Limit: 4 seconds – 8 hours
  • Orientation: Landscape (horizontal – recommended) or portrait
  • Good for: Short or longer one-way videos that you want to livecast and save
  • Access: From computer or phone

How To:

  • Go to facebook.
  • Start a new
  • Click, “Live”
  • Turn your phone into the orientation you want (I recommend landscape – horizontal, rather than portrait – vertical). It looks better in your post if it’s landscape.
  • Click “Start Live Video.”
  • In bottom right corner, click “Finish” when you’re done. Try not to be awkward.
  • Publish:
    • To save to your own camera roll, click the download button.
    • Make sure that “Post video to your timeline” is checked.
    • Then click “Share”

Ta da!

Easy. It will take while to process. Facebook will let you know when it’s done. You can click the three little buttons in the upper right hand corner of the post to edit.

2. Instagram Live – Stories

With Instagram, you can post live via your Stories. However, because IG Stories shoot in 15 second chunks, this platform is better for shorter conversations (I like a minute or two). Theoretically, you could have a really long video in there, but I don’t think it’s the right platform for that kind of duration.

Like Facebook, Instagram story lives are not an archive; people see your posts basically the day you post it and that’s it unless they scroll. So if it’s a good video, you will want to save it and post it elsewhere for posterity (I tell you how, below).

The Summary:

  • Time Limit: 1-15 second blocks, but you can have as many blocks as you like
  • Shooting Orientation: Portrait (vertical)
  • Good for shorter one-way videos, under a couple of minutes
  • Access: from phone

How To:

  • Open Instagram Profile page
  • Click on your profile picture to open “Stories”
  • At bottom of page, slide left to “Live”
  • Before you do anything, click the settings button in upper left corner to make sure “Save To Camera Roll” is checked (I recommend also “Saving to Archive” so you add them to highlights later if you wish)
  • Click the big circle button at the bottom of your screen to start recording.
  • Click “End” in upper right hand corner to stop.
  • Click “Share to Story” at bottom (or delete)

A note on the recording time: Instagram Stories are broken into 15 second clips. When someone watches your story, they will run together sequentially as if there is no break. So you can talk for as long as you like, but if you want to do any editing of your clips (color correcting or adding hashtags), you will have to edit each segment separately. It’s easy to do, but may be tedious if you decided to chat for 3 minutes (you’d have 12 clips to edit).

3. Zoom

My fave “third party” for streaming is Zoom. Tried and true, and used by organizations everywhere. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, you would use Zoom to stream to a specific group of invited individuals. However, you could still post the video later onto your social media streams if you wished.

With the free version of Zoom, you can 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. For longer (or more people), you’d have to pay if you want access for more than 40 continuous minutes. Prices are reasonable.

Some Zoom perks:

  • You can record the sessions and post them later.
  • You can record the whole group if you’re doing a discussion (the video will record whoever is talking) or you can “pin” your video to just you (which I would recommend if you’re streaming a class or don’t want to record participants).
  • You can also screen share with Zoom. While this feature is not so important if you’re streaming a class, it is perhaps important for webinars, etc..

Another perk of Zoom: unlike Facebook, Instagram, or Skype, you don’t have join Zoom to attend a Zoom meeting.

The Summary:

  • Time Limit: 40 minutes with free (for $15/month, you can have 24 hour duration)
  • Shooting Orientation: Landscape
  • Good for longer videos that you want to save, or live streaming to a select group
  • Access: from computer or phone (I recommend computer, feels a little easier to manage)

Go to zoom, and download for your desktop. You can create and schedule meetings, invite others to your meeting, and record your live cast for posterity. A rough guide “how to” is below.

How To:

  • Go to, then download and install to your computer.
  • Open Zoom.
  • Ensure your audio and video are working from your computer through your preferences and settings.
  • Create a meeting and invite folks to attend.
  • At the time of your meeting, you can either livestream with everyone visible and audible; if you are running a session that is one-way (ie: you’re teaching a class) where you want your audience invisible or muted, then you may choose to “pin” your own video so it’s the only one visible, turn off everyone else’s video, and mute other participants. They will still be able to participate in the chat.
  • You can pause the recording as you go.
  • Click “Stop” to stop recording.
  • Click “End meeting” to stop the meeting.
  • Zoom will process and save the meeting recording to your computer.

4 & 5. Skype and Google Hangouts

These apps are free, and relatively easy to use. I’m grouping Skype and Google Hangouts together as – at least to me – they seem similarly limited in scope. They’re free, and both of them are good for conference calling and screensharing. However, participants need to be a member of these respective host sites to join a meeting on them.

With Skype, you have up to 50 people on a call, you can record the call and you can mute participants. However, I did not find an intuitive way to edit how the video was recorded so that you capture only the host. While this is okay for an educational broadcast, it’s awkward if you want to record and replay a live class stream.

On Google Hangouts, you can have up to 25 people on a video call. However, you can only record your calls if you have the Enterprise edition of a Google Suite. Also, when you record, it will record visible active participants (“pinning” a participant won’t impact how it’s recorded).

While Skype and Google Hangouts are useful for small group or 1-1 meetings, they fall short if you want to record your meeting for posterity.

A caveat: while you can screen record anything that you play on your computer with a third party app, this isn’t a great idea for two reasons: 1. it’s illegal in many places to record people without their knowledge, and 2. screen capturing can deliver bad audio. If you want to record a session, I think it’s generally better to use a service like Zoom that is more geared to conferencing and recording.

Final Word

Options out there for screencasting, livecasting, and recording are always developing. These are several common tools that are familiar to many people and your participants. If you have any faves that you want to share, please list them below.

Yoga Business Tips: Demystifying Marketing

social media image

If you’re like me, the idea of marketing gives me an anxiety attack. Facebook Ads, Instagram posts, Webinars, SEO, and email marketing…it all starts to feel overwhelming and, well, inauthentic. But at the same time, we must navigate this jungle of self-promotion in order to thrive in our yoga businesses.

Yogis, it’s time to demystify marketing and get back to the basics. Here’s how I define marketing:

Marketing: how you find and connect with your people.

It’s that simple. Let’s look at the two steps that will help you get to the heart of the marketing matter.

1. Identify your people.

When asked, “Who do you want to teach?” we invariably say, “Everyone!” While this is big hearted, you will never thrive (as a person, let alone as a business!) by becoming a watered down milquetoast version of yourself. I don’t want you to appeal to everyone; I want you to appeal ONLY to your tribe. Becoming specific about your “target audience” will set you on a path of finding the folks who are singing the song that’s in your heart. These the people who will truly benefit from your offerings, and appreciate your offering. (And if you need some help identifying your true, personalized yoga mission, check out my post “Business Tips For Yogis: Know Thyself,” which helps you clarify your yoga path.)

What this means:

  • you may lose followers before you gain them
  • some people will actively dislike what you’re doing
  • you may no longer fit into your current studio situation or culture
  • you may need to change your branding, etc in order to more authentically come into who you are
  • you will be playing the long game.

When you get clear about your tribe, you are playing the long game. This means that you’re not picking up followers just to get likes or seem popular in the short term; you are dedicated to walking a path and creating long-term community based on your deepest truth. It won’t happen fast; but when you are really living your values, it will happen sustainably.

You don’t need to woo the world; you only need (as some brilliant marketer said) 100 true fans. If you have 100 people in your tribe who are willing to pay $500/year for what you do, you’re halfway to earning a six figure salary. All while being authentic to yourself and providing true value. It’s that straight forward.

2. Find & Connect With Your People

Now that you know who your people are, it’s time to figure out where they are. Generally speaking…

  • Are they under 20? Snapchat.
  • Are they under 40? Instagram.
  • Are they over 40? Facebook.

But friends, it’s not all about social media. Think about where your people like to connect:

  • Local haunts (coffee shops, wellness practitioners)
  • Yoga studios (the students in front of you are your best marketing friends!)
  • Cafes
  • Reading blogs
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Watching webinars
  • Journals, magazines, newspapers, periodicals
  • Retreat centers
  • Organizations and memberships
  • Online groups, communities
  • Etc.

How can you share what you are doing in these contexts in order to connect with the folks that will benefit from what you are offering? Look for win-win relationships where you can share what you do with the people who really need it.

And here’s the thing: marketing starts with you telling people what you’re up to. I can’t tell you how many times I see teachers fail to announce retreats or workshops in their classes (or fail to tell their friends) because they feel self-conscious. In order for people to find you, they have to first hear about you. Which means – I know it’s scary! – opening your mouth and letting people know. If you are feeling shy about self-promotion, get out of your own way by connecting to the value of what you are offering and sharing from a true attitude of service.

Your task: determine two marketing channels that you can use where you can find your people. And identify two people in your current network where you could create a win-win situation and develop some mutual support.

Also! Check out these additional resources:

Business Tips for Yogis: Know Thyself

Here’s the news, yoga teachers: your career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

We often think that our yoga career must look a certain way in order to be “successful.” Shouldn’t we be like Rachel Brathen or Shiva Rea, and have 100,000 followers, be labelled an influencer, produce online classes, and jetset the world?

Yogis, no. Please let me take that burden off your shoulders.

Here’s the thing: your yoga career should serve your life, not be your life.

Your yoga career should serve your life, not be your life.

All too often, the pleasure and joy that we take in the actual practice of yoga is thwarted by the business itself. We think that we have to fit into a one sized fits all mold and teach 25+ classes a week, become a Lululemon ambassador, and teach workshops in order to live the yoga dream. In our zeal to make it happen, we may neglect our own practice, scrambling to make ends meet, and burn out.

It’s time to step back and do something differently.

Break The Mold

As a way of illustration, I want to share with you a few stories about some friends of mine who have made yoga a part of their lives, but each in a different way.

Case #1: Gretchen

My friend Gretchen is an incredibly popular yoga teacher. She teaches group classes and is faculty in teacher trainings because she likes the person to person contact. Although she has been asked to run a studio, she is not at all interested in moving up to ownership, because her joy comes from connecting directly with her students. To make her life sustainable, she has kept a part time consulting job so that yoga can be a source of joy rather than stress.

Case #2: Andres

Andres works full time as the social media arm of a yoga studio. Although he has taken his teacher training, he doesn’t teach, but instead practices yoga a lot and uses his considerable marketing skills to support a studio that he loves.

Case #3: Maggie

Maggie loves to travel. Her exclusive focus has become facilitating and teaching yoga retreats. Not only does she run her own retreats, but she collaborates with retreat companies to offer exceptional experiences around the world.

Case #4: Amanda

Amanda is your classic full time yoga teacher. She teaches full time (over 25 classes/week), is an ambassador for several yoga brands, and runs workshops. She thrives on the hustle.

Case #5: Marco

Marco created an online yoga site and is now living out his mission to provide free yoga to the world. While he had to put in a lot of time and effort to get his business off the ground, now his work is paying off.

Case #6: Me

Except for a two month stint, I have never taught yoga “full-time.” My sweet spot is about 6 classes per week. I teach teacher trainings, write books and articles, and help studios and teachers around the world develop their business and their teacher trainings. I thrive teaching and helping others to grow.

Case #7: Fatima

Fatima is a studio owner and yoga teacher. She loves building systems, community, and managing people to be their best. Although she put in a lot of time for the first five years, she’s finally in a place where she can begin to delegate more of the day to day.

Time To Thrive

What do all these folks have in common?

Yoga is serving their lives.

We each get our “happy” in different ways. “Thriving” in our yoga business is not simply about making money, it’s about finding the way in which yoga can serve the expression of your core values and your personal mission. For some, yoga serves a core values through building community. For others, it’s promoting wellness. For others, it’s travel.

So here are your questions to ponder:

  • How does your yoga practice serve your life?
  • How does your yoga teaching serve your life?
  • In what contexts do you thrive?
  • What do you need to change so that your yoga business can fulfill you more?

If you need to get back to your core values, check out this excellent Mission Worksheet.

More on business here.

The Only Four Yoga Sequences You’ll Ever Need

Man in yoga pose

I understand the desire to be creative with sequencing, I really do. But sometimes we really get in our own way. If you’re someone who agonizes about creating a new sequence for every class, then take comfort in my offering: you only need four yoga sequences.

Here’s what you need:

  • sequence to a backbend
  • sequence to an inversion
  • sequence to an arm balance
  • sequence to a complex standing pose

That’s it. Once you have the skeleton of these four classes in your back pocket, everything else is a variation on a theme.

Let’s take a closer look.

Sequence to a Backbend

A sequence to a backbend needs to build slowly and smartly in order to support your students to a safe and expansive experience. I’ve been to many a class where a backbend gets tossed in at the end (“if wheel is in your practice, then go for it!”) rather than mindfully sequenced. I understand and appreciate the intention (we all need a bit more backbending in our lives!), but your students’ bodies will be sooooo much happier when you take the time to prepare for these larger openings.

You’ll need to warm up these parts of the body:

  • Hip flexors – open those suckers buy incorporating lunges and thigh stretches like anjaneyasana and crescent
  • Spine – specifically, you need to train the upper back (thoracic) to extend as the lower back (lumbar) and neck (cervical) are stabilized
  • Neutral hips – train the line through the ankle, knee, and thigh to remain neutral in the pelvis (ie: don’t turn out the legs)
  • Core – you’ll want to train the core engage in a lengthened position (eccentric contraction) as part of protecting the lumbar spine from hyperextension
  • Shoulders – depending on which big backbend you’re doing, you’ll need to warm up the shoulder girdle in different directions (ie: wheel, you’ll need to do poses where you get the arms above the head in external rotation, while in dhaurasana (bow) you’ll need to work the arms behind you in extension).

I would suggest something like the following for a flow/power class:

  • Warm up: sun salutations modified with plenty of lunges to start opening the hip flexors; focus on training neutral hips and engaging the adductors.
  • Mobilize and engage: get the upper back and spine involved through progressively deep twists and backbends. Use this opportunity to integrate core engagement with the extension of the upper back. Also, incorporate poses that warm up the shoulder girdle towards your peak.
  • Targeted hip flexor stretch: before the peak, I like to do a juicy hip flexor opener, such as saddle, supta virasana or anjaneyasana with a thigh stretch.
  • Peak: variations of your complex backbend; have several progressive versions so that there is something for everyone.
  • Cool down and counterpose: forward folds, outer and inner hip stretches.

Backbends are the sequences that keep on giving. We ALL need more backbending our lives, due to our collapsed posture and sitting habits. There are so many good variations of this sequence; it will never go out of style.

Sequence to an Inversion

When sequencing to an inversion, you are usually training muscular intelligence rather than a specific muscular opening. Sure, the hamstrings need to be opened to get into most inversions, but – unless you’re doing a very complex inversion that requires backbending – the actual poses are pretty much like tadasana upside down.

Here’s what you need to think about:

  • Open the hamstrings. The preparatory poses for most inversions involve “walking in” and “stacking your hips over your shoulders,” which requires very open hamstrings. Use active forward folds to warm them up, such as pyramid, prasarita padottanasana, utthita hasta padangustasna, revolved triangle, standing splits.
  • Squeeze your legs together. I call this “midline,” where your thighs are neutral in the socket and you’re strongly engaging your adductors for support. Your legs must be active, straight, and engaged in order to provide leverage and direction for lift off. Practice this activation in poses such as crescent, chair, lunges, and forward folds.
  • Educate the shoulder girdle: to do inversions, you need to get your arms straight and over your head. You also want to train the upper arm in external rotation and the forearm in pronation. I love working this action by having students hold a block between their hands in chair pose. It’s evil, but it works.
  • Educate the ribs/core: Many of us “pop” the ribs forward when doing inversions. A core warm up can help to fire these muscles up and train the psoas (primary hip flexor) to anchor and stabilize the legs into the core of the body.
  • Educate hands/wrists: teach your students (in poses such as plank, chaturanga, or any pose with their hands on the floor) how to press into index knuckle and finger tips down to avoid sinking in the wrist. Help them turn their hands into little feet that they can stand on properly.

I would suggest something like the following for a flow/power class:

  • Solid warm up of surya A and B’s (depending on level of students)
  • Mobilize/educate: neutral standing poses and standing forward folds to train openness and engagement through hamstrings and legs; also trains neutral hips, which you need when you start kicking up to avoid chaos. Use these neutral poses to train the adductors to squeeze; you’ll need this when upside down. (If the legs aren’t stable, the whole pose will topple.)
  • Educate the arms: you also need to teach the connection of shoulder blades down into the hands. For example, when you’re doing handstand, you have to keep the arms straight. Support for the pose comes from the shoulder girdle.
  • Educate the shoulders: in my training, we balance the action of pulling the bottom ribs in (serratus anterior engagement) with hugging the shoulder blades slightly together (rhomboid engagement). These two opposing actions work together to train the shoulder blades to stay anchored on the back body and provide the necessary support for the body weight. In pincha or headstand, you need to teach students how to pull the shoulder blades into the back to create the necessary stability to invert.
  • Cool down: the cool down should stretch the adductors and outer hips, as well as give students a chance to rest their upper bodies.

Inversions are awesome and mind blowing. Teach them at a wall. Create benchmarks that clearly indicate to students whether or not they should proceed to the next “variation.”

Sequence to an Arm Balance

Sequencing to an arm balance is a fun and interesting challenge. Very different parts of the body need to be warmed up than for an inversion or backbending class. How you warm up for the pose will depend greatly on the particular arm balance that you are doing, as they all have unique requirements.

Generally, here’s what you need to think about:

  • Get the core fired up. No core, no arm balance. I like to start off with supine core exercises if I know that my peak is an arm balance. When you establish core integrity early on in the class, students can bring core awareness into every pose that they are doing.
  • Teach the hands/ wrists: similar to inversions, you have to teach students how to use their hands properly to avoid wrist compression.
  • Teach to the shoulder girdle: like backbends, you need to teach students to become aware of – and stabilize – their shoulder girdle. Draw their awareness to scapular stability in poses such as plank, chaturanga – as well as in non-shoulder weight bearing poses such as warrior 2.
  • Open the hips: depending on the arm balance, you will have to open the hips in different directions to help them get to the pose (the exception here is classical vasisthasana, which is basically tadasana on its side!)
  • Teach to leverage: much of the time, the ability to do an arm balance is not about strength as much as leverage. Doing eke pada galavasana or koundinyasana (A or B) depends on being willing to bring the upper body forward enough of the pivot of the elbow so that the lower half of the body can become light. Teach this action (shifting forward) in transitions such as plank to chaturanga.
  • Don’t fatigue them. Don’t overdo your prep to the point where they’re wiped out for the actual pose.

I would suggest something like the following for a flow/power class:

  • Core primer: a little supine core arm up to get their shoulders and legs integrated into the center of their bodies.
  • Sun salutations as a general warm up.
  • Standing poses and hip stretches that help to open the hips for that particular arm balance. For example, if you’re doing eka pada galavasana, it’s helpful to open the outer hips first in poses such as pigeon, standing pigeon, or awkward pigeon. Most arm balances (crow, koundinyasana, tittibhasana, etc) will require deep hip flexion at the very least. Poses such as lizards and standing poses with binds can help to get the body prepped for this kind of flexibility. Look at your peak arm balance and note what needs to be warmed up. For example, parsva bakasana and dragonfly will require twisting, while tittibhasana will require hamstring opening. Prepare for these openings as needed.
  • Alternate standing poses with prep poses on the hands. Don’t do too many poses on the hands in a row; the upper body will get too fatigued.
  • Peak: have non hand weight bearing options available. For example, if your peak is side crow, provide an option to do a revolved navasana instead. Plan for alternative (challenging!) options so that everyone has something to work on.
  • Cool down: counterpose with gentle backbends and hip flexor openings.

Sequence to a complex standing pose

Complex standing poses – revolved triangle, revolved half moon, ardha chandra chapasana – are challenging and also stabilizing to practice. I won’t go into these too much, but I will say that you can create an excellent, kick ass class by taking your time to teach the necessary actions in strong preparatory poses.

For example, if your peak pose is ardha chandra chapasana, then take your time to really teach your students about the external rotation of the standing leg, and do poses that help them to open the hip flexors and quads. Complex standing poses are delicious and incredibly satisfying. They’re also stable enough to be done in the majority of all levels classes. Best of all, your students will develop more appreciation for their standing poses when you take the time to really suck the marrow out of teaching the alignment.

Shake It Up

Now that you have four sequences at the ready, you can shake it up! Dial up the heat by creating more challenging transitions; or dial the sequence down (all the way to hatha!) by adding modifications and fewer power transitions. Intelligent sequencing can be applied respectively to hatha, power, flow or vinyasa classes; it’s how you teach the poses (pacing, transitions, timing) that will determine your class style.

Moral of the story? You don’t have to create new and wild sequence to create an amazing class experience. As my friend Mel says, “Are you a classical movie, or are you sitcom?” Be a classical movie. Teach confidently from the backbone of your four solid, intelligent sequences. Then spice it up without needing to recreate every sequence from scratch!

PS: Still worried about being boring? Read this!

Want more? Check out my continuing education courses in Yoga Sequencing and Teaching here.

How to Make Yoga Teaching Your Fulltime Passion

Students in a yoga class

If you want to make yoga your full time passion and career, I recommend you to start slowly. If you have a steady job, do not just up and quit and expect to make a living from teaching from day one. People need to get to know and trust you and that usually takes some time. See if you can reduce the amount of working hours at your main job and start offering a few yoga classes before or after work. In this way you will still have an income if there are not too many people showing up for your yoga classes in the beginning, and you will not feel the pressure of having to succeed at once in order to be able to pay your rent or mortgage.

I know enough yoga teachers who have either burned out (myself included) or are close to it because they teach so many classes every day that they hardly have time for their own practice anymore just to generate some income.

Once you have built a bigger community which stays with you and recommends you to other people, you can think about quitting your job and going full time with yoga. It helps to do workshops at different studios, to blog, also as a guest blogger for other websites, to write a book, even if it is a smaller e-book which you can give away online or to produce videos so you can get a greater outreach.

In the times of self-publishing and Internet, it has never been easier to get your message across. Just have some patience and do not rush into your full-time yoga business. It sure does take some time, especially if you plan to open your own studio. I started my own studio and it took some time to get a steady flow happening, and I had to make some adjustments along the way. We learn so much from our experiences, the positive ones and especially the ones that really help us see things in a new light. It took patience, support from my family and a wonderful community of yoga enthusiasts, but a few years later I was more than happy that I stayed with my dream. It took stamina, persistence and a willingness to be with what was until my studio took off, but it did and today I am enjoying my full time passion offering Yin Yoga teacher trainings!

How To Not Space Out When You’re Teaching Yoga

Yoga Class

You know this moment.

You’re teaching a class. It’s a sequence that you’ve taught many times. You suddenly stop and think, “Wait, did I just say the same thing twice?”

You’re spacing out.

It’s a normal phenomenon for a yoga teacher. Although we speak continually of being mindful and present, we are human and subject to the same mind-wandering as everyone else! It is easy to feel a bit out of body – especially if we are teaching a lot of classes. In my experience, teaching yoga can be an even more potent practice than taking a class ourselves: we are called to be awake in each moment so that we can be of service to our students.

Here are some tips to help you.

1.Remember your purpose.

Take thirty seconds before each class to outline your intention for your teaching. Why do you teach? What do you want to bring to your students? What is the value of the class? When we reflect on the values that we are bringing to our students, we remember that yoga has a higher purpose. As we use the class to embody our own teaching mission, we can feel more alive, awake, and purposeful.

2. Focus on your students.

When you begin to feel like you’re an autopilot, get out of your head and into the classroom by focusing on serving your students. Verbal and hands on assists are an excellent way to get re-grounded in the space. When the focus is on the students – rather than ourselves – we become instantly more present and tuned in.

3. Feel your body.

Get grounded in the physical sensations of the room: sight, hearing, taste, touch, sound. The body is an instant pathway to presence. Use the reality of this moment to help you arrive solidly in the here and now. If you’re really feeling off your game, then demonstrate part of the practice with the students. While we ultimately want to make demonstration a tool that is based on what the students need (rather than what we need), it can be a useful way to arrive if we are feeling very spacey, anxious or out of sorts.

4. Change the script.

Having a script can be helpful. For example, there is simply a very effective way to use language when cuing a sun salutation! However, when we’ve said the same thing many before, we can start to run on autopilot. Shake up your own cuing by setting aside your script. Really consider what you are trying to communicate and the best language that you wish to use. Deliberately toss out your customary words to expand your own language possibilities and find new ways to express the pose.

5. Lose the script.

This is a potent exercise to do at any time: rather than cue from what you think you want your students to do, instead, look at them and see what they really need. Often we cue from the habits in our head. But do your students really need to be reminded to sit into their heels in utkatasana, or are they actually all already doing it? Try this: teach an entire class entirely from looking at your students – rather than cuing from your head. You may have to say a lot less than what you originally expected, or you may find that you discover new an interesting ways to address alignment or energetic factors that you hadn’t explored before. Plan your sequence, but enter the space of not knowing what you are going to say next, and allow the class experience to be your guide.

6. Teach to different layers of experience.

We often get stuck teaching just to the physical layer of the class. Explore teaching to other layers of experience: sensation, energetics, breath, emotion, thought, Presence. After all, yoga is about more than just the physical body. There is a whole world to explore!

For more cuing tips, check out my YouTube channel. Happy teaching!

Why Boring Yoga Sequences Are Awesome

Blue Starry Night In Canyon

Do you feel the pressure to create a new sequence for every class?

When you tromp into your eighth class of the week and teach the same sequence that you did yesterday (heaven forfend!), do you hear any of these voices in your head?

“My students are getting bored.”

“I need to keep them interested.”

“If I don’t create something new, they’ll think I phoned it in.”

“They’ll stop coming to my class.”

In a saturated marketplace, yoga teachers may feel the pressure to innovate continually. We feel like we have to be different, interesting, compelling…and popular. Our classes need to be full. Our students need to leave happy. And sometimes it seems pretty popular to crank up the dance tunes and lead students in a yoga rave.

Now, let me throw a a healthy caveat in here: a healthy inspiration to innovate and share authentically is wonderful. If you love generating wild flows with complex transitions, then go for it with my ample blessings.

But just in case you’re someone who feels the crushing burden of being continual novel weighing upon you, I want to let you you in on a well-kept secret:

Your sequence doesn’t have to be interesting; YOGA is interesting. You don’t have to hold the students’ attention; their PRACTICE will hold their attention. You don’t have to be entertaining; being PRESENT is all-consuming.

In fact, an excess of novelty can get in the way of the bald ass starkness of simply being present. A wildly entertaining playlist and sequence can inadvertently create an environment of distraction rather than a space for mindfulness.

Some of my favorite class sequences have been utterly simple. For several years, I showed up on my mat and practiced the exact same sequence day after day (I was an ashtangi). Was I bored? Never. Every practice was different. Some days I felt like an elephant; some days I felt like a swan. Because I practiced the same poses everyday, I could more clearly see how the variation in my daily experience was completely subjective.

A simple practice can be confrontational. In a world that is cluttered with tasks, chimes, alerts, and to-do lists, clearing the slate and breathing into the present moment can take surprising courage and vulnerability. Holding space for students to simply be with themselves – as they are, with no distractions – can be scary. We can’t hide behind the sequence or the music. It’s just them, and it’s just us. And here we all are. These spaces – free from errands, tasks, and distractions – is rare and nourishing. We feel the life beyond the clutter. The “I” beyond the Iphone.

If wild and varied sequences don’t feel authentic to you, I encourage you to throw them out. And here is a very practical challenge: I dare you to teach the exact same sequence for a month. Not only will you challenge those nasty little fear gremlins in your head, but you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of your teaching (student connection, hands on assists, verbal assists, rhythm, class tone, theming, etc.) that you may not have time for when you’re constantly working a new sequence. And more importantly, you may offer your students a surprising new experience of their own practice.

Want more? Check out my continuing education courses in Yoga Sequencing and Teaching here.

How To Find Your Voice and Niche as a Yoga Teacher


When I opened up my yoga studio many years ago, I expected the people to come to my classes in masses because there was no other yoga studio around. However much to my surprise, there were only a few people who came. Wow, how disappointing! It seemed like the others were skeptical about this new thing and had no idea what yoga was.

In the beginning there were quite a few classes where I only had one or two students show up. I questioned myself and had lots of doubts about my idea of opening up a yoga studio. At that point I was offering all kinds of classes: Yoga for kids, Yoga for seniors, Yoga for pregnancy, Yoga for beginners, Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga and so on… and still only few people came.

Starting a yoga studio required lots of time and I was working hard, doing all I could to find a way to bring the community yoga classes because I knew that they were very helpful in many ways. I would prepare for several classes and saw pretty quickly that it was not worth all the effort, which was disheartening to say the least! Instead of closing down and abandoning my vision for a yoga studio, I decided to narrow my classes to just a few different styles, reduced the amount of classes and stayed patient. After about six months, the classes slowly started to fill. Two years later all of my classes were packed, and I’m very thankful to say that those early students stayed and practiced with me for many years.

I was so glad that I did not give up early because one never knows when success is going to come, it might be just around the corner. I felt grateful for this experience because in this way I could slowly grow as a yoga teacher and had many important experiences because I was working very closely with the people who came to my classes.

Once I specialized on one topic, which was Yin Yoga in my case, people came from all over the country to my teacher trainings. Of course, it was helpful that I wrote several books about it and produced DVDs at a time when there was no Yin Yoga in Germany. Eventually I knew without any doubts that I had found my niche.

It takes courage to stick with our dreams and visions when we don’t see an immediate response—and that’s hard—because we do not know if there will be enough people who like what we are doing—but again, how will you know if you don’t give your dreams a try?

What was most important to me was to be authentic. I realized that I did not feel authentic with some of the styles of yoga I had been offering, but once I focused on Yin Yoga—which I felt absolutely comfortable with—the waiting lists for my trainings got longer and longer.

Therefore I recommend that you ask yourself what feels right to you: what can you really feel in the depth of your heart? And once you find that, stay authentic and bring it out to the world. Surely there will be enough people who were waiting exactly for this!

How To Sequence To Camel Pose

Camel Pose Ustrasana

Camel pose (ustrasana) is one of the few backbends that encourages a strong engagement of the front line of the body. Because you are moving backwards into the pose (imagine gravity like a heavy blanket trying to push you further into the pose), your abdominals (rectus abdominis) need to work eccentrically (engaged and lengthening) to enter the pose properly. If you attempt the pose without putting your hands behind you, you’ll feel the abdominals work very hard to keep you from collapsing backwards!

Camel is also a gateway pose to other challenging backbends (laghu-vajrasana and kapotasana), if you are you interested in such exotic treats.

Component Parts

A component part: a part of the body that needs to be warmed up or educated in order to do the peak pose effectively.

In order to prepare the body for camel pose, the following activations and lengthenings in the body need to be specifically addressed:

  • neutral hips: the thighs need to stay neutral at the hip. Because the big ol’ glute max will tend to engage and externally rotate the thighs, you’ll have to use your adductors to squeeze the legs in and internally rotate them slightly.
  • lengthened hip flexors: the hip is in a position of extension in this pose, so a few deep hip opening poses for the hip flexors is a good idea.
  • spinal extension: backbend should be targeted to the upper back. Backbends are great poses for counteracting some of daily slouching postures.
  • core engagement: the core needs to be activated to prevent hyperextension in the lower back.
  • arms in extension (behind you).

Let’s take a look at these component parts one by one to see some of the preparatory poses that can help you get there. Keep in mind that preparatory poses should be more accessible than the peak pose 🙂

Neutral Hips

Poses that help you to “scissor the legs” and “hug your inner thighs together” are teaching your adductors to engage. These muscles line the inner legs and help to both adduct and internally rotate your inner thighs. Some good poses for teaching this action:

  • chair with legs together (squeeze the legs)
  • hero’s pose (teaches a bit of internal rotation
  • lunges (high lunge or low lunge)
  • twisted chair
  • twisted lunges
  • locust pose
  • eagle pose (when done properly; see this video for tips)

Lengthened Hip Flexors

The hip flexors are muscles that cross the front of your hip joint. To stretch them, take your thigh back relative to the pelvis.

  • lunges (high lunge or low lunge) – awesome hip flexor openers! The best. Do several.
  • side angle pose – the back leg, if you give your glute a good squeeze
  • reclined hero’s pose – as long as your careful of your knees: see here

Spinal Extension (Backbends)

The trick with teaching backbends properly is to focus the spinal extension into the upper back while stabilizing the lower back. When you are teaching all your backbends, make sure to set your students up for success by integrating these instructions early on. You can also add backbends to your standing poses.

  • low lunge, high lunge with backbends
  • sphinx
  • locust (all variations)
  • bridge
  • cobra (low and high)
  • upward facing dog

Core Engagement

In backbends, the core needs to be activated to prevent hyperextension in the lower back. In backbends, the muscles of the front of the body are lengthening eccentrically while they are contracting, which is a nice change from doing crunches (when they contract and shorten).

  • plank
  • chaturanga
  • boat (note that this pose can get a little tight in the hip flexors though)
  • supine leg lifts

Arms In Extension

Though you probably don’t need to warm up the shoulders that much, the shoulder joint is in extension (arms behind you). What needs to be trained here is the extension of the shoulder WITH the widening of the collarbones. In other words, don’t let the shoulder heads drop forward when you take the arms back. You want the shoulder blades to move closer together to help support thoracic extension (backbend). For tighter students, have them hold a strap with hands shoulder distance apart so they can get the action of the shoulder and chest together.

  • tadasana with hands interlaced and arms in extension
  • locust
  • high lunge/low lunge with hands interlaced behind you.
  • prasarita padottanasana C (wide legged forward fold with hands clasped behind you)
  • bridge

Putting It Together

Once you’ve put these poses together in a sensible sequence, it’s time for the peak! Here’s my favorite entrance into this pose. You can also place a bolster across your students’ shins to help make the pose more accessible. Check it out!

Want more? Check out my continuing education courses in Yoga Sequencing and Teaching here.

Lessons From The Heart: Feed Yourself First

image of three carved hearts

In my recent dissection experience, I spent some time handling a human heart. To literally hold someone’s heart in your hands is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Even though its owner had passed and the life force had left, the heart retained a poignant and palpable vibration.

Your heart is your lifelong companion. The medical community would say that we can begin to detect a heartbeat around six weeks; some yogis would offer that this fundamental pulsation begins from the moment that conception produces a unique vibration. The feeling of a heartbeat touches us deeply: babies rest their heads against against it to be comforted and lovers place their hands on it to feel a soulful connection.

More than just a physical organ, many cultures honor the heart as the seat of the soul. In Sanskrit, hridaya is the “spiritual heart,” in which atman (the soul) is believed to reside. The word heart has become synonymous with courage (from the French word coeur, or heart), as well as “soul, spirit, will, desire; courage; mind, intellect,” (retrieved from

The heart is composed of special muscles cells called cardiac cells. Not only will a group of these cells sync up together to pulse rhythmically, but they are also indefatigable. To appreciate your heart’s special capacity for endurance, try opening and closing your first fist 60 times in a minute and see what happens.

During the lab last week, I learned another wonderful fact about this magical organ: the heart feeds itself first.

The Coronary Arteries

Your coronary arteries (named coronary for their “crown” like wreathing shape) wrap your heart like delicate garden vines. Both the left and right coronary (you have two) connect to the aorta. You may know the aorta: it’s the blood vessel that connects from your heart and spirals freshly oxygenated blood up to your brain and out through your body. What you may not truly grasp about the aorta (I certainly didn’t until I saw it) is that it is massive. As in, bigger than either your esophagus or trachea, sometimes as big as both combined (average about 2.7 cm wide).

As the newly oxygenated blood whooshes from heart out into the aorta, the coronary arteries divert some of this formidable gush back to the heart directly to provide it with oxygen.

The Heart’s Invitation

The heart feeds itself first.

The human body has many lessons for us. By observing what is true in the body, we can be reminded of natural principles that our intellectual minds may have forgotten or obscured.

For example, many of us have been taught to believe that our own needs must come last; that self-care is an act of selfishness. We compromise our own resources – whether it’s getting enough sleep, taking the time to eat well, or sacrificing our personal time – in a kind but misguided attempt to be a good person.

In the coronary arteries, we can see that Nature offers us a different lesson: nourish yourself first. Ensure that you give yourself the energy and resources that you need to thrive.

The heart shows us that self-care doesn’t adversely affect the rest of the system: the coronary arteries are small vessels that do not impede the abundance of blood from supplying the rest of the body. In other words, a small amount of self-care can be profoundly nourishing. Your hour-long yoga class or twenty minute walk provide benefits that far exceed the time they take.

The heart also teaches us that your act of self-care is essential to the well-being of your entire system (in this case, your system may include your family, your friends, and your community). Ultimately, the rest of the body depends on the heart’s health to live. The “self-serving” aspect of the heart is a loving act that ensures that the rest of system thrives.

As you consider your own self-care, remember the heart’s lesson in compassion: feed yourself first. Then share the fruits of your vibrancy.

Lessons From A Human Dissection

Conch shell

Last week, I went into the lab with Gil Hedley. I experienced my previous 6-day human dissection course with Gil back in 2012, so it’s been awhile since I shared space with the dead.

The dead are magical teachers.

Back in 2012, my steely-eyed intent was to “get” anatomy. I wanted to see the insertions of muscles, touch a hip joint, and palpate the knee ligaments. This time, I entered the space with less agenda. I spent time marvelling over tattoo ink on the reverse side of the skin, staring at chunks of fibrin that had condensed out of blood (a reminder that blood is actually a connective tissue), and turning over a human heart in my hand to admire the extraordinary size and swirl of its vessels.

Here are my top five wows from the week.

1. The body is fractal, not mechanical.

You know the movie Aliens? The alien ships are always looking strangely fractal, swirly, and everything gets coated in goo? Well…that’s actually more like real life! For some reason (“Euclidean geometry,” says Gil), we build our human environment in boxes and squares. We make walls and floors at perfect right angles. We apply this mechanistic metaphor to the body, thinking of it as a machine with parts that work, or don’t work. Our model skeletons look boxy and clean. But the reality is that the human body is full of swirls, whorls, and spirals. I don’t think there’s a right angle anywhere in the human form. Bones twist, arteries meander, nerves snake.

No wonder we get cranky in cubicles.

2. Stability is more than muscles.

As a yoga teacher, I’m a huge fan of muscles. (Oooo, and fascia! We LOVE fascia.) Give me tendons, bones, and ligaments and I’d think, “There, that’s stability!” This week, I became acutely aware of how much of our stability is provided by the tree like branching structures of our blood vessels and nerves. These vessels penetrate and snake through all of our tissue layers, anchoring us in some places and gliding easily in others. When muscle tissue disintegrates with barely a swipe of the finger, and you can lift a whole body by tugging on the celiac plexus, you start to get the idea that these structures are integral to holding us together.

3. Skeletal variation is just the beginning.

In recent years, we’ve all been very excited about skeletal variation. But this is only part of the story. What about when two livers look radically different from each other? When lungs can have different number of lobes? When the digestive system can be completely rotated around relative to where it “should” be? Human variation is the norm. So next time you’re in a twist, perhaps contemplate that the sensations in your posture could be about your spleen.

4. Your heart is a conch shell.

I didn’t say that. Gil said that. And it’s such a good reframe that I have to share it here. Your heart spirals on itself. I spent a couple hours with a heart, tracing its curves and figuring out how the blood flows through it. It’s not point A to point B, my friends. The best distance between two points is not the shortest, thank goodness (insert metaphor for life here!). Your heart is like the curving interior of an alien vessel, spinning blood into sinuous meander. Curves. Not lines.

5. You are one thing.

We think we’re many things. We pull stuff apart, name the pieces, and decide that that is reality.

The biggest lesson came from the physical labor that it required (six days with five people on each table) to take apart a human form. Why did it take so long? Because the human body is one thing. We are connected; no part is separate. Everything that is pulled apart, swept away and set aside is an artificial imposition. Sure, it’s useful to “dissect,” as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are the ones creating the pieces.

My brain didn’t learn this lesson intellectually; my body absorbed this truth from the ass in chair/scalpel in hand labor it took to create parts from something unified.

Final thoughts

The greatest gift from spending a week in the lab is that the mystery is not solved. We may be able to locate and name these wondrous structures (pineal gland, aorta, vagus nerve, mammary bodies), but the mystery of our “aliveness” remains as awe-inspiring as ever. Peering our complexity and the crazy intelligence of the body only serves to highlight how jaw droppingly weird it is that we are alive. Right now, as I type these words, my brain is coordinating some kind of wild chemical thunderstorm to make my hands move (how? I have no idea!?).

Some answers can only be felt. And some mysteries can only be admired. And that includes looking in the mirror.

*After my first lab, I was inspired to write a rather sexy poem that you’re welcome to read. There’s something about spending time with mystery that inspires some juiciness.

How To Sequence A Yoga Class: Peak Pose Sequencing

Sequencing is the hidden art of the yoga class. Peak pose sequencing is a sequencing style in which you select a challenging apex pose and then creates a sequence that will sensibly prepare the body to get there.

Peak Pose Sequencing: a yoga sequencing style that builds the class progressively towards a challenging apex pose.

There are other styles of sequencing. Some yoga styles (like hot and ashtanga) use a set sequence where the same poses are practiced each time, while other styles of yoga (like wave vinyasa) build upon repetitive iterations of postures. Teachers may sequence a class around an energetic focus or sequence to create a well-rounded and balanced class.

I prefer peak pose sequencing because

  • the body is prepared pragmatically and logically for more challenging postures,
  • the students feel empowered because they have the openings and the education to give the peak pose their personal best shot,
  • the students gain confidence because – even if they can’t fully do the peak pose – they can see the pathway towards increasing their own skill levels,
  • peak pose sequencing is style blind and can be adapted for multiple styles of yoga (hatha, vinyasa, hot, etc),
  • peak pose sequencing encourages teachers to be very specific, clear, and mindful in our use of asana.

Peak pose sequencing has five steps.

  1. Choose your peak pose
  2. Determine the component parts of your peak pose
  3. Brainstorm the poses for your sequence
  4. Organize your poses from easiest to hardest
  5. Plan your transitions based on your yoga style and class level

Step One: Choose Your Pose

In peak pose sequencing, we first must define the peak pose for the yoga class. For our purposes, let’s choose a peak pose of warrior 3.

When you select your peak pose, you will generally want to choose a pose that is complex and challenging for the average practitioner.

Step Two: Determine The Component Parts

Component parts are the parts of the body that must be educated or warmed up appropriately in order to do the peak pose.

Component parts: parts of the body that must be educated or warmed up appropriately in order to do the peak pose.

For example, let’s consider warrior 3. What makes this pose challenging? What parts of the body need to be warmed up our educated in order to do this pose safely and effectively?

Well, we know that it’s very hard to keep the hips square in this posture. So one of our component parts may be “neutral/square hips.” We also know that the hamstrings need to be open, so another component part may be “open hamstrings.”

Note: it is important to be specific with any component part that is referencing the hips or shoulders. It’s not enough to list a component part as “hips,” since the hip is a ball and socket joint and “hips” could mean anything! Be specific about what is happening at the hip and shoulder joint.

Your ability to balance is challenged, so another component part may be “balance,” or “foot/ankle stability.” You may also recognize that the back body has to work against gravity to find stability and lift, so you may add in “back extensors.”

While you can dive down a component part rabbit hole, it’s better to restrict the number of component parts to about six or so in order to focus on what is most important to teach or address in order to achieve the final posture.

Our final list of component parts for warrior three may be:

  • Hips square
  • Hamstrings open
  • Foot and ankle stability (balance)
  • Back extensors
  • Core
  • Final position: arms reaching forward (flexion/external rotation of upper arm at the shoulder)

Step Three: Brainstorm Your Poses

Now that we have a list of our component parts, let’s examine how we would choose our poses. For each component part on your list, brainstorm a list of less complex poses that also teach to this component part or action.

For example, can you think of other poses in which the hips must work to be square? What can you come up with?

There are lots of options, but our list may include:

  • High lunge
  • Chair
  • Pyramid
  • Low lunge
  • Half hanumanasana
  • Etc.

For each component part, brainstorm about five poses that you feel really help your student to understand its action. Note: you may have the same poses in multiple lists; for example, pyramid pose helps train both “square hips” as well as “open hamstrings” so it’s a double whammy!

Step Four: Organize Your Poses From Easiest To Hardest

Once you’ve created your list of poses, put them in order from most accessible (easiest on the body) to hardest (most difficult for the average practitioner). Your peak pose should be the most challenging, so warrior three will be the last pose on your list. If you have a pose on your list that’s harder than your peak, save it for a different sequence!

By organizing your poses in this way, you will create a class plan the builds logically in the body and helps each pose prepare for the next.

Step Five: Plan Your Transitions

Remember that peak pose sequencing is style blind; this means that this logic will work for many hatha, hot or vinyasa styles. Although the order of the poses may not change, the way in which you transition the poses will create your style. For example, in a flow practice, you may link multiple poses together, repeat poses several times, and link poses via a vinyasa or sun salutation. In a hatha style class, you may practice one static pose simply after the other.

By planning your transitions skillfully, you will create an intentional experience for your students.

Bonus: The Cool Down

One final thought.

The class doesn’t end at the peak pose. Students often need to wind down and counter balance the body.

Consider: what poses would counterpose or balance the action of the peak pose? For example, if you have practiced warrior three as your peak, then you really don’t need to do more hamstring opening. You probably spent the whole class preparing to open the hamstrings! Instead, it may feel really nice to stretch the outer hips and inner thighs, which were active and engaged to support balancing and squaring the hips.

For your “cool down,” consider what needs to be stretched and what needs to be “contained” in order to counterbalance your peak posture. Then choose 3-5 poses that help to unwind the body from its efforts.

Pro Tip: understanding component parts can also guide your cueing. Now that you understand which component parts that are being targeted in each pose, use your cues to reinforce and instruct to those actions as you move through your sequence. By the time you reach your peak pose destination, your students will have a deeper and more embodied understanding of what they need to do.

Free Sequences

Check out my sequences to these poses:

Want more? Check out my continuing education courses in Yoga Sequencing and Teaching here.

How To Cue A Yoga Pose

When you’re just beginning to teach, trying to figure out what to cue in a yoga pose can be overwhelming! Sure, you obviously have to get people into the “shape” of the pose, but then what?

Here are three things to think about when you are cueing a yoga pose to keep you on skillfully on track.

1. Common misalignments and risk factors

Once you get your students into the “stick figure” version of the pose (I call it the “general form”), it’s time to think about the important intrinsic muscular actions that will help bring the pose to life.

The most obvious actions to cue are the ones that will keep the pose safe for your students. Before you teach, think about how the pose feels in your own body. Make a list of common misalignments and risk factors that you can address.


  • What are the common defaults that tend to happen?
  • What will you cue to proactively protect against them?

For example, in warrior 2 (virabhadrasana 2), the front knee usually falls inwardly. In this case, you could cue students to “wrap the front sitting bone down to the floor” or “steer the knee toward the pinkie toe side of the foot” to keep students in proper alignment.

2. The purpose of the pose

Each pose has a unique purpose. You can think of this as the pose’s flavor. For example, warrior two (virabhadrasana 2) is all about the external rotation of the front thigh, high crescent lunge is about opening your hip flexors, and crow pose (bakasana) is about the connection of your inner thighs and lift of your core.

Consider each pose’s unique purpose and flavor within your sequence. What are the unique qualities of this pose that you wish to share? Why is the pose part of your sequence, and what does its shape offer your students that other poses do not?

3. Where You’re Going

Finally, consider your entire sequence. I sequence my classes according to a peak pose sequencing style, where we are mindfully building and opening towards a particular peak pose. If you are building towards a peak pose, consider:

  • What are the essential elements of my peak pose?
  • How can I teach the essential actions of the peak pose in this pose?

For example, if your peak pose is handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) and you are teaching chair (utkatasana), you may wish to focus squeezing the thighs together, which will be essential for effectively practicing the inversion. If you are teaching warrior 2 (virabhadrasana 2), then you may wish to focus on the stabilizing actions of the shoulder girdle (ie: drawing the ribs in as you anchor your shoulder blades onto your back). After all, core connection and scapular awareness will both be very important when you are having students weight bear on the hands and going upside down.

Final Thoughts

Finally, look around! One of the easiest ways to determine what to cue is to look at your students and speak directly to what is needed. Start at the foundation (what is touching the earth) and work your way up. You will almost always find something that you can immediately cue that will help them to thrive in their posture.

How To Practice Headstand Safely

Headstand is a wonderful pose, but has suffered a rash of bad press ever since the post on “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body“. However, when done intelligently, it provides the practitioner with an opportunity to remain in an inversion for an extended period of time. Unlike handstand and forearm stand, a skilled practitioner could safely remain in headstand for several minutes.

Benefits and Risks

According to Iyengar, headstand (sirsasana) is the “King of all Asana,” which “develops the body, disciplines the mind, and widens the horizon of the spirit” (Light on Yoga, 1976). While western medicine may not be on board with the widening of the horizons of the spirit, there are several benefits to inverting.

Inverting your body can have several happy effects:

  • lymphatic drainage from the feet
  • blood returns to the heart
  • lowering of blood pressure (by stimulating the baroreceptors in the neck, the body will lower your blood pressure to compensate)
  • cultivate upper body strength
  • when done properly, cultivates lower body strength
  • change in perspective
  • can be energetically grounding.

For the healthy practitioner, headstand can be a wonderful asana. However, you may wish to avoid inversions if you have:

  • high blood pressure (while your body is very good at regulating the blood pressure in your brain, you may want to be cautious)
  • history of stroke
  • glaucoma, or recent eye surgery
  • cervical spine injury/whiplash
  • hiatal hernia (leaky valve between stomach and esophagus)
  • a bun in the oven (while it’s not intrinsically “bad” to invert, prenatal students can have a much higher blood volume and less stable joints, which can make inversions less than ideal)

Here are five tips to set you up for headstand safely.

1. Don’t use your head

Although it’s called headstand, it’s better to think of the pose as forearm stand. Casually putting a heap of weight on top of your head isn’t a great idea. The cervical spine isn’t meant to be weight bearing (that’s what our feet are for!). When you are starting out, it is better to put your weight in the shoulder girdle through the forearms than weight the top of your head. Keep the weight on the head light. Yes, eventually you may put more weight on the head, but why not use the nice strong muscles of your shoulders, back and chest while you’re starting out? In other words, don’t use your neck! If you have a particularly long neck (making it hard to de-weight your head), then use props to “make” your arms longer. And until you develop the strength to lift your head off the floor, don’t be in any rush to use your head as a key pillar. Practicing dolphin (head off the floor) is an excellent way to build up strength (and hey, it’s an inversion too) and prepare for the full pose.

Headstand, sirsasana

2. Keep the curve of your neck natural

When you place your head on the floor, put the top of the head on the floor (not the forehead or back of the head). Imagine you are right side up and carrying a stack of books on your head. Where would they need to be positioned on your skull to balance? The intervertebral disks of the spine are happiest and best aligned when the cervical spine has a slight lumbar (inward) curve. Since we want to keep the neck happy, keeping this natural curve when adding weight is the way to go.

3. Work the upper back

Since you are bearing weight through the shoulder girdle, the position of the scapula (shoulder blades) on the back is very important. Lift the shoulders up away from the ears and draw the shoulder blades slightly towards each other to widen the collarbones and draw the upper back in. I usually prepare for headstand by training my upper back to move inwardly through backbends such as baby cobra, locust and baby cobra.

4. Go Slow

Headstand is like the grandpa of inversions: slow and dignified. Unlike handstand, it’s not appropriate to kick up exuberantly into headstand. It is a lesson in patience! Instead, go step by step (here’s a video) through the pose and cultivate your abilities over time.

5. My Favorite Cues

  • “Press down through your forearms.” This is my favorite cue (you’ll see I use iterations of this same cue all the time in this pose). This cue will help anchor the foundation, lift the shoulders and de-weight the head and neck.
  • “Lift your upper back in and up.”
  • “Root through your forearms to lift your hips.”
  • “Root through your forearms to lift your shoulders up.”
  • Once up: “Press through your forearms to lift through the legs.”
  • “Squeeze your legs and reach up through the insides of your feet.”
  • “Hug the outer hips in.”
  • Usually, students need help with avoiding a banana shaped torso: “Draw your front ribs in and lengthen your buttocks to your heels.”

Happy Practicing!

Be A Better Teacher Trainer: Say Less

When we are faculty, we think our job is to tell students what we know.

This is a recipe for disaster.

A studio owner recently spoke to me about the problem with this very issues: “One of our faculty – he’s so smart and experienced. But a student asks a question that’s off-topic, and suddenly everyone is going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. The students don’t cover the material that they are supposed to, and they just get confused.”

That faculty member was undoubtedly trying to do a good (answer questions, give details, and share his knowledge). But in fact, he was making what I call, “The Great Mistake.”

The Great Mistake is when we focus on what we say to students, rather than focusing on what the students can actually do. It’s understandable that we would make this mistake. After all, in public yoga classes, our job is to be a “sage on the stage,” holding space and directing the show.

However, in teacher training, your skill often lies in what you don’t say.

Students know far less about your topic of expertise than you; if you inundate them with too much information, they will experience “cognitive overload” and fail to learn.

Here are five tips to keep you on task, and maximize your students’ ability to learn.

1. Know your learning objectives

Learning objective describe specific and measurable learning outcomes. What do you want students to be able to DO at the end of your time with them? Your learning objectives are your north star. Keep the end in mind in order to stay on track and avoid extraneous information.

2. Change your role from sage on the stage to “guide on the side”

Rather than see yourself as the expert, instead re-position your role to one of being a coach. Your work – rather than being about relaying the content that you are teaching, should be refocused on the skills your students can demonstrate. This shift in perspective will help to re-orient you to put the learner at the center. It will also take the pressure of you! With this shift, you don’t have to prove that you are a knowledgeable expert; your focus can remain on the students’ ability to perform.

3. Defer non-relevant topics

Rabbit holes are so tempting! Students will often come up with juicy questions that are not be part of the learning objectives or the flow of the content that you are teaching. Validate the student’s interest, but be relentless about postponing conversations that don’t serve your immediate learning objectives.

  • “Great question, we’re actually going to cover that shortly, so hold tight.”
  • “That’s an excellent conversation to have, and we’ll get there when we discuss ethics next week.”

If the topic is too far afield – or only pertains to that student’s personal interest rather than the class discussion at large – then don’t be shy about holding the boundaries of the class:

  • “That’s an interesting question, but beyond the scope of what we can really discuss today. But I’d be happy to chat with you about that one on one or share some resources with you that you can check out on your own!”

4. Use a question box

One great way to manage questions is to use a question box. A question box in any repository where students can anonymously drop any questions that may have come up for them. Not only is this a great way to defer irrelevant conversations, it also gives students a safe and anonymous place to ask about topics that may seem unclear and can give you a sense if students are understanding the material.

5. Hold questions

If you are trying to manage time effectively during a lecture, then ask students to write down and hold their questions til the end of the session. This will help you get through the material. Often, students find that their question is answered later during the lecture, and that they no longer need to ask the question anyway. You could save space to answer questions yourself at the end of the lecture, put students into group to discuss the “muddiest point” with their peers, or collect all the questions, determine the common themes, and circle back when there is more time.

As a trainer, silence can be golden. Remember, at the end of the day, the success of your training isn’t about what you tell your students; it’s what they can do that counts.