Strategies for fun and memorable yoga classes

Some things stick with us for life. Great teachers can engage your attention more fully, and package information in a way that can get you to remember it longer. Ultimately some learning experiences are deeper than others and it’s more about what happens at a subconscious level than it is the content itself. But most of what we work hard to learn, we forget. The statistics show the same facts- on average, from within 2-8 years of leaving university, students only remember about 6% of what they studied`. Film director, author, and former prostitute Maya Angelou famously said that; “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. In this article you’ll learn to be the type of teacher that stands out from the crowd by helping people feel really good. These 4 yoga teaching tips based on NLP modeling, are what great communicators use to engender positive learning experiences. Use these in your yoga classes  and your students will remember more, associate good feelings with their learning experience, and even develop a longer term commitment to their practice.

1. Frame your class 

A frame defines what is inside it’s borders, and what is not. When you “frame” a class, you simply begin by greeting, introducing yourself, and defining what the topic of today’s session will be. Self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie advised his trainers to “Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said”. As an example of framing that helps people’s memory, Carnegie got the what part beautifully. Inside the frame you set you can also answer why. “Why” gives us motivation, something to look forwards to- after all, why else should we bother? People want to know that their efforts will be satisfying the values they regard as important.

The interesting thing about people is that we spend most of the time looking for evidence to support our expectations of how we think reality is. If you walk around with a hammer, what you find are nails. If you set the expectation that your class on backward bending is going to improve their energy levels, your students will also look for this evidence, and maybe even create it. The placebo effect is testimony to the power of the mind and the interconnection with the body.

Unfortunately the same phenomenon happens in reverse- teachers with the best of intentions, warning how painful and exhausting the class could possibly be, may be helping to create the very situation they are hoping to protect against. If the frame has been set with dire consequences, the listener may look at unrelated phenomenon and think it’s origin had something to do with you. A negative framing certainly doesn’t bring out the students best and could even act as a post-hypnotic suggestion that results in injury.

How you frame your class can potentially be a powerful positive leverage for well-being and state of mind far further than you think. Use this.

TIP: Before your class, briefly define the content of what is to come and ‘frame’ it as a upcoming positive experience with far reaching effects

2. Look at your students without voices in your head

Have you ever been ‘talked at’ by someone who didn’t notice that you had already stopped listening? They were too wrapped up with themselves to notice that your voice had long ago shifted to a dull “uh huh” and your fingers have started to tap on the table. Don’t be that person. Boring teachers are focused on themselves. Good teachers are focused on the students experience and adjust everything according to the responses they get.

If teaching is a monologue more focused on your pre-set agenda than your students experience, you will be less than charming. It is a mark of being too self-absorbed, which is unfortunately far too commonplace. But it also happens on the road to learning something. With too much focus on “getting it right” you simply don’t have enough spare brain power to notice the world around you. This is also known as ‘consciously competent’- a natural stage in learning where you ‘know that you know’ but can’t seem to trust yourself to act without an extra layer of talking inside your head.

A class is a dialogue even though the other side of the conversation is non-verbal. The focus is not about you- it’s solely and completely about your students experience. This is also how being charming works in day to day conversation. Do you have their attention? The only way you would know is if you care more about the student’s experience than about your own agenda. Are their bodies responding? If not- do something. Do something different. You must be able to register if your students get what you’re talking about, that they understand and are paying attention. If not- you have to change your communication style to keep people alert and having a good time.

While this skill to be aware and skillful simultaneously comes through years of experience you can use this knowledge to your advantage. After we ‘know that we know’ (consciously competent) the next stage is being ‘unconsciously competent’ – being clear, while ‘doing’. But here’s the interesting part- you can actually get to mastery faster by practicing staying clear while you teach. It’s analogous to good listening skill. That means practicing so much that your body understands even more than your cognition. Meditation will help you develop the skill to not talk in your head constantly. So keep up a meditation practice and apply the clarity (not the self-absorption) to your teaching and listening skills.

TIP: Think of good teaching skill as good listening skills- practice remaining “clear” so you don’t talk in your head while you teach. This way you’ll notice more and be able to be more present as a teacher. Trust your abilities, your study, and prior practice to deliver what is needed, based on what reactions you see in the room from moment to moment.

3. Nuance your voice

Charisma has a pattern and it’s easy to learn. When you think back to the times where you were really absorbed in what someone had to say, you might have noticed a good amount of variability in the way they speak. Pauses. Change in tone. Changes in speed and volume-  all make for someone interesting to listen to. Take the same words but deliver it in a monotonous way and your students will start to drift.

Build up your confidence so you pause frequently while teaching, particularly in the middle of sentences. This can be an opportunity to avail of a natural tendency for people to want closure on ideas. If a sentence is left… hanging… the listener has a heightened state of attention and openness until the idea has concluded. It’s referred to as the “Zeigarnik effect”. Named after Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian social scientist who discovered that people remember uncompleted ideas better than completed ones. By not immediately delivering the punch line, the listener has a compulsion to continue listening until the loop is closed mentally. Basically, it keeps your students alert.

TIP: Being interesting and charismatic it’s not only WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it. Put pauses, change the speed and volume of your voice and your students will perk up their attention!

4. Assume they are coming back


Hold in your heart of hearts the ‘assumption’ that your students will come back to class and continue yoga for years and years to come. In doing so, you will naturally use the language that work to influence their future behavior.  ‘When we meet next Wednesday, we’ll be working on handstands’ is a lot more influential on a student’s future attendance than “If you come again…”.

Assuming that your students are coming back helps keep you on your toes when it comes to lesson planning, and reinforces both your responsibility and relationship to your students in an ongoing way. It may also be that one extra bit of influence you can use to help your students keep up a regular practice and establish good habits. In the world of personal change, you will quickly find that the hardest thing for most people is sustaining discipline and commitment, yet it is by far the most important.

TIP: Think long term- Remember to frame your classes in positive ways and that the benefits as well as their practice will continue on long into the future.