Know Your Audience

This applies to so many things, for example while telling a story it should be altered slightly differently if the listeners are your near and dear friends, or say, your new boyfriend’s parents. That’s obvious, isn’t it?

This little colloquialism is also very applicable to yoga teachers. It’s a good piece of advice for new teachers who just finished their intensive 200hr training and it’s a nice reminder to teachers who have been teaching for years, because it always rings true.

Know Your Students’ Levels

Generally, at least. You can’t walk around before your class starts and ask new students to define their ability level – that’s way too much pressure for a student and will cause ego damage, because nobody wants to say that they’re a beginner in a room full of intermediates or hand-standing-advanced students. Which is silly, because at one point we’re all beginners, but for some reason there’s an embarrassment that comes along with being new to something and therefore not as “good” as others (read more of my thoughts on this here.)

Another way to say it is – don’t teach a dynamic series of non-stop standing balancing to a beginners’ class, unless you’ve prepared them well for it in the first 40 minutes of class. Don’t even teach something like that to a mixed level class in which just one or two of the students are beginners.

Why? Well, my two primary reasons are alignment and ego. Fist, and most importantly – the alignment. It takes time and practice to get alignment of yoga poses well enough that you can  move quickly from one to the other with proper alignment. Even a basic pose like Virabhadrasan II (Warrior II) could take a whole year to learn the full-body techniques of where to align the bones and how to tone the right muscles, what to do with the pelvic floor, ribs, chin, the list goes on. So, if you rush a class with students who are not familiar enough with the alignment to do poses without you meticulously telling them everything, then be careful. Overtime poor alignment can lead to joint damage, or if their joints are already weak then they could possibly even injure themselves during the flow, during your class.

The ego comes into play when you as the teacher, whom has practiced years and years, blows through the sequence with ease and to full capability, and the student in their mind feels down for not being able to look and do the same. Of course not all students will think like that, but some will, and they might not come back to your class if they leave feeling worse than when they arrived. People are sensitive and compare themselves to each other; this happens a lot in yoga classes. It’s good to remember this as a teacher.

Teaching

Get a Feel for Which Level of Spirituality is Appropriate

We all know that yoga is about more than body movement, unlike other “workouts,” yoga involves breath synchronization with each individual movement and usually has some level of body and mind union. This might mean a theme of gratitude in a class, or it could go further to include a lesson from Shiva, Hanuman, or the Buddha.

To some students it may be too much to hear about the destructive, dancing Shiva. Or, say

20160307_213008for example if you line up a class venue at a church, it’s probably best not to teach lessons from Hinduism or Buddhism. For me it’s second nature to teach my classes in English and Sanskrit, saying each pose in Sanskrit so that my students learn the pose names, but I gauge who I’m teaching and sometimes stick to just English. Something to not only keep in mind for students of different belief backgrounds, but also for levels. If I teach a group of beginners I explain why I use Sanskrit and where it comes from, something I will try to do even more after reading this insightful article on cultural appropriation and yoga.

 

Themes of nature and the environment are other themes that I like to incorporate as it is a strongly felt passion that I have; to take care of the waters and land, and as part of that stewardship, to spread knowledge about how and why with others. Put into a word it can be called activism. I consider myself an environmentalist (which can have negative connotations depending on which political party you’re talking to, so changing the label to say that I’m a nature level is more appropriate depending on who’s reading this.) It’s a good idea to create classes with themes like these that are more appropriate for all. Also, as mentioned before, gratitude, mindfulness, and grounding are other great class themes.

 

When designing a class, keep in mind who your expected audience will be. Plan appropriate poses, themes, and language and be prepared to have to change it all last minute. Being a yoga teacher requires being flexible in more ways than one; know your audience, as best you can predict.

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Yoga Teachers – 4 Tips to Giving Better Adjustments

As a forever student I love going to a yoga class and receiving adjustments. There are times when you’re in a pose and you feel like you’re doing it pretty well and then suddenly a teacher smoothly places their hand on your hip, giving a little pressure, and – ahhhh… so that’s how it’s supposed to feel – totally different. For many students, it’s a primary reason for going to a yoga class when they could just as easily do a quick YouTube search at home.

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As a teacher, adjusting is a practice, like the asana practice. It requires constant studying, observing, and testing of the adjustments. You must go into an adjustment full of confidence, or your student will sense your hesitation and it will be less effective for them.

Flow

On top of teacher trainings, weekend workshops, and reading articles, here are 4 basic tips to remember when adjusting your students.

 

  • CONFIDENCE It’s so important that I’m saying it again – You must go into an adjustment full of confidence. This may take time if you’re new to teaching or new to an adjustment, so practice is required. But no matter how shy of a person you are, when giving an adjustment in class, you must do it with 100% confidence.

 

  • BE FIRM This is a teaching point that I will never forget from my first teacher trainer – Kimberly Waugh of Radiant Life Yoga School. She wisely taught me to adjust with a firm grip as opposed to a feeble, too-gentle touch. This circles around to confidence again, and also keeps the creepiness level down to zero.

 

  • MOVE WITH THE BREATH This is a technique that, surprise, surprise requires yet again more hands on practice. Remember your knowledge of the asanas and apply it to adjustments, i.e. Exhale as you guide a student into a deeper twist and have them do the same, verbally guide them by saying, “Inhale deeply… now take a deep exhale.” as they exhale, you guide them a little deeper in the twist, going only to their comfort limit.

 

  • TEACH It’s all fine and well to make a student feel better in a pose, but it’s even better to get them to understand why they  are feeling better. This way they can improve their home practice, and they’ll be grateful to you and will return again and again to your classes to keep learning.

 

Just like your asana practice, keep practicing hands-on-adjustments of students and you’ll be doing it like a pro in no time.Besides learning from workshops practice on people that you’re comfortable with at first, like a sibling, partner, or best friend and ask them for their honest feedback then take the adjustment into the studio. Happy adjusting!

 

 

 

Yoga Barn Panglao – Guest Teaching Volunteer Program – An Interview with Barbara & Steve

My most recent post was about my experience guest teaching at the Yoga Barn Panglao, which is located on the utopian island of Panglao, Philippines. I am so impressed with the way that the guest teaching program is run that I decided to ask a few questions of the barn to get a better understanding.

I am a teacher who daydreams about teaching in paradises all over the world and might even want to run my own studio one day, so I was curious to learn more about their guest teaching program. Barbara and Steve warmly replied to my questions, so for your benefit and mine, I provide their answers below regarding their unique volunteer program.

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Barbara & Steve of the Yoga Barn Panglao


 

KBY (Kara Bemis Yoga): Where did the idea originate to freely host guest teachers?

YBP (Yoga Barn Panglao): One of my teachers taught me about the importance of non-attachment. When it comes to asanas we all have our preference for a style or particular teacher. For the good and growth of my regular students I love to give them the chance to practice with different teaching styles.

It’s also great to see teachers used to working in big city studios getting inspired all over again by the beauty and magic of the Barn itself. There are two types of non-resident teacher programs at the Barn.

The Guest Volunteer is for experienced teachers who are here for a short time and just want to share their skills and passion for a class or two.

The Intern Volunteer is a program aimed at freshly certified teachers who feel they need more practice or are a little shy about leading class or perhaps they just need some experience for their CV [resume]. For them we offer coaching, support and guidance and the chance to use a great space. For the new teachers as well as us here at the Barn it’s all about sharing, deepening our knowledge and teachings skills.

KBY: How does it benefit the barn, the community, and the two of you as managers?

YBP: These kind of programs take a lot of commitment from Steve and I [Barbara], but we really love to see our local community growing and getting a wider understanding of what Yoga really is about, and for us, we improve the business with the help of the volunteers, plus we get to meet some awesome people!

KBY: Who qualifies to guest teach?

YBP: Anyone who is an experienced Yoga or Meditation teacher, dedicated, passionate and wants to share can volunteer as a Guest Teacher. The volunteer intern [program] is open to those who have just finished their YTT or those who have been out of teaching for a while.

KBY: What is expected of a guest teacher and what is the general exchange for them?

YBP: From my own experience as a traveling yoga teacher, I learned that a flexible mind is more useful than a flexible body when it comes to teaching students of different levels, nationalities and attitudes! Guest teachers learn from the experience of serving, teaching and sharing and they get to do all of this surrounded by nature on a beautiful tropical island.

KBY: What’s the best way for an interested, certified yoga teacher to contact you and what sort of information should they provide?

YBP: Contact us before hand; we will want to know about you, about your experience, what you hope to gain from your time with us and how we can help each other.

Contact: info@yogabarn-panglao.com


 

If you are a certified yoga teacher who would like to keep your skills sharp while traveling, maybe looking to travel on a budget, and are willing to exchange your teachings for yoga classes, then guest teaching is perfect for you. Whatever your reason, you’re sure to leave with a new anecdote to tell your friends and family about that time that you taught yoga in the middle of a Filipino forest.

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Pure magic

Yoga Barn Panglao – Guest Teaching Experience

It has been a goal of mine to teach internationally after leaving my longterm home of South Korea. This idea of mine is nothing serious, I don’t expect to become a big name teacher, nor do I want to, but I do have a desire to use networks of teachers and social media to find teaching jobs here and there while I travel. I want to do this to keep my skills sharp and to experience different kinds of studios, and meet new students.

But where to start? It’s a daunting task to reach out to strangers and ask if you can teach for them. Who am I to them? I often think that I’m just a small fish in a little pond, but I’m now preparing to swim upstream and test bigger waters.

Of course you start with google searches, which is what I did before my recent trip to the Philippines, and I was happily surprised to stumble upon Yoga Barn Panglao, a picturesque studio set in nature on the island of Panglao, Philippines. It’s not uncommon to find yoga studios on tropical islands, but what is really unique is to find a studio with managers that openly accept guest teachers, and that’s just what I found at the barn.

Through my google search I discovered a tab on their website entitled Volunteering. I clicked on the page to find an outline of the opportunity they have for guest teachers to share their teachings in exchange for classes. This was exactly what I was looking for!  What was exceptionally perfect for me was the final description that read: No minimum volunteering time is necessary, key to my 10 day visit over the holidays.

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Teaching back “home” in Busan.

Emails were exchanged with the kind Barbara of the Yoga Barn Panglao and she instructed me to speak in person with their interim teacher who was holding down the fort for a month while Barabara and her partner, Steve, returned home for the holidays. Once I arrived on the beautiful island of Panglao, I attended the first class I could and met their substitute teacher, Emilie, my resume in hand, and we worked out a  teaching slot for me. It was perfect. I was instructed on how to manage things for my Wednesday sunset class: where to turn on the lights and fans, where the props were kept, and as for signing in students, Emilie met me there and took care of that.

The class itself was great. I was able to experience teaching a set of entirely new students and took on the responsibility of making them comfortable, confident, and safe. The second story platform studio is well equipped with mats and props, and I was even thoughtfully left with natural insect repellent for myself and students. And don’t forget that location! It was a dream come true to be able to lead a class in such a serene  setting surrounded by the sounds of crickets and shimmering, shining stars.

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Yoga Barn Panglao

The prior correspondence with Barbara was an experience in and of itself, as I felt the waters out of the bigger yoga world, polished my resume, and shifted into a warm, yet professional exchange. Barbara did a great job of melting away any and all of that business-like coldness and we were able to communicate openly and comfortably via email before my visit to the island.

If you get the special opportunity to visit Panglao as a yoga teacher, I highly suggest that you contact the kind people of the Yoga Barn Panglao and start a conversation about guest teaching. They’re warm, friendly, open and professional. And for you as a teacher you will get the rare opportunity to teach in the paradise of Panglao, growing your resume all the while.


 

Yoga Barn Panglao, How to Get There:

You could walk from Alona beach, but it will take at least 30 minutes or more. A cheaper and more comfortable option is to take a habul-habul, or motorbike taxi there. The first time I took a habul-habul the driver didn’t know where the barn was, so make sure t0 screenshot the image of the map on their facebook page to show the driver, or have them ask a local how to get there. It should cost about 25PHP from Alona beach.

Address: Bolod, Poroc 3, 6340 Panglao Island, Bohol, The Philippines