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Yoga Class Theme

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 Choosing a Theme

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  • Teachers find themes from any number of topics: yoga philosophy, spiritual principles, adapting to nature's rhythms, and other inspiration drawn from such diverse sources as psychology, psychotherapy, healthcare, athletics, dance, relationships such as parenting and more.
  • If you have yet to decide on a theme, you may be inspired by what you find yourself focusing on in your own life or practice. Are you finding that the practice of letting go of results is helping reduce anxious thoughts, for example?
  • Of course, a key factor in choosing a theme is one's own experience. Teaching only what we have direct experience with will keep the teaching rich and meaningful. Speaking about ideas that we haven't yet worked with and sifted through in our own life tends to sound hollow, trite or preachy.

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Larger Bullet Ideas & Inspiration to Support Theme

  • Distill the teaching down to its essence. While this is typically challenging, it's important that we can summarize the concept concisely.
  • Just as important as being able to be concise is being steeped in the topic to such a degree that we can explain it comfortably, personably and expansively, as appropriate. Our understanding, experience and study of the topic is, of course, fundamental to teaching it. Otherwise, our teaching will lack depth and can sound trite or preachy.
  • For additional ideas or to support your theme, a primary source of guidance is yoga philosophical texts and interpretations. Yoga Teacher Central Members can see Philosophy in Class for a concise overview & history of yoga philosophy including a listing of primary source texts plus some guidelines for incorporating philosophy in class.
  • Yoga Teacher Central members can review summaries gathered from numerous expert sources, including concise and inspirational definitions and quotes, points to help make the topics relevant to students, personal stories from other teachers, and specific suggestions for both on and off the mat applications:
    • bhagavadgita.jpgYoga Is – Inspirational quotes, sutra translations and stories by diverse experts, offering thoughts on the definition of yoga, the purpose of yoga practice and ways of considering yoga asana.
    • Themes – Talking points & quotes to support such themes as Suffering, Courage,Teaching Wise Practice (Breathe Consciously, Engage in Right Effort, Focus on Process, Not Result and Deepen Perception)
    • Poetry – Poems by John Welwood, Rumi, Hafiz, Mary Oliver, Em Claire, Derek Walcott and others.
    • Yoga Philosophy- Quotes, talking points, stories and more on 
      • Yamas & Niyamas – Get inspiration for making the topics relevant. Find quotes & applications for class. Choose a theme of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, energy moderation, non-hoarding, purity, contentment, austerity, study or surrender.
      • Kriya Yoga – Get teaching ideas for a theme of The Yoga of Action (tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana)
      • Koshas – Get background information & teaching points for teaching koshas or for using them as a guide for sequencing or teaching even without directly introducing the concept. Consider aspects of the physical body, energy body, mental & emotional body, wisdom body and bliss body.
      • Chakras – Get summary information and ideas for making chakras relevant to students. Get in-depth talking points and class ideas.
  • If you are not a Yoga Teacher Central member, you may wish to check out these resources:
    • Articles include Teaching the Niyamas in Asana Class & Teaching the Yamas in Asana Class by Aadil Palkhivala, You are Here (koshas) by Shiva Rea & Radical Healing: Yoga with Gary Kraftsow (koshas) by Anna Dubrovsky. (Members: key points from these articles & others are incorporated into Philosophy sections of site.)
    • Books include the original philosophical texts such as the Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, and The Hatha Yoga Pradapika.
    • Rolf Gates offers many accessible stories and quotes related to the Yoga Sutras in Meditations from the Mat.
    • For an in-depth coverage of koshas, check out BKS Iyengar's Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace and Ultimate Freedom (chapters 2 through 6 are entitled Stability-The Physical Body, Vitality-The Energy Body, Clarity-The Mental Body, Wisdom-The Intellectual Body, and Bliss-The Divine Body).

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Larger Bullet Expanding Outward from a Theme Focus

  • concentric_circles.jpegFocus your own practice on applying the topic and noting ideas of how to support students in their practice.
  • Consider elements that support the theme in the beginning, middle, & end of class. Avoid the classic mistake of introducing a concept in the opening and then forgetting about it.
  • Review or write out ideas of how a topic such as nonviolence, contentment or the energy body can be applied in class.
  • Choose key moments in class when application of the theme can be highlighted, such as in the opening meditation, during a long-hold asana, restorative pose or a particular asana or pranayama practice.
  • Choose a quote or statement that supports the theme & note a few times to intersperse it in class. For instance, if the theme is the niyama of santosha (contentment), perhaps you choose the quote, "Santosha is the choice to end our war with reality." (Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat, © 2002, pg 92.) After introducing the quote in class, use it to guide students during meditation and in poses that are challenging physically or mentally, for example.
  • Choose asana, sequences or any and all elements of class based on how they support the chosen theme. A tapas (zeal, austerity) practice, for example, can guide choices of, say, heat-building asana and pranayama or long hold poses.
  • Or apply a theme to an existing sequence. Svadhyaya (study), for instance, can be applied to any aspect of class in the context of the idea, "All learning, all reflection, all contact that helps you to learn more about yourself is svadhyaya." (T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga, © 1995, pg 102)
  • When you've taken some time to consider this expanding focus from your theme, go to Class Elements to note other tools for consideration. Use your Center (both your intention and organizing principle) to select tools that ripple outward into an expanding circle of support.

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