5. Getting away from instruction [Quick hints for a non-traditional Hot Yoga teacher]

inspire-sumoIn my way of teaching Hot Yoga, getting away from instruction and information toward facilitating Inspiration is an essential ability!

First, let’s clarify the terms:

  • Instruction: how to do asana. (Example: as you exhale, sweep the right arm under the left, hook the elbows tightly, wrists crossed, hands flat together in prayer.)
  • Information: why is it good to do asana. (Example: the benefit of doing the Eagle Pose is in releasing tension from the shoulders and hips.)
  • Inspiration: how doing Yoga may change your life. (Example: as we release tension from our bodies, we achieve a sense of emotional well-being which in turn allows us to realize and pursue the spiritual goals more fully.)

There’s nothing more boring, non-communicative, unsuccessful and nothing less rewarding for the Teacher and their Students than a scripted ‘dialogue’. (The ‘dialogue’ is a term which means that the Yoga Teacher is reciting the same script, or text, in each class).


If a Hot Yoga Teacher is standing in one place – reciting the ‘script’ – not touching / adjusting / encouraging / assisting / keeping company to the Beginners in the back of the room, etc. – then what is the point of having the Teacher, and paying them the salary? As the owner of the studio, I’d rather just play a CD recording of the instructions, and save the payroll. I’m sorry that this sounds so ridiculous, but I’m actually serious and believe this to be a correct statement.

A fully realized, professional, inspiring Hot Yoga Teacher would be able to smoothly and effortlessly incorporate instruction, information AND inspiration into each class.


“Death by dialogue”? I hope not! Let’s close the 3 gaps.

If a ‘traditional’ or ‘ordinary’ Hot Yoga Teacher wanted to become an outstanding, unique, amazing teaching individual, they are facing 3 main gaps that may need to be closed.

A Hot Yoga Teacher who wishes to improve their teaching ability needs to look at the 3 very common gaps.

1. The Technical Gap

A scripted instruction does not allow the Teacher to teach people according to their specific needs, which usually would be unique to each individual.

Please notice that you’re teaching a sequence of yogasanas to a different mix of  individuals each day. Even though the sequence may remain the same (which is more-or-less good for learning asana), the specific modifications, instructions and information (and the ‘inspirational content’) must be offered in a way custom-chosen to what is directly in front of you.


To understand the Technical Gap better, let’s look at a specific example: at your Studio, you’re teaching 2 Hot Yoga classes today: the morning and the evening class. In both classes you are teaching more or less the same sequence for 90 minutes.

Let’s say that in your average evening class in that Studio, there are 20 Students. At least 1 first-time (male) beginner, 4 new beginners , 5 experienced beginners, the remaining 10 students are at an intermediate / advanced / teacher level. 3 people have an injured knee, 2 people an injured shoulder, 2 bad backs, 1 is obese and 1 is pregnant. That’s a half of the students with a special condition (injury or limitation).

In the morning class, there’s a different crowd. You have 12 Students: 10 of them are mid-age intermediate-level females, who come to class each weekday after they dropped their kids of at school; 1 brand-new beginner, and the remaining 1 person is a fellow Yoga teacher, who just popped in for a class. There are no specific injuries, all the ladies present want to loose weight and also want to be in some way ‘inspired’ to realize there’s more to life than a boring husband and 2 kids who drive the mother crazy (am I getting too conversational here?). Okay.

Question: are you telling me it is a good idea and that it works to teach a scripted class, using THE SAME TEXT INSTRUCTION for both groups of Students???

I rest my case. Let’s move on to the next gap.

2. The Motivation Gap

The main reason why Hot Yoga Teachers burn out before they are able to achieve an extraordinary level of competence, is that they speak the same material each class. This kills the “Teacher’s mind” as well as bores the Students to death! The Teacher declines into boredom and apathy. The common myth – we think this gap can be closed by learning to teach a “new” sequence. Ultimately, it cannot be… We close this gap when we teach a material customized to the needs of the bodies, minds and hearts of the people in each class.


3. The Emotional Gap

Speaking FAST in a STRONG energetic pattern inhibits the speaker’s ability to breathe fully. Not only is that physically unhealthy (and bad for your throat) – it kills the “Teacher’s receptive heart”. The shallow, throaty, unfulfilled way of breathing makes us feel as if we’re suffocating – we feel cramped, oppressed, in a state of emergency… Bring that into your teaching (haha!) and see how the Students feel around you… Do I have to explain how important a healthy, deep, slow, abdominal way of breathing is for our emotional well-being??? To breathe well for speaking (and living!) you must… pause!

Warning! The Emotional Gap, when left open, literally breeds impatient, tense, frustrated, confrontational, insecure, close-minded and potentially abusive Hot Yoga Teachers.

To close this gap, we learn to speak slower, in a more meaningful way. We would pause frequently in order to breathe, evaluate, take a sip of water. You’d be surprised how difficult that can be for a regular Hot Yoga Teacher to actually do. If in doubt, try it!


(Generally speaking, in my experience, any Hot Yoga Teacher trained by Bikram or ex-Bikram teacher trainers, will struggle in the “3 gap” areas. There just hasn’t been much development and improvement in the Bikram methodology of teaching adults over the years. I think that’s very sad. Benjamin Lorr wonderfully explains the situation is his book “Hell-bent”, if you’re keen on the subject.)

All 3 ‘gaps’ exist in the terms of knowledge (very likely) and skill (definitely). Gaps in terms of knowledge are closed by understanding. Gaps in terms of skill are closed by teaching practice and feedback on teaching practice.


The Bottom Line

As a Hot Yoga Teacher, you have so much love, peace, wisdom and experience inside from living the life and from your asana practice. Why not take a chance on speaking from the heart in a truthful, helpful and positive way? Customize your instruction to the people in front of you. See your Students as people: body, heart, mind and spirit! If you need help, I can be reached through my teacher training programs and personal sessions.

Now go in peace, and teach. :)


Other related posts:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s