To plan or not to plan your yoga classes?
After over two decades of teaching yoga, I am still planning my classes. Having a solid class plan makes me feel so much more relaxed, calm, and prepared.
And, I tend to teach better in most cases when I have a plan.
During this period of teaching online, where I haven’t been able to see students as well as in person, planning class has been imperative since I can no longer rely on “teaching to what I’m seeing.”
Most teachers I’ve talked to plan their classes the day or two before teaching – this approach often comes across as a kind of potpourri of topics over time, with no cohesion from class to class or month to month.
While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, what if you were able to structure your classes for a month of learning? This would be like building a curriculum for your regulars. In the digital production world, we call this “content mapping.”
When you have a curriculum or a content map, you can take your students on a journey that builds from one point to a peak and as a result, they often come back to class repeatedly to take part in the progression. Planning in this way, far in advance, will help increase student retention while enhancing their learning process – so it’s a win-win!
Here are some ideas on how to structure a curriculum for a month’s time:
Set a goal for the month of learning
Ask yourself what the main objective is for your students to receive this month.
Is it reaching a peak pose like full wheel or firefly pose?
Is it a feeling such as living with ease, achieving real happiness, or letting go?
Or is it to bask in a certain type of asana like heart openers or inversions?
Make a list of all the class dates for the month
Once you know the goal, list out all the classes for the month either in a notebook, on a whiteboard, or in a project management software. The list will be determined by your teaching schedule and will serve as your map for the month. For example, if you teach Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same studio or for yourself online, map out all of those classes for the month.
Your list might start something like:
Tuesday, [Date] 10:00am – Flow – Studio X
Tuesday, [Date] 12:00pm – Flow – Studio Y
Wednesday, [Date] 1:30pm – Restorative – Digital
Thursday, [Date] 10:00am – Flow – Studio X
Thursday, [Date] 5:00pm – Flow – Studio Z
Friday, [Date] 4:00pm – Happy Hour Flow – Digital
Sunday, [Date] 9:00am – Meditation – Studio Y
Break it down!
Now that you have your goal and your map, determine what baby steps are needed to get to the goal in the number of classes you have on your map. You don’t have to plan every class just yet, but make sure each class has a working title and a concept behind it.
For example, if you are building to a peak pose like full wheel, you’ll want to teach:
- Basic alignment of the shoulders at first
- Opening the muscles of the chest in foundational poses
- Opening the front hip flexors
- Putting it all together in more basic backbends
- Finally, break down the actual peak pose and counterposes in the final classes
If you’re working on more of a feeling or a theme, you might contemplate various aspects of that theme for yourself and then write up a plan for each class on different ways of looking at that theme.
For example, if your theme is “living with ease,” you might break it down like this:
- Introduction to the concept
- Dig into the challenges we face trying to live with ease, and how we might navigate that,
- Explore yet another way of inviting ease into our lives
Fill in the details
Now that you have a framework of what is happening when, fill in the details for each class. In other words, plan the individual classes down to the title, the theme, the actions you want to focus on in the body, the sequence, and even research quotes you might want to share to illustrate the theme.
Give yourself plenty of time over the course of a couple of weeks to fill in your map. You may need to get on your mat for a test run, and journal and contemplate to make the concepts your own. You can even leave a notebook near your mat for a few days so that during each practice you can try out the concept, take notes, and then add to the map.
Run it by someone you trust
Now that you have a framework for your curriculum, run the progression by a trusted friend, loved one, or colleague. Share the vision you have with them and get their feedback to help you tweak your map, or be affirmed that you’re on the right track!
Share with your students
Before you teach for the month, let your students know ahead of time that the upcoming month has a vision, a theme, and an objective so they get pumped about showing up for class this month. They may even tell their friends!
Enjoy the freedom to just show up and teach!
As a yoga teacher, there’s nothing more ease-ful than the confidence that comes with knowing what you’re doing before you teach! That’s what content mapping and planning can do for you. The work upfront may seem daunting, but I promise you it’s worth every second!