How to Teach Yoga Without Demonstrating Every Pose

with Heather Agnew, ERYT-500, Lead Trainer

Watch a 40-minute clip of a yoga coaching discussion on how you can teach a yoga class without demonstrating every pose.

Follow the video, or read a few notes and strategies below.

How to Teach Yoga Without Demonstrating

As a yoga teacher, there may be times when you will find it safer, more comfortable, or more effective to teach without physically demonstrating every pose. So how do you teach a yoga class without doing all the yoga?

This discussion explores a few approaches to teaching yoga without demonstrating every pose, empowering you to create a meaningful and engaging class experience.

First, let’s talk about some of the reasons why you might not want to/be able to demonstrate?

  • Injury, disability, recovery
  • Maybe you are dealing with fatigue, or you are experiencing some repetitive strain if you are teaching a lot of yoga.
  • Perhaps there are certain times of the month you want to demonstrate less due to illness or pain or discomfort.
  • If you are pregnant or recently postnatal and not all poses are safe or comfortable for you to demo.
  • Teaching outdoors or to a large group where they can’t hear you if you are in poses.
  • Wanting to move around the room to offer props and support.
  • Or, you just want to develop other teaching strategies that don’t rely so heavily on demonstrations.

To Begin: Inform Your Students

Before beginning the class, it is advisable to inform your students that you will be demonstrating less than usual. You can simply state, “Today, I will be demonstrating a little less than usual, so stay tuned to my cues.” While it’s not necessary to provide an explanation, this communication helps set the students’ expectations and prepares them for a slightly different teaching approach.

Strategies for Teaching Without Demonstrating:

Physical Cues: Use physical gestures, tapping, and signaling larger movements through smaller motions. For instance, you can use your arms to mimic leg movements and your hands to represent foot positions. These visual cues provide a clear reference for your students to follow.

Semi-Demos: Instead of demonstrating the entire pose, consider demonstrating specific aspects, such as the entrance or initial alignment. Once you have provided guidance, inform your students that you will come out of the pose while they continue to hold it. This method allows students to focus on their own experience while still benefiting from partial demonstrations.

Alternate Props: Incorporate the use of props such as a chair or Swiss ball during your demonstrations. By demonstrating poses using these props, you can showcase modifications and variations that accommodate different needs and abilities, and make accessible yoga more accessible and acceptable.

Demonstrating Awkward or Unfamiliar Poses: While you may reduce overall demonstrations, consider selectively demonstrating poses that are particularly awkward or unfamiliar to your students. Poses like Lion’s Breath or Happy Baby, which may require specific instructions or adjustments, can benefit from a visual demonstration to enhance students’ understanding and comfort level.

Tailoring to Beginners: Recognize that beginners often rely heavily on visual demonstrations to grasp the complexity of poses and flows. When teaching new practitioners, be mindful of offering clear, concise cues and consider increasing your demonstration frequency to support their learning process.

Demonstrating Tricky Poses and Transitions: For complex poses and challenging transitions, demonstrations can play a crucial role in providing clarity and ensuring proper alignment. Employ the “tell-show-do” strategy by verbally explaining the pose, demonstrating it partially or fully, and then guiding the students as they attempt the same sequence.

In Conclusion:

Teaching yoga without demonstrating every pose allows you to explore different teaching strategies and accommodate various circumstances that can arise in your own body/health. By employing alternative techniques such as physical cues, partial demonstrations, prop utilization, and selective showcasing of challenging poses, you can effectively guide your students through their practice.

Remember, effective verbal communication and clear instructions are key to compensating for reduced demonstrations. Embrace these strategies and empower your students to explore their practice without always requiring your physical presence on the mat.

By embracing teaching strategies that minimize physical demonstrations, you can help your students to explore their practice beyond the boundaries of what is visually demonstrated. By nurturing their independence and self-discovery, you create a transformative and empowering yoga experience that transcends the need for constant physical presence on the mat.

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