How to include yoga philosophy in your classes without sounding preachy

Yoga teachers: do you sometimes feel blocked when you’re wanting to offer yoga philosophy in your classes?  

Over more than a decade of teaching yoga, I’ve found this is probably the biggest step for yoga teachers - taking that leap of faith to introduce yogic wisdom into your yoga asana class, but without sounding like you’re up on the soapbox.

If you’re anything like me, yoga has opened you up to a deeper connection to your true self.  Personally, it was the knowledge and wisdom of yoga that truly connected me to the practice. 

But how do you translate all that goodness into an actual physical asana class? How do you create the environment for more self inquiry so your students get a taste of just how profound yoga is?

And how much of the essential philosophy of yoga do we need to honour as teachers, while keeping it real for a modern practice?

I often share my personal journey with our teacher trainees. I started yoga at a time when my life looked very different to how it does now. I had a successful business designing and directing events, and as much as I loved the work, I had no real understanding of how to manage the stressors that came with such a fast-paced and high stress career.  In my mid 30’s my health started to unravel, and I knew something needed to change.

Luckily for me, a friend dragged me to a yoga course to learn pranayama and meditation techniques to manage stress. This experience changed my life forever. I still remember vividly a moment four days into the course when the weight of years of accumulated stress suddenly shifted, and sent a massive wave of joyful tears through my whole body. It was a cathartic experience. 

From that point on, I was completely sold on the power of yoga, and wanted to know more. I devoted myself to study and travelled to India as often as I could, and ended up spending several months over the next few years immersed with the traditional teachings with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living ashram.  I loved ashram-life, and mingling with swamis and gurus who expounded their traditional wisdom.  I lapped it all up!  It was transformative time and it invoked in me a passion for learning. 

However when I returned to Sydney I realised that what felt perfect tucked away in an ashram didn’t always comfortably fit into life in Sydney - the demands of a modern city didn’t quite gel with my new, monk-like state.  

Then I met Nicole, and she introduced me to our current meditation teachers, Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine. They had spent nearly five decades studying the traditions of yoga but also had been listening to the experience of everyday yogis and meditators, and the language real people use to describe deep connection and ‘yogic’ states.

I saw a way that I could incorporate all of the brilliant yoga philosophy that had illuminated my yoga journey, while keeping it relevant for modern yogis.

Over the last eight years, together Nicole and I have been refining the ways that yoga teachers can honour the ancient wisdom of yoga, and importantly speak in a language that’s relevant to their students while offering a transformative experience. We’ve developed processes and skills for teachers to use so they can honour a higher purpose in their yoga classes.

Here are three simple steps you can use right away:

1. Start with your own personal connection yoga:  What lights you up? What moves you? What nuggets of wisdom have made a difference in your own life?  

2. Ask the questions: ‘Who am I teaching? What are their aspirations and goals for yoga? What keeps them stuck?  What do they want to change in their life?’ These are the catalysts for ‘how’, ‘what ‘ and most importably ‘why’ you teach.

3. Find the ’sweet spot’ - the place where your knowledge and personal experience meets their dreams, desires and aspirations. Teach from what you know.  Know your students and what they need.

If you’d like to learn the refined subtlety and practical skills to make teaching empowered classes a reality, please join Nicole and I for our Teacher Mentoring Program starting April 3rd. Our passion is to continue to support a strong community of authentic teachers offering real positive change to the community.

We'd love to help you thrive in your teaching!