Creating An Extraordinary Yoga Class Experience

In October of 2019, I attended the Baptiste Power Yoga Instructor Credential Course held at Practice Yoga in Naples, Florida. I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with 31 other Baptiste yogis as we learned how to create an extraordinary (yoga) classroom experience.

Luca Richards was our program facilitator and this is my takeaway from the weekend program. I'm phrasing my writing in the terms of "I" rather than "you".

The degree to which I will be able to connect with my students is proportional to my ability to stay out of my head and come from the awareness that all humans are intrinsically connected and have the same basic needs. Connecting to other people does not come from my thinking. It comes from being present to the other person and listening to understand. Connecting happens outside of me. It happens out there, where the other people are. My awareness of the relatedness I have with people is happening wherever I am, not just when I'm in a yoga studio. Each interaction I have is an opportunity to connect, cultivate a relationship or observe our relatedness.

The concept of "bridges and pathways" was discussed. The example of a bridge was that if I can get my students to understand that the body alignment of heels up and over toes is applicable in crescent lunge, fish, high plank, low plank then I have accomplished something very powerful. A pathway is a new future, not built on the past or my expectations or how I showed up or how other people showed up. A pathway could be workshopping a pose in a new way with props that allows for play and space for what is possible.

As part of this program, I've been asked to teach all 11 sequences and all of the poses inside those sequences. It was explained to us that something gets created and generated by me teaching the sequence and my level of commitment to leading Journey Into Power as it is written. In each of the 11 sequences, each pose has a peak and is made of a beginning, middle and end. The sequence also represents a whole range of motion for the body. The practice of Journey Into Power can be scaled up or down as needed. The scaling is done by adding or subtracting intensity, range of motion or the length of time for practice.

Instructing an effective class begins by me bringing the practice alive in peoples bodies and minds. The level of power I have in the classroom is dictated by how much time it takes me to transform intention into reality in the student's experience in real time. When the intention of each sequence of Journey Into Power is realized, the yogi is left in a renewed experience of power, vitality and freedom.

Class begins by me acknowledging the participants for being there¹, who they are for me², who I am for them³ and what we will be up to on the mat today⁴. An example of this could look like: "Thank you all for making time for yourselves and coming to your mat today¹. You are an inspiration to me by simply showing up². I will be your accountability partner today³ as we focus on core engagement throughout this next 60 minutes of Journey Into Power⁴."

Timing of the Journey Into Power sequence was discussed as we worked through each of the 11 sequences. The key for the Integration sequence was for me to get the students moving. Once I get the physicalness of the practice implanted, what starts to happen is that I'm allowing for the students to have the experience of their practice, an experience of their self. This is an important point so I will restate it another way. The student's experience on their mat is of their self, not of me. Their most powerful experience will be in their body in their practice, not in what I say,  who I quote or what song I might play.

For reference, here is the chart showing the timing for a 60, 75 and 90 minute Journey Into Power class. I also blogged about this timing and a chart that several other yoga teachers have used to guide their teaching.

Journey Into Power Timing607590
Right away I saw how I'd been been leading less effective classes by putting my focus onto what I was saying that I hoped was powerful or insightful. I'd been spending too much time speaking during Integration. By trying to have a unique file name when I uploaded the class recording, (I often record my classes and post them online) I was putting the focus on me and what I wanted from the class. I now number each Journey Into Power class sequentially (rather than have an preconceived idea for a class title before class starts). This frees me up to teach from the Baptiste methodology and speak to what is happening in the room in real time.

I made a list of guidelines from this program in the form of do instead of do not and in my own words.

Effective Instruction of the Journey Into Power in a Baptiste Power Yoga Class
  • Have a clear purpose for playing music if you do play music
  • Build in active rest and recovery into a beginners class
  • Keep beginner students in the vinyasa, allow them to have their experience (whatever that is)
  • Use essential language. Movement > body part > direction
  • Teach to the middle-strongest students and up. Their energy will empower newer students in the room.
  • Offer a challenge to your students by giving them space to take themselves to their edge (whatever that looks like for them from moment to moment)
  • Teach from Journey Into Power as written
  • During Integration, get the students moving
  • Be with the students in the room and keep the energy moving forward.
  • Allow for flow in Awakening by removing obstructions to movement
  • Organize the students mats with the more experienced students at the front of the room (newer students learn by creating shapes with their bodies)
  • Maintain safe practice space between students mats front to back (a minimum spacing of 12 inches)
  • Reestablish drishti, ujjayi and foundation in the Grounding sequence
  • Establish trust with your students by giving them a clear measure of how many repetitions or breaths will occur for each pose.
  • Count sequentially with the end number first, then count up 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Switch sides on the second to last number as the transition between sides
  • Room lights are on and delivery strong through Opening sequence
  • Leave people in the experience of themselves
  • In a 75 minute class there is time for one alignment demonstration
  • In a 90 minute class there is time for introducing 2 alignment demonstrations (two minutes max)
  • When sealing the practice, acknowledge your students after the three OMs are complete and all the students' eyes are open. This is an opportunity for connectedness, acknowledge them and make eye contact.
  • Ask if a teacher is open to receiving feedback
    • Make your feedback winnable (something concrete that can be modified)
    • Avoid the keep / stop / start style of feedback and focus on "Is it winnable?"

Scaling Journey Into Power
       Get the students moving
       No holds of poses in Sun Salutations in a 60 min JIP
       Always allow 5 breaths in downward facing dog in each Sun A and between each Sun B
       Scale up/down lengths of holds and breaths in twists
       In 90 min JIP possible alignment demonstration here
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      In 90 min JIP possible alignment demonstration here
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      Could add Hero's Pose between Camel if desired in 90 min JIP
      Scale repetitions for 75 or 90 min JIP
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      5 breaths per pose. This is where the restorative part of the sequence occurs
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      Quiet - stillness

It was said that the best place to learn new skills and knowledge is inside of where you'll be applying it - in real situations. That being said, I agree with this and I would highly recommend you take the Baptiste Power Yoga Instructor Course if it happening nearby. Reading this blog post of my thoughts is no substitute for spending a weekend in the work with several dozen other Baptiste yogis!  ❤️

The best headband for hot yoga

This is not a paid advertisement, I just love Manda Bees headbands. If you're like me, the wispy hairs that don't stay put when you're sweating your face off in a hot yoga class drive you absolutely crazy when you're trying to keep your drishti on point and stay cool in the face of a long Warrior Two hold.

I've purchased a few different colors/styles of Manda bees headbands and they're all super cute, stay put and do not pull your hair or give you a headache. They're 100% what they say. No rolling up, no slipping, no pulling and no headaches. It just stays put!

If you've been using those strips of elastic to hold your hair wisps back - switch up your hair management to something that supports a small business entrepreneur and lets you choose from basically a thousand colors and patterns. Everything from basic antimicrobial black to rainbow mermaid scales and they even make extra wide headbands if that's your jam.

40 Days To Personal Revolution

I'm currently enrolled in an online 40 Days To Personal Revolution facilitator training. As part of the 40 Days program, participants are provided recordings to practice yoga at home if they cannot make it to the studio and recordings to use for the meditation practice of the program.

I recorded these meditations to align with the themes of the 40 Days To Personal Revolution and I hope that they will be of use to others who are leading or participating in a 40 Days program.

40 Days To Personal Revolution Week 1 Presence
40 Days To Personal Revolution Week 2 Vitality
40 Days To Personal Revolution Week 3 Equanimity
40 Days To Personal Revolution Week 4 Restoration
40 Days To Personal Revolution Week 5 Centering
40 Days To Personal Revolution Week 6 Triumph

These are also on my YouTube page as well as in all the places you find podcasts online.

Inspired Signage - Baptiste Power Yoga

Some months ago I came across this post on Facebook about the artwork of Scott Froschauer. I got inspired based upon the artwork of his I saw and made some stickers via Sticker Mule which have a decidedly Baptiste Yoga spin on them. Some of them are pictured above, the best of them I've uploaded to Flickr as PNG files so that you can use them as you see fit.

Inspired Signage

I also uploaded the other Baptiste Yoga artwork I've made into this Flickr photo album. Click through to see all of the images in each of these Flickr albums!

Baptiste Yoga

Baptiste Journey Into Power Yoga Sequence Timing With Clock Face Chart

Recently I saw this posting in a Facebook group for Certified Baptiste teachers. First off, this is David's first post to the group and my reaction was along the lines of "WHY HAVE I NOT SEEN THIS AS A TOOL UNTIL TODAY??" What an amazing first post!!!! When I thought it couldn't get any better, Brittany posted a video of a version of the timing tool she'd gotten from a friend who was part of the Fit To Lead program. The beginning of the Journey Into Power timing clock is designed to be rotated to wherever the class start time is!!

Then as if that wasn't enough, Alice posted her clock face charts for 75 and 90 minute JIP class timing! Her clock face timing didn't include the Release portion of JIP so I took the liberty of taking a minute here and there from the other portions of JIP to give some time to Release. It's a portion of JIP I often find myself "not having enough time for".

I took these various clock face timing tools and re-created them in Photoshop so that if you want to make your own rotating clock timing tool, you can! These JIP timing "clock faces" can be printed on transparent film (either for laser jet printers or ink jet printers), cut to fit the clock face blank (below) and secure them together with a paper fastener in the middle of the clock. Then you can spin the class start time to any point on the clock face! Of course this is a guideline for JIP. Teach to what is happening in the room, but this clock face may help you strengthen your skill of knowing how much time is still available to you and your students.

60 Minute Journey Into Power

75 Minute Journey Into Power
90 Minute Journey Into Power

Blank Clock Face
60 Minute Journey Into Power on Clock Face
Now with YouTube video showing how it can look if you print these images on transparency film!

Journey Into Power Timing 60 75 90
OPENING 8 8 10
DEEP REST 6 8 10

-updated Nov 2019 after attending the weekend course: Baptiste Power Yoga Teacher Course.