Creating An Extraordinary Yoga Class Experience

6:10 PM 0 Comments A+ a-


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
INTEGRATION222
AWAKENING81012
VITALITY5810
EQUANIMITY558
GROUNDING588
IGNITING8810
STABILITY355
OPENING8810
RELEASE555
REJUVENATION5810
DEEP REST6810
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.
Feedback
  • 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
INTEGRATION
       Get the students moving
AWAKENING
       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
VITALITY
       Scale up/down lengths of holds and breaths in twists
       In 90 min JIP possible alignment demonstration here
EQUANIMITY
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      In 90 min JIP possible alignment demonstration here
GROUNDING
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
IGNITING
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
      Could add Hero's Pose between Camel if desired in 90 min JIP
STABILITY
      Scale repetitions for 75 or 90 min JIP
OPENING
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
RELEASE
      5 breaths per pose. This is where the restorative part of the sequence occurs
REJUVENATION
      Scale length of holds for 75 or 90 min JIP
DEEP REST
      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!  ❤️