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Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast – Episode 15

15: Introducing yoga philosophy in to your yoga asana classes

Introducing philosophy in to your asana classes can be overwhelming, how do you do it? When? Should you say the Sanskrit? What if you can never remember the Sanskrit? What if you get emotional speaking about a concept that has changed your life?

There are so many things that can potentially hold us back, and so I want to take some that are really common, and break them down, and in doing that, if you feel more confident to bring even a touch of philosophy in to your asana classes, well that is just brill.
In this episode we’ll look at:

  • The benefits to you as a teacher, to bringing philosophy in to your classes
  • The benefits yo your yogis
  • Philosophical concepts and themes that are potentially easier, more accessible to integrate in to your classes to help to get you in to the swing of it

So, take a few quiet minutes for yourself, and let’s get cracking!

As always, we would love to know what you think of the Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast, do leave an honest review if you can, or drop us a message @yogahero_teachers

Listen to ‘Introducing yoga philosophy in to your asana classes‘ where you get your podcasts:

Thank you, and happy listening!

Inspirations for introducing yoga philosophy in to your asana classes

Hali Schwartz

Read Hali’s book ‘One without a second’ or visit haliyog.com

Episode list for Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast

Episode 43: Should yoga teachers care about money?

Episode 42: Should yoga teachers demo while teaching?

Episode 41: Should yoga teachers use Sanskrit?

Episode 40: The business of teaching Yoga Nidra

Episode 39: How to develop a consistent Yoga Nidra practice (even with a busy life)

Episode 38: A Yoga Nidra for yoga teachers

Episode 37: Yoga Nidra: The art of sleeping to wake up

Episode 36:: How I Became a Full-Time Yoga Teacher

Episode 35: How to Become a Full-Time Yoga Teacher

Episode 34: Balancing having a job and teaching yoga

Episode 33: Balancing Parenting and Teaching Yoga

Episode 32: How to teach yoga workshops

Episode 31: How much to charge for your yoga classes

Episode 30: How to create your yoga brand

Episode 29: How to layer your asana classes with yoga philosophy

Episode 28: What’s your WHY as a yoga teacher

Episode 27: Setting up your own classes as a yoga teacher

Episode 26: How would you teach yoga if you weren’t afraid?

Episode 25: Do I need a yoga brand?

Episode 24: Tips for new yoga teachers

Episode 23: Define who you are as a yoga teacher

Episode 22: Yoga adjustments: Some important considerations

Episode 21: Tips for teaching yoga beginners

Episode 20: The joys of being a yoga teacher

Episode 19: Overcome imposter syndrome as a yoga teacher

Episode 18: Create your social media calendar

Episode 17: A complete guide to sequencing yoga classes

Episode 16: Do you need to teach a new yoga sequence each week?

Episode 15: Introducing yoga philosophy in to your asana classes

Transcript for Introducing yoga philosophy to your asana classes

Hello, and welcome to our Yoga Hero Teachers podcast. This podcast has been created to help yoga teachers teach with passion, avoid burn out and earn a fair living.

Teaching yoga with passion means taking the parts of this life-changing, vast practice that light you up, and sharing them with people who want or need them. I believe you shouldn’t try to teach everyone everything, I think that leads to burn out. If you’re called to share the philosophy of yoga, to share yoga beyond the asana, then great… But introducing philosophy in to your asana classes can be overwhelming, how do you do it? When? Should you say the Sanskrit? What if you can never remember the Sanskrit? Or, what if you get emotional speaking about a concept that has changed your life?

There are so many things that can potentially hold us back, and so I want to take some that are really common, and break them down, and in doing that, if you feel more confident to bring even a touch of philosophy in to your asana classes, well that is just brill.

In this episode we’ll look at:

  • The benefits to you as a teacher, to bringing philosophy in to your classes
  • the benefits yo your yogis
  • Philosophical concepts and themes that are potentially easier, more accessible to integrate in to your classes to help to get you in to the swing of it

In a future episode, we’ll look at practical tips to bringing philosophy in to your classes, so stay tuned for that.
Here we go!

Benefits to you as a yoga teacher

Takes your classes up a level.

As more new yoga teachers get their certificate every day, we all need to keep working on ways to keep our teachings progressing.
When you first qualify, you’re a Flow teacher, or an Ashtanga teacher, or a Hatha teacher. Then, you start to learn more about anatomy, about philosophy, about sequencing, about the nervous system… and the classes that you teach, reflect that deepening learning, which will further define who you are as a yoga teacher, helping the yogis who want and need what you teach, find you.

Keeps you honest

As yoga teachers, we know that the work is one done when we’re liberated. Until then, there’s lots to do. Introducing philosophy in to your classes keeps you humble, honest, and keeps you aware of the work that there is to do, over the course of the rest of this lifetime, and in future lifetimes, too, if that’s what you believe!

Helps you in your own life!

Do you ever have that feeling where you realise that something just happened would have enraged the old you, but the newer yogi you, just wasn’t bothered, was completely unaffected? Well this can keep happening, your life, your mental state, can keep improving with more learning.

Benefits to your yogis

There’s an argument that if you’re only teaching asana, are you really teaching yoga? Really? Well I don’t want to get in to that now. I firmly believe that we need to meet people where they are, which includes what they’re ready to be exposed to, but, it’s absolutely clear as a crystal that yoga is more than just asana.

It could change their life.
I’m sure, in part, you became a yoga teacher because you wanted to help people. You found so much incredible benefit from the practice that you felt a calling to share it. I know the principle of renounce the fruits changed my life. All of yoga has changed my life, but that’s really the bit that’s had the biggest impact on me. I use it for everything from what if the meal I’d been dreaming about isn’t available right through to giving birth, right through to how I run my business.

It could just help them find a touch more peace
Ok so it might not be the ‘you’ve changed my life!’ that you might be hoping for, but if you can help your yogis make peace with a friendship ending, or a job changing, or their body changing, that really is amazing, and could be enough.

It could actually help in their asana practice
How often do you see people straining in your classes? You know that they have challenging, stressful jobs, they rush to yoga, they’re late, or nearly late, and when they are on the mat, they’re trying SO hard to do the best pose that they can do! What if you can help them find stability, easefulness, comfort, permission to ease off a bit, this might even spill in to their life and effort off the yoga mat.

Things to bear in mind

Doesn’t HAVE to be life changing, you can just ignite the spark.

Give them a guide as to how to practically apply it in their life. For example, if you bring the concept of Santosha; contentment, cheerfulness, gratitude, you could ask your yogis to bring to mind something that’s troubling them in their life right now, and search in that to find something that they’re grateful for, within that situation.
Use your own life as inspiration, but it’s not about you.

There’s a real authenticity in sharing what’s affected you, and when you do, it’s clear that you’re sharing learnings from your heart. You don’t have to describe the entire situation, or use names or dates, you can say, ‘something once happened with a friend, and I was so hurt… but then I remembered this concept and it really helped me cope, so I’d love to teach you a bit more about that today, maybe it’ll help you one day too.’ 

Remember, repetition is the mother of learning. You don’t have to come up with a new concept, theme, word or scripture each week. It could actually be more powerful to revisit the same idea for a few weeks in a row, maybe coming at it from a different angle, or asking people to introspect as to how they feel about the concept after the new week that they’ve just had.

Philosophical concepts you can weave in to your classes, and how

Ok so be super duper mega clear here, I am not intending to be prescriptive here at all. I can’t imagine there’s a wrong way to bring philosophy in to your classes, so if you have an idea and I don’t cover it, that’s not in any way because its wrong. I just want to take a lot of the worry, and guess work out of this, to make it as doable as possible.
Here’s just a couple of ideas, to get your cogs turning!

Yamas and Niyamas

As well as being an absolute gift for guidance as to how to live for more peace, the yamas and niyamas are absolute gifts for asana classes, such as, for example:

Ahimsa – non-harm
Introduce this at the beginning of your class, while your yogis are in Savansa, or Balasana, or Tadasana, or seated meditation, or somewhere else. You could ask them where they are particularly hard on themselves in their lives; at work? In terms of fitness? in relationships? Stress that there’s no need to judge, or even to change anything; but just be aware. And then keep that awareness as you start to move, ask your yogis – can you feel yourself pushing to extremes? For this one class today, can you pull back from the edge and practice well within your comfort zone – how does that feel? Of course, practicing like this all the time wouldn’t cause any self improvement, but it’s all about balance!

You could also create a class, or a workshop working up to something like Bakasana, Crow Pose; introducing ahimsa at he beginning, and asking people to stay present, are they overly pushing themselves because they want the outcome, they want the result? Can they practice with non-harm at the front and centre of each breath, each asana?

Svadyaya – self-study
This is great for a slower class where there really is the time to think. Svadyaya is shining a light on us; on our thoughts, words and physical deeds; many of which are unconscious, and examining these, but without judgement. Can your yogis be aware of how they speak to themselves in asanas that they find less challenging, then more challenging, and does this reflect how they speak to themselves in life (most likely – yes). 

So, to summarise, introducing philosophy in to your classes can be an extra, amazing layer, but if it ever doesn’t quite feel right, you can trust that the yoga itself will do the work. You can guide someone in to their body and out of their head, and leave the rest to just happen.
We’ll soon take a look at practical tips for weaving philosophy in to your classes, so stay tuned for that!

As ever, I hope this has been useful to you – we’d love to know how you’re finding these episodes, and if they’ve been helpful. Please do let me know by emailing hello@yogahero.co.uk or sending a DM to @yogahero_teachers on instagram.

And, as always, happy teaching.