Have you been on the job hunt for awhile but can’t seem to find that first teaching opportunity? Well yogi, to be honest, it’s just difficult sometimes! Many studios require some sort of experience, and if you don’t yet have that, it’s difficult to convince people to take a chance on you. Subbing is a good way to put yourself out there, but many times your schedule has to be open and you have to be able to teach a last minute yoga class (I’m talking super last minute, like 1 hour prior to a class). Scary, I know! But by agreeing to these subbing opportunities you can set yourself apart from other subs as being reliable, and if the class goes well, those in charge of scheduling will take notice. Here are 3 things to do to be prepared to teach alast minute yoga class.
1. Fill a notebook with sequences for different class types
Power vinyasa, beginner yoga, yin/yang, 90 minute flow, etc. whatever is taught at the studios you frequent, have a sequence ready for each one of those classes. There are some teachers who can make up sequences off of the top of their heads, but if you aren’t that type of teacher you need to always be prepared. When your moment comes to prove your teaching worth you can grab your notebook and know that if all else fails, at least you have a sequence planned!
2. Have playlists ready for that last minute yoga class
If you are a teacher who likes to use music in your classes, make sure you have playlists ready to match the classes taught in your preferred studios. For example, in my phone I have a playlist for morning yoga (acoustic, calming music), an AfroPunk inspired playlist (for evening classes), a playlist with nature sounds (for yin/yang classes), and a playlist with songs that get people excited and pumped to get their workout in for the day (this is reserved for the very intense power vinyasa classes). If you have a playlist to match all of the styles taught at your preferred studios, it’s one less thing you have to be worried about and you can focus on the actual teaching when your opportunity arises to teach a last minute yoga class.
3. Have class add-ons on you at all times
Class add-ons are items that set your classes apart (aside from the teaching). For example, I use essential oils in my classes, which is something many students now know me for. If you are someone who uses add-ons, make sure they are in your purse or car just in case you have to teach a last minute yoga class.
Being a yogi, dancer, and a musician, the union between music and yoga has always been a natural and powerful one.
Music heightens my practice; it leads me to deeper breaths, fuller extensions, and a more focused gaze, all while helping my body soften and open up just a little bit more.
This is why I choose to use music while teaching, and I try to create gentle yoga playlists that will support this enriching experience. I start the music either at the beginning of the class or just after settling in. When the music begins, so does the journey of the class.
Here are 6 tips that have helped me build gentle yoga playlists that inspire my students’ journeys.
1. Discover Your Natural Arc
What natural rhythm or cycle does your class follow? Most of my classes follow the same arc as would a day: waking up, opening up, winding down, resting. I build my gentle yoga playlists around this cycle.* Once you recognize your natural arc, your playlist can become a reflection of that arc.
* If you are creating a playlist for a restorative class, keep in mind that this type of class usually has a steady rhythm throughout. Your music should too.
2. Put Imagery to Each Song
Find images or words that could relate to each song. This can inform the order of the songs in your gentle yoga playlist. For example, some pieces make me feel like the day is dawning and make me think of images of morning light and a warm haze. I will usually place these songs at the beginning of my playlist, as we awaken the body.
Other songs evoke images of rain or night skies. I prefer to place these songs at the end of my class while we’re winding down and/or finding our way to floor poses and savasana.
* Note: Imagery can also be influenced by the tempo. Slower beats are often suited for the beginning or end of a playlist, while up-tempo beats can support the middle portion of class and standing postures.
3. Have One Gentle Yoga Playlist “Go-To”
Have at least one gentle yoga playlist “go-to” for when you find yourself tight for time, or if you have to sub for someone last minute.
4. Have a Playlist Just for Savasana
I recommend having a playlist uniquely for savasana. Fill it with the songs you love.
To me, savasana is like a gift. We are giving a moment to simply be in a state of receptiveness to all that is around and within us. Music can, without a doubt, deepen the experience in this pose.
I usually prefer instrumental pieces with a neutral quality so I don’t impose a feeling on students. Music of this sort allows them to have their own experience and let whatever emerges inside of them come to the surface. That being said, I do keep a few more ‘emotional’ songs that I choose to play when it feels right. For example, I have a special connection to the piece Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt. I danced to it a few weeks before sustaining an injury that changed my life path. Many years later, I heard this song in a yoga class during savasana. It was an incredible moment which was so full of light, and tears of gratitude started streaming down my cheeks as I laid on my mat. It was a true gift.
5. Find Songs You Connected To
Finding music you feel connected to will translate into your teaching and can also inspire you during class. Don’t be shy to be unconventional. Using music you feel connected to, even if not the usual or popular yoga songs, can create magical moments in your classes. Call upon some of those pieces you enjoyed in a movie, during family moments, as a child, etc., and see how it feels to practice to them.
6. Sometimes, Don’t Use Music!
Although I prefer to use music during classes, there are times I may choose not to. Silence can fill the air like a symphony. Also, some studios have their own unique soundscape that replace music. For example, a particular street bustle or natural outside noises can end up serving as a gentle yoga playlist on their own. This is a lovely way to mix it up. Stay open and surprise yourself as a teacher.
Links to Myriam's Playlists:
Myriam's playlists are best suited for gentle flow classes, restorative, and prenatal/postnatal flow. To find out more about creating playlists more suited for power/vinyasa heavy classes, click here.
Myriam Rousseau is a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. After sustaining a serious neck injury during her dancing career, Myriam naturally turned to, and fell in love with yoga. She completed her first YTT in 2010 and has been continuing her training ever since. After giving birth in 2013, she became passionate about teaching prenatal and postnatal yoga. Myriam is also a composer, artist, and blogger. You can hear her yoga music by typing in Hoam (on most music platforms), see her art on her site, and read her thoughts on motherhood and yoga on 10ThingsYogaMama.com.
There’s something you need to face as a yoga teacher. You ready? At some point in your career, there will be a student who gets injured in one of your classes. There, I said it. The truth is, even if you call out the proper way to do a pose and ease students safely into that pose, you could still be held liable for student injuries in your classes. And, did you know that some of these injuries may not have anything to do with the actual asana, but instead, a trip or a fall? Needless to say, thinking about all of this is scary, but it is necessary for it to be on your radar if you want to go teach yoga.
To make these ideas a little less scary, I talked with Dr. Matthew Taylor, a certified yoga therapist and expert witness in yoga safety and injuries (yes, that’s a real thing!), about yoga injuries & teacher liability, and how teachers can protect themselves.
1. Once becoming certified, what is the first thing a teacher should do before they start to look for work?
Find a mentor or get affiliated with an experienced yoga community. Trying to teach without a community for feedback and consultation is a recipe for stagnation and catastrophe. We're all fallible and need additional training and development beyond basic certification. I've been doing this for 20 years and I still have to study/learn/read for many hours each year – and that's with a Masters of Physical Therapy background!
2. Why do yoga teachers need insurance? How do they know which one is right for them?
In the United States, we're a litigious society. Yoga is an activity that by its nature has some risk for injury. In our society, there's a tendency to determine fault when someone is injured. Our justice system is there to provide retribution and/or recovery of loss if necessary. The way we handle that liability/exposure is through insurance. It is relatively inexpensive and protects your personal assets. As far as the specific insurance and how to best protect yourself legally, I’d consult with an insurance salesperson or lawyer.
3. You’re known as a yoga injury expert witness. Can you give examples of the types of cases you have been involved in where the yoga teacher could have avoided the incident?
All of the cases I've been retained for have been needless injuries that could easily have been prevented and not led to legal action if common sense and proper risk management had been employed. I can't disclose specifics, but every single case involved unsafe practice management without oversight, no safety policies or training, and terrible management by the teacher/facility in handling the plaintiff's complaint of injury. For example, doing crow pose on a wood floor while sweating (in an advertised candlelight gentle class), or modified shoulder stand when the student was two months post hernia repair.
4. What about a case example where the teacher did what he/she could to avoid an incident, but he/she was still held liable?
If a teacher is practicing within the standards of the yoga industry and did what he/she could to avoid an incident, and those precautions matched what anyone in the industry would do (and he/she did nothing negligent or illegal), then typically there would be no justification to sue beyond recovery of losses – which is what insurance companies cover. Slips, trips, and falls are part of the business and are covered by policies. The severity of the injury can drive cases, and most yoga injuries are not life or limb threatening, or don’t generate high levels of disability.
5. On your website you have this phrase: "We must work together to make ahimsa the rule, not the exception, in yoga." How can teachers make sure they are more aware of ahimsa while teaching?
As our first yama, ahimsa should be foremost on our minds as teachers. Basically, ignorance isn't bliss. We need to know who we are teaching, what their capacities are, and any vulnerabilities/risk factors that exist. By "exception" I mean studios should train on safety, have policies and procedures in place to reduce risk, and have a plan of action when an incident occurs. Generating a practice culture of non-harming does take time, but it will pay for itself. The clientele sees the care and concern that goes into the entire operation, and that matters because it's these clients who will refer others. In addition, our clients continue to get more frail and vulnerable, especially as the health benefits associated with yoga become more widely known. Those who can offer a smart, safe place to learn yoga will get customers for life.
For a checklist of ways teachers and studio owners can make sure they are prepared in the event of an injury, click the button below.
Dr. Taylor leads training programs and creates resources to incorporate smart, safe yoga for the international yoga community. Smart Safe Yoga fosters intelligent, creative and mindful sources of information and tools for yoga teachers, students, yoga therapists and conventional medical professionals who want to incorporate yoga principles into their practices and studios. His leadership in the field of yoga safety and science has made him an expert in yoga safety and injuries. Personally, he can attribute yoga to both changing his life and easing chronic back pain. His new book will be released in the 2nd quarter 2018 titled Teaching from the Wisdom of Pain: Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response.
Although I've been teaching for a little over a year now, getting to this place didn't come overnight. When I first started subbing yoga classes, I was scared, intimidated, and quite honestly, impressionable.
It's an easy mistake to make when you are new to something and you just want to improve, so you'll take advice from a more experienced instructor - even though you shouldn't always do that....
The first few times I started subbing yoga classes, teachers from the studio attended the class (which was an entirely different ball of nerves to tackle!) After one of the classes, a fellow teacher gave me feedback about my teaching and told me that I should try and teach how the regularly scheduled teacher teaches. This person suggested that I change the way I teach in order to make it consistent for the students. So, being the impressionable, newbie teacher I was, I did it - even to the point of changing the music. Big mistake. The next class I taught was SUPER awkward, it didn’t flow well, the music wasn’t my style, and the students were visibly frustrated. They didn't understand my cues and the sequence was just...a MESS.
It was after this class that I realized if I was going to teach, I would have to do it in my own way. I needed to teach poses that I was extremely familiar with, play music that fit my pace and style of teaching, and teach asanas that I knew inside and out. SURPRISE! It worked. The feedback I got from students was great! Did the classes after my realization go perfectly? Of course not! But most of the students really enjoyed it. I even received compliments from some of the students after the class.
Subbing yoga classes: Stay True to Yourself
So the main take away when subbing yoga classes? Don't follow the path of another teacher and emulate his/her style. If you are subbing a yoga class from someone who teaches with hip-hop music and you prefer more calming music, go with that. If you are subbing a yoga class that is heavy on vinyasa and you tend to hold the poses longer, go with that. As long as you are comfortable teaching, the process will go a lot more smoothly. And bonus, the students will also get to try a new style. And that never hurts anyone!
What mistakes have you made when subbing yoga classes? How did you overcome those mistakes?