how can writing enhance your yoga teaching?

Writing has been one of the essential ingredients in my own growth as a yoga teacher. Writing is what keeps me inspired, focused & offering intelligent classes that promote progress and learning in my students' practices. Writing encourages me to explore the practice in different ways, sift through my experience and find my own unique voice within that experience.

And you don't just have to be a yoga teacher! Whether you practice on your own, at a studio, or teach, taking time to develop your writing skills is a way to enhance your practice and find a depth that can be felt by you and your students.

Below I explore 5 ways writing specifically enhances yoga teaching skills BUT they can also be applied to you as a student. These include things like language, class planning & more.

Read more below and let me know which ones you find helpful and/or how writing has helped you as a yoga teacher! I'd love to hear your own experience with it or ways you would like to develop your writing. 

5 Ways Writing Will Enhance Your Yoga Teaching

1. Writing helps you find your own, unique flavor of language.

After I attend a yoga class, I immediately write down any verbal cues, assists or modifications I particularly liked. Sometimes I use this as inspiration for new sequences. Other times, my home practice is the source of a new sequence I offer to my students. Either way, I keep a small notebook with me at all times and write down ideas or creative sequences I or another teacher has done. Whenever I hear an alignment cue that helps me get deeper into a posture or that resonates with my body, I make note of that.

Remembering and writing down these cues {whether you came up with it or are taking it from another class} is what helps us craft our own language and step into a style of teaching that feels authentic. If you get really excited about a posture, sequence or verbal cue, use it! There is nothing better than when you sense a teacher's excitement about class. It is also really creative to mix and match different pieces of class into a work of art that feels aligned with what you want to teach. Write down what you are attracted to in yoga classes. You can even have the notebook by your mat if you'd like so you can remember those gems that a teacher offers or write down a move you organically thought of in your home practice. Sit with them, practice them & find creative ways to weave them into your classes. 

This isn't about copying a teacher. It is about using others' cues as a point of inspiration to grow from. I've used cues from other teachers but they always motivate me to explore my own ways of guiding students into postures. 

2. Writing helps you develop themes for your classes.

I like to introduce themes into my yoga classes. If you are a teacher who also likes to offer themes - physical, philosophical or spiritual - writing is crucial for working out those themes in a clear and concise way. Themes add meaning to the physical practice and help students translate what they cultivate on the mat into their day-to-day life. Themes can help students come back to their practice when they face a challenge in their 'real' life. Themes also turn yoga into more than just a physical practice and give students an anchor to help direct them throughout class. Writing helps me articulate a theme that has been forming in my brain. It allows me to skillfully tie a theme into class so I am not confusing people or overly saturating the class with that theme. 

It is worth it to contemplate what specific postures or family of postures mean to you. You can start with the physical (i.e. a backbend) and reflect on what heart openers mean to you spiritually or emotionally. You can also start with the more spiritual theme (i.e. connection) and think about poses that symbolize this theme for you. For example, I could theme a class around backbends and how opening the heart is what creates room for connection with others. From that, I could use Wild Thing (Camatkarasana) as the peak posture and work up to that, weaving in the theme of connection as I teach. Writing helps structure this style of class and allows the theme to unfold in a way that positively impacts your students and their practice.

Important note: This doesn't mean you need to FORCE a theme or have a theme in every single class. If you are not feeling it that day, don't introduce a theme. You have to be feeling it. If you aren't, this could actually be a disservice to your students. Make sure you really believe in your theme and are feeling inspired by it. This kind of authenticity will light you up and then inspire your student. If you aren't into a theme, then go back to the basics. Breath is a beautiful theme to go back to again and again. Or the idea of mindfulness. 

3. Writing makes you a better storyteller.

When I speak with teachers, I often hear that the opening (dharma) talk is the scariest part of class. Ummm...public speaking anyone?! That is scary! Do people want to hear this? Do they care about the theme? Are they getting bored? All these thoughts have run through my head as I am about to open the class and introduce the theme. Two things I always remember: people actually want this deep, heartfelt stuff! And, two, don't ramble on.

As a teacher, it is important to offer these important themes but not go on too long that you lose your students' attention. I like to keep my opening talk/story to no more than three minutes and then I get my students moving. Writing helps me do this. If I have a story or theme I want to tell at the beginning of class, I think it out in my head. Then I say it out loud. Then I write it down. Then I say it a few more times and then time myself. That way, when I get to class and am sitting in front of all my students, I have it down and I feel much more confident when I am speaking.

4. Writing helps calm nerves.

To go off of tip #3, writing can help calm nerves that come with speaking to a full class. If you have written it down and talked it out a bunch, you will not only feel more confident when you speak but you will also not have your eyes glued to the paper. I can't say enough how important it is to create that connection with your students. How important it is to talk with them and look them in the eyes. It builds trust and sets the tone for class. It also reminds students that you are a human and you too are still learning and working with these themes. Humility is a very attractive trait in a yoga teacher and the opening talk is one of the best ways to express to your students that you are not above are with them.

Having a class plan (meaning your sequence is written out) will also help you, in case you lose track. It can save you from pausing for too long as you think of what pose you should put your students into. If you lose your place, you can look at your lesson plan. Think of yourself as a yoga professor. You wouldn't show up to a college class without any plan! As a student, that would make me feel uneasy if a professor was like "hey, I'm just gunna wing it here!" Value yourself as a teacher. You are a yoga educator, after all.

5. Writing gives you an archive of material!

Writing gives you a whole treasure chest of material to work from. You will have an archive of sequences and themes to keep. This is really helpful on days when you feel uninspired or are not sure what to teach. It is also uplifting to look back at your notes and realize how many classes you have taught, how many students you've had the privilege to work with & all of the effort you've put into class. And, believe me, students can tell when a teacher has put thought into their class.

Of course, we don't want to be so strict with planning that we leave no room for spontaneity. We need a balance between the two to have a successful class. But, we want to be the type of teacher who is thoughtful and who has planned in a way that gives your students a valuable, worthwhile experience. They are paying the studio and taking time out of their day to practice with you. And you have so many beautiful gifts to offer them. Writing it out beforehand honors this reciprocal relationship between student & teacher.

Thank you so much for reading this article. Did any of the points particularly resonate with you? I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you liked this piece of writing and are looking forward to receiving more like it, please sign up for my newsletter below.