In the 1890s, Swami Vivekananda was the first yogi to tour the Americas and Europe. The free-loving 1960s ushered in renewed interest in the ancient Indian practice, and Dean Ornish, in the 1980s, popularized the healthy yoga movement. Today, yoga has arrived as a standard offering at most gyms, health spas and even cruises!
Yet, as instructors, we know that life is largely about balance. While yoga may have officially arrived on the exercise scene, its increased popularity can sometimes present a problem for yogis and yoginis who take a more spiritual approach to practice; because let’s face it, not everybody wants to be bothered with ancient Indian religions.
Many folks would rather just focus on fitness. And that’s all right! After all, one of the essential aspects of yoga is seva – or service – and as evangelists for yoga, part of our job is listening to what students want and servicing their needs to the best of our ability.
Below are a few quick tips for yoga teachers about how to promote and fill a fitness-focused yoga class.
Visit the Other Side of the Yogic Fence
Do you teach a physically challenging yoga style? Do you know the ins-and-outs of Bikram and Vinyasa yoga? How about Ashtanga – or “power”-yoga? If not, get to class yourself and start learning from a competent fitness yoga teacher. Power yoga teacher training may be the answer. Today’s yoga-as-exercise enthusiasts tend towards the sweat-inducing, quick-moving styles, so study up! Teaching a different style of yoga is a challenge, but you can do it.
Prepare Fitness Yoga Handouts
Once you have mastered a routine and feel comfortable with a gym-friendly school of yoga practice and land yourself a job teaching class, it’s time to do some homework. Gather information about yoga’s health benefits and make hand-outs for after class. In can be a one page sheet and most gyms will have a photocopier available for use. Not only will it give your students a broader picture of yoga’s fitness benefits, but it’s also a way to stand out in the yoga-teaching pack. There may be dozens of instructors at your gym; if you can think of novel ways to connect with members, your attendance will skyrocket.
Sideline the Sanskrit
The gym is where most people first “give yoga a try” – which makes you a defacto yoga ambassador. And an ambassador’s first job is to make others feel welcome. So remember, Sanskrit can be off-putting to beginners. Hey, you’re already asking them to pose and move in “weird” ways, leave the ancient language in the locker-room – at least for intro level classes. As your yoga students advance in level, so will their knowledge of the ancient aspects of practice.