New Online Yoga Teachers: Here's How to Make Your Classes Stand out


During this period of social distancing, it’s no secret that many yoga teachers are moving their classes online in order to stay connected with their students. And while some teachers have taught online classes before, others are creating online content for the first time. 

If you’re in the latter category, it’s important to note that teaching in this format involves a new set of challenges and skills that need to be developed alongside your in-person teaching skills. I address below some of these challenges and provide easy suggestions for overcoming them. You can then start creating successful online content that’s not only engaging from start to finish, but also stands out. 

These tips apply to both livestreamed and prerecorded classes, both of which have their own unique considerations. 

Getting Started: Before Class

We know that learning about our students’ needs before class is always key to making sure we can accommodate them during class. So how do we do this when we’re teaching online and may or may not ever meet these students in real life?

You’ll need to take more steps to make virtual classes feel welcoming, safe, and accessible for your students. This process begins before you open your online studio’s “doors.” 

Tips for Prerecorded Classes

If you’re recording a video to put on YouTube, Yoga International’s platform (through their community partner program), or any other platform, you may not have much interaction with your students before class (or even know who your students are). If this is the case, it’s useful to record a short introduction to the class. In the introduction, you can let students know that you’ll offer variations throughout the practice and invite them to take those options as needed (that said, while planning out your video/sequence, make sure you include plenty of pose options).

You can also talk a bit about yourself and the practice, outlining the potential benefits of the class and why you created it, though keep in mind that students might have a limited time for practice and may be eager to get moving! Keep your intro short and sweet.

Tips for Live Classes

If you’re running live classes, you’ll want to give your students a heads-up through an email blast or other form of personalized communication (after all, if you don’t advertise, people won’t come!). You’ll also want to include background information about yourself and your class.

Why not also send out an online client intake form? This is similar to a form students might fill out when going to a studio for the first time—with specific questions about their goals for the class, their current fitness and energy levels, and any physical concerns or injuries they might have (which will help you choose which props to suggest and include in the class). Also be sure to ask about potential technology needs they may have, such as challenges streaming video, or unfamiliarity with the platform you are using. Even if you’ve worked with these students before, it can still be helpful to send intake forms to learn about their goals for your online class. 

Class Content: Letting Students See the Real You

Are you feeling a little camera shy, and nervous you’ll “mess up”? If we are sharing a class online, we often feel pressure to make the class “perfect.” And that’s understandable. We don’t know how many people will tune in to the class and we want to present our best selves. But I personally appreciate when my mistakes come through the same way they would when I teach in person. If I fumble my words, mess up which side I’m on, or have a technical problem, I try not to sweat it. I make a little joke and move on. 

Remember, especially now during this pandemic, people want real human connection. And for students who normally practice with you in person but can’t right now, it will feel comforting to see the real you. And on a practical note, being consistent with your live, prerecorded, offline offerings will help you build your brand as a teacher.

So when you make a mistake in your prerecorded classes, maybe don’t edit out that mistake. 

Additional Tips for Personalizing Live Classes 

For live classes, I always like to leave a few minutes of buffer at the start of class to chat with students about how they’re doing, and to see if their requests or concerns have shifted at all. This also helps bring a community feel to your classes even though everyone is practicing from their own home. 

Furthermore, if your students are comfortable doing so, you can ask them to turn their videos on so you can watch them as they’re practicing. Instead of walking around the room to check their poses (which you obviously won’t be able to do), at least on platforms like Zoom, you can click on their individual screens to get a closer look at their form. When giving verbal adjustments, especially for subtle movements, be sure to explain, with specific language rather than vague terms, which muscles the student needs to engage. It can also be helpful to explain why the adjustment is needed. For example, in warrior II, you may need to tell your students to “Engage your inner thigh and outer hip muscles to straighten the angle of your front leg in order to strengthen the muscles around your knee.” This can be clearer to your students than saying something like “Track the knee over the ankle.” 

If you sense your student is in discomfort or pain (if you see students fidgeting, looking up at you a lot while in a pose, or unable to stay still in a pose), or if they simply tell you they’re uncomfortable, you can also model what they are doing and then demonstrate in your own body how to adjust it. 

I let students know (usually during that buffer time before class) that they can flag me down during class by waving at their screens. Then I unmute them so that I can hear what isn’t working for their bodies. You may have to pause the class for a minute to hear their concerns and talk through a pose, but stopping to listen to your students is important and makes everyone feel safe. You can use this time as an opportunity to encourage everyone else to take a break.

Additional Tips for Personalizing Prerecorded Classes

As I mentioned above, one way to personalize your prerecorded content is to give a brief introduction at the beginning of class. In addition to letting your students know what to expect, be sure to also let them know who you are and what style of yoga you teach. This intro only needs to be one to two minutes long, but it can help students get to know you and connect with you if they’ve never taken your classes in person. 

You can also record tutorials for your students where you break down common practices and their variations, which can be useful for anyone, especially beginners. For example, because child’s pose can be a challenge for many people, I have a short video I send out to my students that provides both supported (propped) and unsupported variations. As a bonus, this kind of tutorial also saves me from having to demo variations each time I teach a class. That said, it’s still good to give variations for poses in your prerecorded classes, though you may not wish to dedicate as much time to them as you would in a live class (where you can see in real time what your students need). 

Finally, if I’m running a workshop over several weeks, I like to give the option of out-of-class support for the duration of the course. This could be support over email, or a one-on-one video chat for a student who is having trouble with a particular pose or sequence. For a one-off video, you may not want to give the same level of support, but you can still respond to comments and answer questions on YouTube or whichever platform you choose for sharing your content.

After Your Class 

If you choose to check in with your students (which I highly recommend), you can do this in a few ways, depending on the format. If it’s a live class, leave a couple of minutes to chat after class. If you have prerecorded videos, I recommend emailing your students a day or two after sending them the video to see if they got a chance to practice and if they have any questions.

Maintaining contact after class helps you to build an ongoing relationship with your students so you can get to know their needs better and adjust your classes accordingly. In turn, they will hopefully keep coming back for more and share your content with their friends! Seeing what people struggled with during the practice will also help you to guide your classes in the future. 

Remember, You’re Developing Essential Skills!

Finally, while online teaching can never completely replace the connection built in an in-person class, it’s an extremely valuable skill to have right now, and in the future. It not only helps you keep your business flowing during this pandemic, but it also gives people meaningful human connection during social isolation and helps you to hone technology and teaching skills you can use for years to come. 

I hope these tips will serve you as you develop this new skill set. What you build now can allow you to keep sharing your classes (and gifts) with others, and potentially reach far more people than you ever did before.

About the Teacher

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Kayla Kurin
Kayla helps people living with chronic illnesses find relief through yoga. Her goal is to make yoga accessible... Read more