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Authoring My Yoga Class

Posted on May 13, 2012 by in Blog | 0 comments

Catherine In Headstand, Instructed by Lillah Schwarz

It sounds somewhat silly to say but being a natural intuitive I have always taught my yoga classes intuitively.

Oftentimes, driving on the way to the class, I will say a prayer and ask for guidance. I will see, hear or simply know general guidance about what it is that I am supposed to do.

When I get to class, I usually ask my students to say their name, describe how they are feeling in their mind or body and ask them what they want out of the class. If it is a large class or I know they are whiners, I won’t ask, I will just do.

 

But based on what they say or what I intuit, I compose my class on the spot.

 

Sometimes what we do is super challenging. Other classes are completely restorative. I personally never get bored and I have students who have studied with me all 16 years I have been teaching. Usually people sign up and stay for years. I have never taught the same class twice, even if we have common elements and common themes.

 

To me, this is not difficult.

I have practiced yoga since I was 34 years old (19 years) and taught yoga for 16 years. I grok it. The yoga poses are very well integrated into my mind and body. I know what they feel like. I have practiced enough to know what their effects are.

 

To me, it’s like one of my favorite songs, “I’ve Got The Music In Me.”

 

I have got yoga in me.

 

I take it with me where ever I go. I have practiced yoga on backpacking trips, setting up a tarp in the woods. I have book shelves full of tons of books with pictures, directions, lesson plans and the like, and generally I never read them. I can visualize the poses without needing to resort to any books.

 

For many years, I devoured books on yoga philosophy. I read all about it, found it all endlessly fascinating.

 

Then there came a point where I just wanted to do yoga, not read about it. I do believe that when people DO yoga that they get ALL the philosophy just by the sheer act of practicing, even if they don’t view themselves as philosophers.

 

So it has been a challenging thing for me to be in Lillah Schwarz’s 500 hour yoga teacher training program in Asheville, North Carolina, and suddenly have to write out – eek! – lesson plans!!!!

 

Now that I am actually writing out lesson plans I have no idea why, in all my previous five full-length teacher training programs, they didn’t insist that I do the same thing. This is like sliding by a Ph.D. program without a thesis. Somehow, up to now, I just got away with it.

 

I have several students who are professional teachers. One of them is the principal for the Atlanta Speech School. We all have a good laugh these days when I bring out one of my new-fangled lesson plans, as if I am a beginning teacher.

 

My students respect that I am always doing my best to improve my work.

 

To me, to be on a quest of never-ending self improvement in my career is part of what gives me my edge.

 

Once you think you know it all, you are lost.

 

To be endlessly fascinated, endlessly puzzled, curious, excited, challenged – this to me is what it takes to be truly great. To be at the top of your game, tear that game apart, rethink it, put it back together – this is how you get to your next edge. To search out people who are much better than me and to sit at their feet with my mouth zipped keeping my brain open, this is true brilliance.

 

In Zen Buddhism, this is what is called cultivating a beginner’s mind.

 

When I signed up for Lillah’s program, initially I just signed up for her 200 hour beginner teacher training. I figured that I had never taught Iyengar yoga before and wanted to start from the beginning.

 

After my first weekend, Lillah invited me – well, shall we even call it that, more like explained that this was the way it was going to be – into the 500 hour training for teachers who have had more experience.

 

“I don’t know anything,” I protested.

 

“We shall see how little you know,” Lillah responded.

 

So here I am, hunched with bad posture over Yoga: The Iyengar Way, picking through the poses and writing out actual lesson plans. I write my classes and then practice the sequence that I have written to see how it feels.

 

To me, yoga is all about how it feels.

 

I can absolutely kick your butt, however at the end and even during the class you will become more and more and more and more relaxed, even while I am absolutely kicking your butt and giving you the best workout you have had all week.

 

This is my general thought, up to now, about teaching.

 

So here are a few of my new lesson plans.

 

If you practice yoga or teach yoga, please steal all this information and make it your own. You can give me your own grade (A, B, C or whatever). Just send me an email and let me know how you think I did. The thing is, just do it. No doubt Lillah will tear these plans apart and make me an even better teacher.

 

In the meanwhile, have fun doing your yoga! Namaste, and all that. We are all one, endlessly practicing and endlessly evolving in our practices.

 

Theme Class – Trikonasana

 

1- Traction twist

2 – Supta Padangusthasana –

-Strap leg up

-Strap leg to the side

-Strap leg across the body

3 – Surya Nasmaskara – sun salutes

4 – Parighasana – Gate pose

5 — Virabhadrasana II

6- Utthita Parsvakonasana – Extended side angle

 

7- Utthita Trikonasana –

With Arm up to ceiling

With top arm making shoulder circles

With hand tucked in lower back or to the opposite thigh

With arm extended at an angle over the ear

 

8 – Partner work in triangle –

Partner B puts foot in crease of hip, pulling person A into a greater hip opening

Repeat other side

Change partners, do both sides

Back to back triangles – partners put their backs together, coming into triangle

 

9-Utthita Trikonsana into Ardha Chandrasana –

Linking triangle to half moon pose

 

10 – Maricyasana III – Sage twist

 

11 – Gomukasana – Cow’s head pose

 

12 – Savasana

 

Theme Class Sarvangasana – Shoulderstand

 

Vipariti Karani – (Legs against the wall pose) – 7 minutes

Legs straight up the wall 7 minutes

Hip stretch variations on the wall – put legs in no. 4 position, sliding opposite leg down the wall – repeat other side – 1 minute each side

feet in Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)

 

Setu Bandha (Bridge)

– Pelvic lifts 1 minute

With block or yoga egg between feet – hold 1 minute

Loop yoga strap and tie a belt just above the elbows to keep them in – hold 1 minute

 

Surya Namaskar – 2 sun salutes

Chest stretches using a looped yoga strap

Hold strap behind hips, lift up to chest stretch

Hold strap over head, lift up to stretch latissimus dorsi

Hold strap in front of body, pull apart to open the chest

Sarvangasana on chair with bolster under shoulders – Hold 5 to 10 minutes

Halasana (Plow) with feet on chair – Hold 3 to 5 minutes

Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) with blankets – shoulders and arms on blankets, head on the floor

tie belt just above the elbows to keep them in – hold 1-2 minutes

repeat without the belt –

One leg straight over head to floor, repeat other side

Supta Konasana – legs wide to floor

back to legs straight

Karnapidasana – (Ear to knee pose) keeping blankets

Sarvangasana to Setu Bandha

Halasana (Plow pose) continuing to use the blankets

Matsyasana (Fish pose) lying on yoga eggs

Savasana

 

Theme Class – Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)

 

Matsyasana on yoga eggs (Supported fish) 7 minutes

2 sun salutes – Surya Namaskar

Bharadvajasana on chair (Seated chair twist) – holding block between the knees

Maricyasana Standing with foot on chair (Standing chair twist)

2 sun salutes – Surya Namaskar

Vajrasana (Diamond Pose) sitting on eggs

Twist Right

Twist Left

Supta Virasana with blanket under knees

leaning back on hands

coming back to elbows

reaching arms overhead, lying down

come back to elbows

leaning back on hands

Urhdva Dhanurasana (Wheel) using a chair

Urdhva Dhanurasana using blocks against the wall

Urdhva Dhanurasana coming from the floor

Rest, knees to chest pose

Rest knees to right – Jathara Parivartanasana

Rest knees to left – Jathara Parivartanasana

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Leg Lowering)

Savasana

 

Theme Class – Parivrtta Parsvakonasana – Revolved Side Angle Pose

 

Two sun salutes – Surya Namaskar

Tadasana to Uttanasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Mountain to Forward Fold to Down Dog) to

Long lunge, arms overhead – hold 5 breaths to

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) – hold 5 breaths to

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) – hold 5 breaths to

Rotate foot back to long lunge, arms overhead – hold 5 breaths to –

Long lunge with prayer twist – hold 5 breaths to –

Long lunge with arm across the front foot, arms straight – hold 5 breaths to –

Rotate back foot to 45 degrees, continue holding arms – 5 breaths to –

Parivrtta Parsvakonasna (Revolved Side Angle Pose)- hold 5 breaths

to REST in Balasana (Child’s Pose) 10 breaths to Adho Mukha Savanasana (Down Dog)

Repeat other side

to REST in Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Vajrasana (Diamond Pose) seated on yoga eggs

Twist to Right, hold 1 minute

Twist to Left, hold 1 minute

Two sun salutes – Surya Namaskar

Tadasana to Uttanasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Mountain to Forward Fold to Down Dog) to

Utthia Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) hold 5 breaths to

Rotate foot back to long lunge, arms overhead – hold 5 breaths to –

Long lunge with prayer twist – hold 5 breaths to –

Long lunge with arm across the front foot, arms straight – hold 5 breaths to –

Rotate back foot to 45 degrees, continue holding arms – 5 breaths to –

Parivrtta Parsvakonasna (Revolved Side Angle Pose)- hold 5 breaths

to REST in Balasana (Child’s Pose) 10 breaths to Adho Mukha Savanasana (Down Dog)

Repeat other side

to REST in Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Dandasana (Staff pose)

Maricyasana III

Closed twist (turning in to the center of the body) Hold 1 minute each side

Open twist (turning away from the center of the body) Hold 1 minute each side

Dandasana

2 sun salutes Surya Namaskar

Tadasana to Uttanasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Mountain to Forward Fold to Down Dog) to

Parivrtta Parsvakonasna (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Rest in Matsyasana lying on yoga eggs (Supported fish)

Savasana

 

Theme Class – Pascimottanasana – Seated Forward Fold

 

Traction twist

Supta Padangusthasana with yoga strap (Lying leg stretches)

Leg up

Leg side

Leg across the body

2 sun salutes – surya namaskar

Baddha Konasana with arms stretched overhead (Butterfly)

Janu Sirsasana (Head to knee pose) with legs angled to side

Paripurna Navasana (Upward facing boat pose)

Dandasana – (Staff pose)

Krauncasana (Heron Pose) with strap on ball of foot

Upavista Konasana (Seated angle wide leg pose)

Pascimottanasana (Seated forward fold)

Seated on the edge of a chair, leaning forward keeping low back arched 30-35 degrees (in neutral spine) with strap around balls of feet

Sitting on a bolster, leaning forward keeping low back in neutral spine 30-35 degrees

On floor, sitting on edge of blanket with straps around feet keeping low back in neutral spine 30-35 degrees

Maricyasana I (Sage twist)

Baddha Konasana lying on the floor (Goddess pose)

Savasana

 

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