How to Teach Basic Yoga

Tracey Kelley
basic yoga

Whether you're just starting out or guiding a class of beginners, knowing how to teach basic yoga is a fundamental part of your instruction.

Getting Started

In her interview with LoveToKnow Yoga, Hala Khouri provided her suggestions for new instructors:

  • Be clear of your intention to teach yoga.
  • Have a firm understanding of Hatha yoga asanas.
  • Use your foundation of classical yoga to help you build a yoga voice.
  • Help students to understand that yoga is more than just the physical practice.

You need to be clear of your intention to teach because it provides a compass for each class. Your comprehension of Hatha yoga postures helps you segue into different styles and modifications that better serve your students. Your study of classical yoga affirms your relationship to yoga and enables you to move forward with confidence to try new ideas and express yourself truly to your students. Finally, expanding your students' relationship with yoga beyond the movements takes the focus off what you're doing at the front of the class and enables them to intensify their journey.

How to Teach Basic Yoga: The Steps

When you understand how to teach basic yoga, you have a touchstone to return to whenever you need it. You can develop a flow sequence that is familiar to your students that also allows you to introduce new postures, breathing techniques, or even a few minutes of meditation.

Take note that basic shouldn't mean boring. Many instructors lose students because the sequence never changes. Even if you're working with foundational postures, develop at least three routines you can rotate for the first few sessions as you and the class members become more comfortable with each other. Then, use the structure of those routines as a framework to expand and incorporate new ideas or respond more readily to the needs of your students.

Each session should include a warm-up, a core program of standing and sitting postures, and a restorative segment. A focus on breath and even a little meditation at the beginning and end of the session sets the intention of the class and cements the work completed in the session.

Basic yoga poses to include in your session include:

  • Cat/Cow
  • Plank
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Child's Pose
  • Cobra or Upward Facing Dog
  • Hero
  • Mountain
  • The Warrior Series
  • A balancing posture such as Tree or Eagle
  • Forward bends, both standing and sitting
  • Cobbler
  • Spinal twists
  • Bridge
  • Savasana

You'll find instructions for these postures in our Yoga Pose Gallery.

Another good way to teach basic yoga is to use a Sun Salutation sequence. Some instructors will lead a class through four-to-six sets of this. It incorporates many of the basic postures above, and can move as fast or slow as needed. This routine would be handy to have as one of your three base sessions.

Get more tips for how to teach basic yoga from our article, Yoga Class Teaching Plan.

Make Good Use of Props

Not every yoga style supports the use of props. However, depending on the dynamics of your basic class, they are a wonderful way for students to maintain proper form and move at a comfortable pace.

  • Blocks help students maintain stability in standing postures and reduce wrist strain.
  • Straps provide an extension for bends and release postures.
  • Bolsters and pillows open up certain areas without discomfort, such as the hips, chest, and back. Some students like to use these items during relaxation and restorative postures as well.

Some students may only use props at first, while others may always need this assistance. The important factor is maintaining form without injury, so always have props available.

Always Focus on Breath

Remember, knowing how to teach basic yoga includes lessons on breath. Every day, we breathe without consciousness, but in yoga, you'll be able to help your students understand breath as a life force. Make sure each session includes breath instruction. Remind your students often during pose transitions to use breath to reach the next level.

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How to Teach Basic Yoga