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Creating Themes for Yoga Classes

lady doing yoga and smiling.  creating themes for yoga classes - tips for yoga teachers
Photo Credit – Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Creating a theme for a yoga class is one of the best ways of incorporating the true philosophy of yoga into teaching a yoga class.

Creating themes for yoga classes is an essential aspect of creating a well rounded yoga class.

Although we have embraced the practice of yoga in the West much of the time it is still considered a way of keeping fit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course, but sometimes it misses out on the other benefits of a yoga practice.

As a yoga teacher wanting to share the joys of yoga how can you incorporate themes? There are several sources of inspiration you can turn to.

Learn from your own teachers and classes you attend (whether in person or online)

Listen to the words of your own teachers. The words that inspire and whose classes that leave you feeling uplifted and inspired. Use the phrases and ideas that speak to you in your own yoga class planning & teaching. Incorporate your own authentic voice into the themes that inspire you when you use them in your own classes.

The classic yoga text, The Yoga Sutras, and other reading (yoga or otherwise)

You can always find inspiration in the Yoga Sutras. There is a lifetime of learning and inspiration in just this text alone. The first two limbs of the eight limbs of yoga, the yamas & niyamas are full of easy to interpret themes.

The theme of ahimsa, or non harming, can be interpreted in many ways. An obvious interpretation would be to encourage your students to practice the poses without force. Don’t attempt to make that pose happen if your knee joint is in pain or your hamstrings are screaming at you. Don’t allow your ego to be swayed by other students in the room pulling off the full pose. Observe your own body and thought patterns and honor them.

stack of books including teaching yoga beyond the poses with a cup of tea

Other written inspiration options to explore include poetry and quotations from spiritual texts. Poets & authors I love and refer to often are Rumi, Pema Chodron, Shakti Gawain & Julia Cameron

Creating Themes for Yoga Classes

I recently came across a wonderful book all about theming and ideas. Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses is written by two yoga teachers. It is a mixture of book and workbook so that you can develop your ideas in one location.

Broken up in to three parts, part 1 explores how to find your own voice. Being authentic to who you are and your teaching is critical to teaching authentically.

Part 2 is packed full of 54 themes for you to explore including the yamas & niyamas, quotes and other ideas from outside of yoga.

Each theme summarises a little about the theme, quotes or poems that connect to the theme and poses that would work well. There is also a range of suggested phrases that help to incorporate the theme in to the class from beginning to end.

From these theme breakdowns you can start to develop your own from quotes you love or experiences you’ve had. Avoid overwhelm by choosing simple themes that are are succinct and easy to demonstrate through poses.

For example, you can illustrate the theme of ‘opening up to change’ through the use of backbends and open heart poses such as salabhasana (locust), urdhva mukha svanasana and ustrasana (camel). Backbends are good opening poses to reflect this theme.

Part 3 of the book includes a bunch of really useful, blank theme templates for you to use to develop your own notes, ideas and themes for class.

Theme template from the pages of teaching yoga beyond the poses
Theme page template from Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses

Your own experience and personal anecdotes

Observe how your teachers may use a simple personal anecdote or piece of yoga philosophy to weave a theme through a class.

Be sure to make use of your own experiences. Use those small moments of inspiration in your day to day life. Even the simplest experience can be used as a way of illustrating a theme you can incorporate into your class.

Maybe it’s the unexpected kindness from a stranger or the surprising outcome from an event you were dreading. All personal experiences can work as start points for your theme inspiration.

An easy place to harvest ideas is through the use of a gratitude journal or daily journal. The simple things we are grateful for each day can really spark inspiration in your students when incorporated in to a yoga class.

Your teacher training manuals & materials

There is a good chance that a teacher training that you have attended has included materials on yoga philosophy. Take time to re-read those materials and your own notes from the training. There is a good chance that you have jotted down an idea that inspired you at the time and you can now develop a theme from it.

Weaving a theme through your class – a summary

  • The key thing to weaving a theme through one of your classes is to start from a place of authenticity.
  • Your students will recognize when the phrases you are using come from a place of authenticity and personal meaning.
  • Talk about the theme briefly in your class opening.
  • Describe how certain poses or sequences illustrate or reflect the theme.
  • Refer back to your theme through your words as you lead your students through poses and breath work.
  • With gently repetition incorporate your theme throughout the length of the class.
  • On closing the class, wind down and use an inspiring quote or mantra to illustrate the theme further.

With practice and repetition, theming will become easier and second nature to you and your classes will become more engaging and offer more of that yoga value that we, as teachers, strive to share.


Please know that, like many blogs, products featured on yogaskinny sometimes include affiliate links. So if you choose to make a purchase you are helping to support the site because a small commission may be paid. This really helps me with the costs of running my small blog for things such as web hosting, software costs & site maintenance.

Art Journaling for Self Care

open page of art journal for art journaling for self care
“Stay Strong” mixed media art journal page by @maycontainpaper

(materials used above include old book pages, vintage handwriting, PDF download numbers, acrylic paint & Tim Holtz artist tissue & phrases)

Self care has become the big go to phrase of late. And now, in this strange time of Covid, it has become more important than ever.

For me I have really begun to lean on creative outlets as a way of meeting self care needs. One of my favorite ways of creating is through art journaling.

So, what is art journaling and what exactly is an art journal?

Art journaling is a creative way of showing ideas, thoughts and experiences through art. Using collage, mixed media, sketching and words (among other techniques) your art journal is a personal, creative, visual expression of you.

Why to Art Journal

As a yogi, I liken art journaling to a form of meditation. Sitting quietly in front of a page and combining collage with color, words and sketching is calming and brings the focuses the mind.

The purpose of the journal isn’t to create a perfect piece of art in much the same way that forming the perfect yoga pose isn’t the goal. It is the practice of journaling creatively with your own choice of words, color and pattern. As with yoga, it is the journey and not the destination that is key.

For a yogi, it is much like a regular yoga practice. The contrast between the beginning of a yoga practice and the end of a yoga practice. Sitting down to art journal feels like sitting down on your yoga mat and working with words, colors and imagery as you would work through poses.

As a yogi, I liken art journaling to a form of meditation

How to Start

The physical journal itself is not important. Some people work in a planner, others choose to journal in a dedicated sketchbook and others may create their own journal (which is a great self care craft too 😉

yellow art journal page
“I feel so lucky” mixed media art journal page by @maycontainpaper

(materials used above include old book pages, handmade paper, magazine cutouts, handprinted tissue papers, black fine line marker, acrylic paint & Tim Holtz phrases)

Gather Materials

Gather your materials for your art journaling. This does not have to be special equipment. In fact, a quick rummage around your home could easily unearth an old planner and pen. Even one of your children’s discarded exercise books and colored pencils would work. Or maybe a bound note book with a cheap set of acrylic paints is perfect starting point. The weight of the paper or the brand of the pencil isn’t important. Just choose the materials that are to hand and the colors that appeal to you.

Sitting down to art journal feels like sitting down on your yoga mat and working with the words, colors and imagery as you would work through the poses.

You may like to add other paper ephemera and magazine imagery to work in collage. Trying mixing different paint mediums with pencil & chalk or add glitter and stitches. No rules! (you can see some ideas for creating a very simple journal here on yogaskinny)

A quick search on google or instagram of art journaling will bring up a whole swathe of art journal work. Use these as a quick visual resource to inspire you to start. Avoid copying too closely and let your own color choices and marks start you on your journey.

Art journaling is a very personal practice. Your own creative work will always have more depth and meaning than recreating the work of others.

Give it a try and see how meditative art journaling can be and make creativity part of you self care routine.

All of the art journal pages shown here are my own pages from my Instagram account @maycontainpaper

“Choose to see the good stuff” mixed media page by @maycontainpaper

(materials used above include old book pages, magazine cutouts, handprinted tissue papers, black fine line marker, brown packing tape, white paint pen, gold leaf, acrylic paint & Tim Holtz phrases)

Five Really Useful Yoga Books

With schedules changing due to current world events I’ve found myself looking beyond the usual books I refer to on my yoga bookshelf.

This selection of five books is not your usual bundle covering physical poses and sequences. Dip in to yoga asana with props, yoga in day to day life, yoga themes for classes, your yoga business & yoga teacher ethics.

These five really useful yoga books are great options to revisit during stay at home and quarantine days.

The Path to Holistic Health – BKS Iyengar

This is a weighty, hardback book that’s not really easy to tote around in your yoga bag! Ideal for home use – and can be used as a thin yoga block too 😉 Bonus!

With yoga practice and online classes from home it’s a great book to leave open for constant referral at the side of your mat.

I love the huge section of the book that incorporates props. Mr Iyengar’s use of props are critical for a balanced practice enabling you to create the form of the poses with support.

The yoga therapy section is also a great help for sequencing for specific needs, conditions and groups. Sooooo useful.

Living your Yoga – Judith Hanson Lasater

This has always been one of my favorite yoga books. I have a very well used copy and will regularly revisit its pages. Nothing about the poses here but lots about how to incorporate yoga into your life – the whole bigger picture of yoga!

Full of personal anecdotes and presented in a down to earth and easy to read way, this book is a must have reference. You can see my more detailed review of Judith’s book here.

Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses – Sage Rountree & Alexandra Desiato

This is a really useful book. In fact, more of a workbook. I bought my copy to help explore new themes when class planning.

As well as using themes from the Yoga Sutras it also explores other quotes and ideas that can support a theme.

There is inspiration to be found in the simple every day moments that are worth exploring and incorporating into your classes.

At the back of the book there are a bunch of useful theme templates that can be used to develop your own ideas. An asset for any yoga teacher or teaching trainee.

every yogi’s bookshelf needs to make space for these really useful yoga books

yogaskinny

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga – Amy Ippolitti

With the drastic changes in the yoga teaching industry it is crucial to keep a ‘business’ head as we navigate the new normal.

Although some of the teaching scenarios aren’t relevant right at this moment lots of the other content is super relevant. Teaching, marketing, professional relationships, planning & finances are just some of the topics that are all covered in an easy to digest way. You can see a more detailed review of Amy’s book posted here on yogaskinny.

Teaching Yoga – Donna Farhi

I’ve been spending time re-reading Donna Farhi’s book as its focus explores the teacher-student relationship. No yoga sequences or poses to be found here but a well written discussion about the ethics of yoga teaching.

She describes various situations between teacher and student and details ‘ethical inquiries’ as a start point to consider further. It’s a useful read for any yoga teacher wanting to learn more about the teacher/student relationship.

All of these books are worth exploring as part of your own yoga study and practice. Not just focusing on the physical practice but providing an opportunity to nurture your learning, improve your teaching and understand your spiritual connection to this wonderful practice.

As I’m an Amazon affiliate I may receive a small commission for any purchase you make from my blog. However, I do recommend you search for these books through secondhand outlets such as eBay and other sellers. I buy almost all of my yoga books used, have never been disappointed and always save money. win-win!!

7 Useful Tasks for Yoga Teachers to do during COVID19

Useful tasks for yoga teachers and teachers in training to do during the covid19 shutdown

2020 has turned in to a year of unsettling challenge for everyone, including yoga teachers. As a result of Covid19 the global population has had to manage a myriad of changes from personal lifestyle to working life.

Many industries have been impacted heavily and the yoga industry is one of those. As shared spaces such as gyms and yoga studios have had to temporarily close teaching yoga has had to adapt.

Online classes and teaching via the web have become the norm and a way to maintain a teaching schedule. But these changes have also freed us up from time commitment of traveling and managing several teaching slots in different locations. With the stay at home situation we have an opportunity to spend some of this time on other yoga related tasks.

Here is a list of 7 useful tasks for yoga teachers to do during Covid19.

1. Clean your yoga mat

Take the time to cleanse all of your yoga props. Use organic products to clean your mat, blocks and other hard props. It is also a worthwhile laundering blankets and any bolsters or eye pillows that have removable covers.

There are many organic yoga mat cleaners available – take a look at these essential oil yoga mat cleaning products.

2. Review your Mission Statement

As a yoga teacher, defining is one of the most useful tasks you can do. During this time of significant changes take time to review your expectations, career & study plans and offerings. What do you want from your yoga teaching?

Take a look at yogaskinny’s blog post about the importance of your mission statement or click here for a yoga mission statement template available on yogaskinnystudio.

With the stay at home situation we have a chance to work on other yoga related tasks

3. Study

Read those yoga books you have always meant to catch up with or invest is some new areas of the practice. You might want to improve your anatomy understanding, read about a different school of yoga such as Iyengar, or study the Yoga Sutras in more depth

4. Update your Yoga Study Tracker

Becoming a yoga teacher requires constant trainings and workshop participation along with, more recently, online studying. All of these form an important part of our ongoing learning and practice and it is important to document these.

Also, take some time to collate all of the teaching hours you have already completed. This is critical information, particularly if you are working toward Yoga Alliance memberships. Take a look at yogaskinnystudio’s downloadable PDF Study Tracker as a useful tool to keep this information in one place.

yoga study tracker work in progress for yoga teachers & teachers in training
A valuable resource for yoga teachers to keep track of their studies & teaching hours

5. Get Creative

It is well documented how a creative practice, in whatever discipline you enjoy, is a great form of self care. For me, journaling and crafting are my favorite creative practices outside of yoga. Take some time out to pursue you favorite creative pastime.

This could be writing, baking or crafting amongst countless others. If you are interested in creating something to complement your yoga practice take a look here or decorate your own dedicated yoga journal ready for you to document your practice and your thoughts.

Despite the challenges presented to us through this difficult time it is always valuable to look for the positive in a situation

6. Yoga Class Planning

Take some time to organize your class plans or spend time on your mat working on new themes, transitions and sequencing. Adapting to online teaching requires creative solutions for demonstrating and working through poses when yoga teachers cannot be physically standing next to your student. Use a dedicated Yoga Class Planner to create classes for constant referral.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice

Spending more time at home gives us an opportunity to spend more time on the mat. Or does it? If you’re struggling to get in to a routine because of your changes in routine that a look here for some simple tips.

Despite the challenges presented to us through this difficult time it is always valuable to look for the positive in a situation. Regard this change in our lives as an opportunity to offer a new perspective and provide us with helpful tools to deal with it.

Yoga Study Tracker for Yoga Teachers & Trainees

As committed yoga teachers and yoga teachers in training, we will continually invest time in nurturing our learning through yoga trainings, workshops and study. It is important to continue on a learning path and to track our yoga studies.

A critical part of yoga teaching success is the ability to maintain humility and keep the mindset of a yoga student.  Even when we are labeled as the teacher and stand at the front of the yoga room we are still the student.

This is why I developed the Yoga Study Tracker as a way of documenting, logging and keeping track of your study and teaching hours. 

An important document to track your yoga study & teaching for your yoga teaching career

During the course of your yoga career, you will have the opportunity to study and practice with many different teachers from different yoga disciplines. As your teaching and personal practice evolves, so will the areas of practice you are drawn to studying in more depth. 

A study tracker, like your yoga teaching mission statement, is an important document. This is the document that you will constantly update and revise as your learning and teaching career progresses.

You may wish to track continued education unit (CEU) hours for your Yoga Alliance membership. Or, you may want to keep track of your studies and time & financial commitment to your yoga career.

A simple way of keeping track of all of the trainings, workshops, online studies and retreats in which you invest your time, money and energy.

Yoga study comes in many forms. Not just face to face learning but online learning options that are now available to us. It’s so easy to forget or overlook learning experiences that influence our yoga practice and teaching. 

I created this study tracker as a simple way of to log all of the trainings, workshops, online studies and retreats in which you invest your time, money and energy.

It allows you to keep track of your study hours and distinguish those hours that are yoga alliance eligible.

The study tracker allows you to keep track of those that are yoga alliance eligible

It is also a very useful document to refer to when updating your resume and bios. Or for use on your blog or website.  

The study tracker is also a very useful resource for personal information you will need if you are leading workshops and trainings yourself.

The study tracker is a two page document.  The first page details your study and training hours.  The second page is a breakdown of your own teaching hours & yoga related memberships & subscriptions.

Make your study tracker a part of your yoga teaching folder and file with your certificates, mission statement and class plans.

Take a look for yourself on my etsy store, yogaskinnystudio, and get your instantly downloadable study tracker.  A permanent and super useful record of all of your yoga hard work!

(please note – the names of yoga studios and teachers used in the example are fictional! 🙂