Need some ideas for class? Here are some themes I’ve used over the years organized in categories:
Some of the most enduring philosophy can be found in Patanjali Yoga Sutras. You can use just one shloka like “Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah” and read five different translations of this important philosophy. One of my favorite translations is; “yoga is the cessation of the vibration that creates thought.” I love the Bhagavad-Gita, there are entire chapters on meditation, The yoga of action, the yoga of devotion, the Gunas, and the field and its Knower. You could spend an entire class exploring the meaning and practical application of one translation. If you haven’t spent time in contemplation with these texts, opt for something simple like one of the five Yamas ~Ahimsa. Ahimsa translates as compassion/non-violence and one can effortless discuss how we observe this in our relationship to others, to travel, to money, to food, to health, and technology. The more you practice sharing philosophy, the better you become. Seek out teachers who share orally and you will learn the nuances of the “pause,” tonality and relevance. This is such a rich area for theming. For yin yoga, the Dao philosophy is full of great knowledge and Buddhist ideas suit these classes well.
Stories are how Yogic knowledge has been transmitted for thousands of years. I learned the stories of Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Hanuman and other deities orally. There are some great resources for this, including the Mantra & Vedic Story classes and oral story-tellers. Buddhist stories are also excellent because they are short and can create a deep contemplation in your students. Try Heart Wisdom podcast with Jack Kornfield. You can share other teachers’ interpretation of stories. Your own story can be an excellent source, as long as it is resolved emotionally for you and it’s not about “how amazing you are.” You can even share Indigenous stories, if you’ve been given permission by the Nation or territory that it is from. If you don’t know the Indigenous stories of your territory, find out. In BC, Canada, there is a book called “Daughters of Copperwoman.” Or a well-known North American author, Richard Wagamese’s One Drum on Audible is illuminating. Make sure to honour the source of your stories as proper citation demonstrates both integrity and honour for the teachers before us.
Knowing your meridians takes time. Try one at a time for a while to get comfortable. You can use the Doa Taiji symbol aka yin/yang theory to ignite energetic presence in a pose. Bernie Clark’s Guide to Yin Yoga has an extensive meridian section. Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama was the original meridian collaborator with Paul Grilley. To note: Sometimes using visualization of a meridian line can bring as much health as the physical posture itself. Due to skeletal variation, it is unlikely that everyone will gain the benefit of the targeted meridian line in one pose. So it’s good to re-target that meridian in different poses.
Since yin is a relatively “new” and unique form of Yoga, you can share the three principles of yin, or the physical, energetic, mental and spiritual benefits of practice, as well as the history and the founders of yin. Did you know that yin has roots in Kung-fu? You can share the most conducive types breath for meditation. Teaching students why they do yin and the power of this quiet practice can fill many classes!
Even if Anatomy is not your forte, yin is a great modality to share about the new fascia science, what are ligaments and tendons and what tissues are being effected by long passive holds. There is so much discussion about how long a hold should be, types of fascia, the subtleties of the stress and stretch spectrum in fascia, how yin benefits athletes, seniors and the average range of student. If you don’t feel confident, start with something simple. What are musculoskeletal tissues? How are the organs, digestion, the diaphragm, and nervous system affected by yin? Don’t forget a good theme leaves room for silence. A technique I picked up from Bernie Clark is to talk a bit more at the beginning of a class and slowly reduce the verbiage to help students find a meditative experience gently. You can also talk about the benefits of yin mentally. The anatomy of consciousness, you can describe the various states and if possible, how we arrive there. Yoga anatomy books such as Bernie Clark’s Your Body Your Yoga is great. Or if you want a more clinical Fascia expert, try Robert Schleip. Also, mind-body connection books such as The Body Keeps Score is very useful for content.
The atmosphere of comfortable silence can be an art to create. You can start by not talking for one minute and then increase it to five minutes. Be mindful in how you create this silent space. If your mind is swirling, you’ll need to practice meditation to create a calm atmosphere. You can talk about “holding space” or help create silence within by encouraging students to listen to their heartbeat or feel the air on their skin. You can use any of the five senses to create a more mindful experience. Sharing and teaching how to be with silence or how to cultivate a sense of Beingness can create internal spaciousness in which the nervous system can rest. Bringing students’ awareness to their innermost Being can be a profound theme.
Sometimes I use quotes from Kahlil Gibran, Thich Naht Hahn, Rumi, Hafiz, Brene Brown, Echkart Tolle, and Maya Angelou… You can theme a class around a certain area of the body and associated seven common chakras. You can talk about other energetic philosophies such as the Koshas or the Nadi channels. Sometimes I work with the season or if it is a special calendar day. For example, Valentines day can be about loving yourself or your body. A gratitude theme is a great starting place. I feel it is an ethical imperative to offer social justice theming however, be mindful in your approach as it will require thoughtfulness and compassion as one of the aims of Yoga is to bring rest to the nervous system.
Theming is not only a creative outlet for me but it is a place to share the deeper dimensions of Yoga. There are endless possibilities. If you are having trouble, my advice is to become curious, read or listen more ~ even the newspaper or popular music can give you ideas. Look through your yin manuals and books, read the Dao of Pooh, listen to podcasts. Find what interest you personally and see if you can share that curiosity with others.
Yoga Teaching is a practice of studentship so practice and you will see your themes grow and your confidence bloom.
I took yin yoga training twice for the joy of learning from different perspectives ~ Here’s the next yin training date.