Monday, December 28, 2009

Keeping Class Energized

As one year winds down and we find ourselves on the cusp of a new one, I have been contemplating how to keep my classes fresh and energized. I do believe there is a tendency to not change things up too much for fear of offending regular students or alienating new ones, but yet, that too becomes a samskara (habit).

Over the past month I have been experimenting with some new things; some have been well received, others, meh, not so much but they were good for a chuckle. I should add that my students are very lively and interactive. I like to encourage community and I've seen some beautiful friendships form. People greet each other by name, ask how things are going, and engage in a meaningful way. It's a wonderful thing to watch. But I'm always mindful to make sure the regulars try and engage the newer folks to so we don't become "cliquish".

Here are some things I've done so far:

Musical Mats
I have 5-8 students who always sit in the same spot. The EXACT same spot each session. Then others tend to fill in around them in generally the same area. So I have everyone stand up, pick up their mats, and walk around in a circle to music. Music stops, put down your mat right where you are at. Most folks find this great fun. Most folks...

Reverse Room
Back of the room is now the front. It is very interesting to watch peoples reactions.

"Crazy-Wild Poses"
I toss in a pose every now and then again that is just totally "out there" for my students. Things like Side Crane variation, Fallen Angel, Tripod Headstand (though they are beginning to enjoy this one!). I usually cue it by saying "I'm going to go crazy-wild on you now and we are going to do...". I don't want people to *think* about the pose, but to just *do* the pose wherever they are at.

Rocket Sequence for Ashtanga Sequence
I know Ashtanga traditionalists will be clutching their chests in horror, but as I've mentioned before, I teach what I call Contemporary Ashtanga (it is the traditional Ashtanga sequence, but without the chanting and Sanskrit names). But! Just to liven things up and to see if people are paying attention or if they've shifted into autopilot, I will do Suyra Namaskar A and B then shift to the Standing Sequence of the Rocket series without telling them ahead of time! I do think working outside of the box on occasion is good for body and soul.

Different Music/No music
I confess, I get tired of the ethereal sounds of Deva Premal or the rhythmic chanting of kirtan. So on the occasion I need something different I throw in a little rock music, or Irish Folk Rock (Tempest). A while back Brenda on Grounding Through the Sitbones mentioned Jazz, so I tried a little Michael Buble. That was nice. Or, I go with nothing at all. Just silence. Also a treat in our noisy world.

Technique Week
One of the downsides I find to the Ashtanga sequence or a Vinyasa Flow class is there is really no good way to break down a pose without disrupting the flow of the class. So, based on a request from a student to work on technique, I decided to do a one time a month "technique class". I picked the last week of the month and I let the students know ahead of time so they know it's not a regular session. We go through a half hour of movement, then the last hour is devoted to breaking down a pose, its modifications and working toward individual awareness in alignment (internal alignment). We do the dreaded partner exercises, use the wall and bring out the props.

For myself: workshops
Nothing energizes me more than going to a weekend workshop. It's when I really get to recharge my batteries and I love that I can bring back new things to my classes.

So, my question to my fellow practitioners - teachers and students - what sort of things do you like to keep class fresh and interesting? Or, even, what *hasn't* worked?


Emma said...

hi there,

out of curiosity...never heard of "fallen angel" pose. what's that?



Kristin said...

Hi Emma,

"Fallen Angel" as I know it is a variation on tripod headstand. Head can stay on the floor while you lift one leg skyward while the other stays on the arm or you lift the head off the floor for a challenging balance pose.

There is a small picture here at the center bottom:

Emma said...

that's lovely! thank you!

yogiclarebear said...

love your "mix it up" ideas!

i like to do themed classes every now and then. this year we did surfs up yoga (outdoors), yama-niyama yoga, heart chakra flow, freedom flow (4th of july). its fun for practitioners to see an incorporation of the physical practice into a specific theme, and it helps me deepen my knowledge as a yoga guide.

love the "crazy wild poses!" if i feel the vibe in the room, ill use the cue, "just for fun" or "yoga doesn't have to be so serious" before going into one of my wild crazies. :)

over the holiday, i had a great christmas music playlist, and during the times when more college students are back, i try to play more "college cool" type music like radiohead and sigur ros and animal collective.

i really like your "technique class" idea. i bet it makes the practitioners feel like they are getting a mini workshop or master class!

thanks for sharing your ideas!