Photo by Elly Fairytale

Explore the Foundations of Teaching a Yoga Class

Teaching your first yoga class can be a really daunting task and while you will cover the basics of how to teach a class and spend some time practicing. There is no substitute for the real thing.  So, as you begin your journey to teaching your first class we have compiled the most important things to think about before diving in. 

Having a great Yoga instructor can be a make-or-break element for a first-time Yogi. So finding your voice and becoming a Yoga instructor that Yogi’s continue to come back to is integral to being successful in this industry.  

Finding your voice 

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching your first yoga class is finding your voice. Commanding a group of people and being the voice of reason in front of a large group of people is a difficult task even for the most outgoing of people. Finding that confidence is integral to your journey as a Yoga instructor. 

There can be a number of ways that you can practice developing your voice. Firstly make sure that you are clear and project your voice. There’s nothing worse than having to be asked to repeat your instructions by a Yogi in class.  Be confident in what you’re saying. You should be very comfortable with all of the poses in the class.  So trust your knowledge and deliver your instructions with confidence

You should also practice as you preach, regulating your breathing is an important task to delivering your class. The tendency can be to forget to breathe if your nerves are high, so don’t forget this important part of life. 

New Yoga teachers can also tend to mimic their yoga instructors in how they speak and manage a class and while that is ok for the first few classes. It is important to have your own stamp on things and find your own voice. The good thing is if you are flowing down this path with practice and as you become more comfortable and your voice will come.  So, don’t fret too much about it. 

Practice makes perfect 

Like all things in life. You will only get better at things through repetition. Before your first class, you can get some vital practice by teaching friends or family members. Even practicing the flow of the class in front of a mirror should put you in good standing for your first class.

We advise that once you have your first class under your belt is to try and teach the same class as often as possible in the first few weeks. Making a few incremental changes as you go along. This consistency will help you become comfortable at the top of the class.

Plan out the class

For first-time yoga instructors, it’s important to have a clear plan for the structure of the class. As you progress and get more classes under your belt the sequence and tempo of a class will become natural, but at the start be prepared. You’ll also be more comfortable having a more ad hoc approach to classes as you progress.  

Depending on the type of yoga class that you are teaching the structure and sequence can change, but here is a solid foundation that will work for most types of yoga classes. 


The beginning of the class should be started with a segment of centering. By centering we mean getting the mind and body in unison. By focusing on your breath and your practice it really does put you in the best place to have a great practice. So, getting the Yogi’s in the right mindset will help the practice flow and make sure that everyone is zoned in on the practice.  Even over Zoom.  

A great way to get students in the mindset is to get them to find a supported or relaxing pose that will put their minds at ease. Some great poses to get students tuned into their mind and body are a cat/cow pose, corpse pose (which is usually done at the beginning of class but can be used to set the tone for the class), and child’s pose which is a great pose to throw in the mix. 

Ideally, you will work for all muscle groups with a focus on the major muscles that you will be leveraged at the peak of the class. So if you’re doing headstands you should be focusing on the neck, shoulders, and arms. For general warmup poses for a Vinyasa flow class we would recommend starting with cat/cow, spinal twists, and movements that will get the body warm. This part of the class should be around 10- 15 minutes long. 

Main Sequence 

This should be around 20 mins long and they should be focused on the most complex poses of the class if you’re following a peak pose sequencing. Typically in a Vinyasa flow or power yoga class, the main sequence will be focused on standing and balancing poses such as lunges, side angle poses and warrior poses to build some heat in the body. It’s important when sequencing your class that you define the peak pose. The preceding poses should be building towards this pose.

Cool down 

The next stage of the sequence should be slowly winding down the class towards the relaxation of Savasana.  For this stage, you will focus on a counterpose to the peak pose that you chose.  For example, if headstands are the peak pose for your class it’s important that you have a counterpose that releases the pressure that occurs on the neck in a headstand. This can be a shoulder stand that elongates the neck and releases any tension that occurs in the compression. This part of the class should be around 10- 15 minutes long. 

Seal in the benefits of class with Savasana 

For us, at Yogifocus no class is complete without savasana. It doesn’t need to be a long one, the most important thing is that you take a few breath cycles in a relaxing pose to seal in the benefits of the practice. It’s a great way to end the class. Savasana should be around 5 or 6 minutes long.

Plan a class out based on a specific goal 

The way in which you sequence a class can be based on a number of difference elements 

  • Building a class towards a peak pose 
  • Building a class towards a certain alignment 
  • Focusing in on a specific area that you want to stretch out and alleviate pain

Things to think about

Don’t Overcomplicate things

Having a simple plan in place for your classes is important until you get a few classes under your belt and feel comfortable pushing the boundaries a bit.  When you are developing the flow of the class make sure that they consist of poses that you are comfortable with and that you know how to describe in great detail.  There’s no need to include complicated or over-exuberant flows. A good way of knowing if the class you’ve planned is too complicated or not is to run through the class with a complete beginner. See how the beginner reacts to it. If you are constantly making adjustment and the flow is disturbed then you know the class is too flashy especially if the class is aimed towards beginners or is a mixed class. 

When planning out the class make sure that you only use the poses that you have gone through in your yoga teacher training. Ideally, you should know the names of the poses in English and Sanskrit, but it’s not 100% necessary at first.  As you get more comfortable teaching then feel free to expand the poses in your routine. 

Familiarize yourself with the space

In most cases, if you’re teaching in a studio it won’t be the first time you have been there, but the perspective of the teacher can be a lot different from when you are practicing in a class.  So, be sure to go to the studio the day before or arrive early before class to understand the layout of the room you’ll be leading the class in.  Find out if there is a clock in the room, how you’d like the students to be positioned. Where you will position yourself. Even the temperature of the room is important. Knowing all of these elements will help you to put your best foot forward in being successful in your first class. 

Mistakes will happen 

Don’t worry too much about the small stuff. Mixing up your left and your rights as you teach is inevitable. If it’s your first class you may have the tendency to let these things throw you off, but being aware before the class that these small mistakes will inevitably happen will help you in becoming a competent instructor.  

There can be a tendency to forget about the students in your first few classes. You can be so focused on your plan that you can neglect the people you are there to teach. So, don’t forget to watch the students and give the necessary adjustments and advice throughout the class.

Know the common misconceptions 

You have to be a super Yogi to be a teacher 

Teaching yoga isn’t about how advanced you are on the mat.  It doesn’t really matter if you can do a headstand or any other crazy advanced poses. The most important thing is that you have regularly practiced for some time. You don’t necessarily have to have been training for years, but it’s beneficial to have good knowledge under your belt before starting the journey to becoming a yoga teacher. We recommend that you have at least 6 months to a year of experience before thinking about starting on this journey. 

You have to want to teach to the do the training 

Although it is Yoga teacher training. It doesn’t mean you have to teach once you have completed the course. Partaking in yoga teacher training can be a great way to immerse yourself in the anatomy history and the practical elements of yoga. 

Keep an eye on the clock

Another area that a lot of first-time instructors run into trouble is timing. In your first class, there will be a million things running through your head. A good way of making sure this doesn’t happen and that you finish on the allotted time.  s to break the class out into segments. Each segment should be an allotted amount of time and you should be keeping an eye on the clock to make sure that you stay on track.  

Have some backup plans 

If you ever find your mind running a bit ahead of the class, it’s important to have a few fallback poses in your back pocket.  These can be things like a child’s pose, Vinyasa, or forward fold.  They should be poses that are relatively simple and there need to be little adjustments made to the participants. That should give you some time to get your mind focused and the class back on track. So, don’t be afraid to use these if you lose track. 

Decide whether or not you want to have music 

Adding music to a routine can add a lot to a Yoga class and if this is something that you want to include it’s important that you pick something that matches the style of Yoga that you are teaching.  

The most important thing when selecting the music you want to accompany the class is to choose a playlist that matches the tempo of the class. If you follow the traditional sequence of a class where you are building the participants up to a peak pose then the tempo of the playlist should match this. Meaning that the start of the class should have low beats per minute and then gradually progress up until you reach the peak poses. The tempo should then wind down again once you begin to finish off the practice. 

Fake it till you make it 

As we’ve talked through there are many obstacles to teaching a yoga class well, but it’s integral that you have confidence in yourself. To get to the stage of teaching your first class you will have had to have gone through 200 hours of teacher training.  That’s in addition to the 

Written by Emma

A yogi at heart Emma is a keen practitioner of Yoga.

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