Even after the last 18 months of teaching yoga online, many teachers—myself included—still find various aspects of cueing to a screen challenging. Yet the aspect of online classes that remains most disorienting is the lack of ability to offer hands-on assists or adjustments to help guide a body into a shape.
How can you learn to help your students in a manner that progresses their practice? As with so many things in life, the answer is clear communication.
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Many yoga teachers rely on “demonstration teaching.” As the name implies, demo teaching is when you practice on your mat while also leading the class so that your students can look and see exactly what is happening.
The benefit to this style of teaching, which is fairly common both in studio and online classes, is it enables you, the teacher, to show your entire class the intended alignment of a pose. The communication is visual. Your students can look at the screen at any time to figure out what to do, whether they tend to be visual learners, do not quite understand the verbal cues, or they simply want the added assurance that they are doing it right.
The downside of this style of teaching is that it can be hard—if not impossible—to pay attention to your students’ alignment or offer feedback to students while you are physically going through the motion of each pose. And while it may seem to be a perk that you are “getting your practice in,” this is definitely not the same as your own practice because you are constantly talking and thinking.
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An alternative to demonstration teaching is “interactive teaching.” In this style, you, the teacher, spend most of the class watching your students on your screen. Interactive teaching allows you to verbally assist your students during a pose or a transition, which in turn helps your students progress in their practices. Best of all? Your students feel seen.
Teaching interactively also allows you to hone your instructional skills, as you need to be clear and precise in your language. If you observe that your students aren’t moving in your intended manner as a result of your verbal instructions, you are challenged to use different language. Rest assured, you always have the option to hop on your mat and provide a demo.
When you cue with your words, you speak to the entire class collectively. However, you may occasionally want to say the name of an individual followed by the cue that the student needs.
See also: Why You Shouldn’t Tell Your Students to Tuck Their Tailbones—And 4 Other Cues to Rethink
Some students may not be accustomed to interactive teaching, but telling them what you’re doing and why it’s important will help get people on board. If you choose to demo teach, you may want to leave students unmuted and offer them the option to interrupt class with a question.
The ability for a student to be seen and receive feedback during class is a way to grow and improve, be more comfortable in poses, and find more ease in their practice. It is also more individual attention than most students receive in a standard studio class. Let your students know how valuable this is!
If you will be teaching at least partly interactive, inquire before class begins to ensure your students are comfortable with receiving individualized feedback and pointers from you.
To ensure the best possible view of your students, invest in a large monitor or hook your computer up to your television.
If you intend to teach interactively, you will still need the ability to hop into a demonstration from time to time. Set up your teaching space in a way that you can be close to the camera for observing students and that allows you to quickly step back onto your mat and be fully visible from head to toes.
If you are recording your classes with the intention of having students watch the recording in the future, it is best to demonstrate the entire class. Otherwise, students who engage with the class later will watch an entire class of your face on the screen.
Interactive teaching might not be best if you are teaching for a studio that expects demonstration teaching. Stay consistent with the studio’s teaching style.
See also: 9 Tips for Adjusting Your Online Students