101 Yoga Lesson Planning Ideas
My Top 7 Yoga Lesson Planning Categories
Below are my top 7 categories for coming up with a creative yoga lesson plan…
- PEAK POSE
- GROUP of POSTURES
- KEY POINT
- BODY AREA
Category 1: Theme
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A THEME
There are literally millions of yoga class themes you can pluck from the ether. Let your imagination go slightly bonkers.
Remember to constantly let your students know what the theme is!
Briefly mentioning your theme at the beginning of class and never mentioning it again is not a theme. It’s a normal yoga class. To make your classes stand out so that your students keep coming back, you need to mention your theme 10, 20, 30 or more times during the class. Then your ‘theme’ will sink into the hearts and minds of your students.
Below I give examples of how to set the theme at the beginning of a class…
Become A Bumblebee
At the beginning of the class talk about how aerodynamically a bumblebee shouldn’t be remotely capable of flying. But bumblebees don’t know that. They just do it. They ignore common sense, open their wings and fly.
Ask your students to become bumblebees for the next 90 minutes (or however long your class is).
Throughout the class, remind your students to become fearless bumblebees. When they perform an asana, ask them to soften their cheeks and remember what a bumblebee would do. Take itself lightly so it could fly further in the pose.
Here are some flying asanas you could use in your bumblebee theme:
- Locust pose
- Crane pose
- Pigeon Pose
- Double Pigeon
- Dancer pose
The Bumblebee Theme makes a brilliant 6-week yoga course!
For example, you could focus on building the self-belief of a bumblebee using:
- Readings from the Sutras
- Readings from the Bhagavad Gita
At the beginning of the class give all your students a white blossom. Students love receiving freebies!
Ask them to sit observing the white blossom.
Now ask them to visualise a tree covered with unopened buds in their garden. Then ask them to imagine seeing the tree transforming by opening its buds to reveal beautiful white blossoms. Ask them to imagine that their whole street is now covered with white clouds of flowers.
Explain that in a matter of hours a tree can transform and bloom.
Explain that there is a time for hibernating.
And a time to bloom.
Give yourself permission to bloom more often.
Eight Limbs Of Yoga
At the beginning of the class give the Eight Limbs Handout. Throughout a 6 week’s yoga course, teach one limb per class.
The 8 Yamas include:
At the beginning of the class (during Halloween) blindfold all your students. And teach a spooky Halloween class.
Blindfolded classes are by nature slow, introspective & focused.
Props could include:
- Singing bowl
- Spooky music
Throughout the class, remind your students that being blindfolded will increase the power of their other senses.
There are hundreds of mantras to choose from.
“Shree Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram, Shree Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram.”
(Blessed Lord, Hail O Lord. Hail again & again.)
At the beginning of the class sing/say the mantra and explain its meaning. Throughout the class get your students to repeat the mantra and remind them about the meaning.
Constant thinking is stressful, so take your students to a mind spa.
You could include a:
- Pranayama exercise
Random Acts Of Kindness
Ask your class to think of ways to do random acts of kindness.
For example, you could:
Give care packs to the homeless – toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and deodorant.
Give the elderly the gift of music. Schools and churches commonly visit nursing homes during the holiday season to sing carols. But during the rest of the year, nursing homes often don’t have a lot of visitors.
Fill your class with lots of variations of downward dog pose. Take your class for “walkies”. Shhh, don’t mention that word to my dog.
Winter, spring, autumn & summer.
You could teach variations of Sun Salutations during Summer.
Take Spiritual Flight
You could have a class with locust pose, crane pose, peacock pose, pigeon pose, double pigeon pose, dancer pose, etc.
The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 194 Indian sūtras (aphorisms) that form the foundations of yoga. There’s enough material in the Sutras for at least 194 themes. Get out your Yoga Sutra book. Or go to Google for inspiration.
You Are What You Eat
A 6-week yoga course could include classes that focus on:
- Live foods
- Seeds & nuts
- Sourcing locally grown food
- Whole grains
- Fruit juicing
Throughout the class, remind your students that you are what you eat.
Category 2: Peak Pose
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A PEAK POSE
Pick a pose to PEAK at the end of your class. It’s going to be the last pose. The peak pose. If it’s an advanced pose prepare your students for it. All the poses leading up to your Peak Pose should help prepare your body and mind to summit the pose.
Spiritual Peak Pose
To add a bit of spice to the theme you can add a spiritual touch to it. For example, if your peak pose is a backbend such as Bridge Pose or Bow Pose, you can talk about the ‘heart centre‘.
You could say something like this when your students are in a backbend:
“When opening your chest, you’re also opening your heart chakra. You are stretching spiritually by unlocking the heart centre. This unlocking opens you up to receive and give more love in your life.”
Examples of popular peak poses are:
Handstand Peak Pose
For a yoga handstand pose, you could include the following wrist and arm strengtheners in your lesson plan…
- Downward Facing Dog Pose
- Elbow Balance Pose
- Hare Pose
- Plank Pose
Category 3: Group Of Postures
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A GROUP OF POSTURES
You could include several Arm Balances such as Arm pressure Balance, Crane, Inclined Plane, Inclined Plane Variations, Firefly Balance, One Legged Sage Balance and Peacock.
You could include several Backbends such as Lotus, Sphinx, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Crocodile, Crescent Moon, Frog, Bow, Gheranda, Camel, East Stretch, Bridge, Fish, Upward Facing Bow, Inverted Staff, Advanced Bow, Reclined Hero, Pigeon, Royal Pigeon.
You could include several Bandhas such as Abdominal Lock, Root Lock, Chin Lock and The Great Lock.
You could include several yogic breathing exercises such as Equal Breath, Humming Bee, Alternate Nostril, Warming Breath, Breathing Against The Flow and Bellows Breath.
You could include several Kriyas such as Candle Gazing, Saline Nasal Irrigation & Abdominal Churning.
You could include Inversions such as Easy Inversion, Raised Leg Downward Facing Dog, Hare, Shoulderstand, Plough, Headstand, Tripod and Full Arm Balance.
Relaxation within Your Practice
You could include several Relaxation Poses such as Child, Restful Deep Forward Fold, Crocodile, Restful Double Leg Forward Stretch and Embryo and Corpse.
Seated & Floor Postures
You could include several Seated/Floor Poses such as Child, Extended Child, Seated Staff, Easy Seated, Toe Stretching Forward Bend, Lion, Perfect, Head Beyond The Knee, Revolved Head To Knee, Double Leg Forward Stretch, Hero, One Leg Forward Bend, Heron, Double Toe Hold, Gate, Seated Angle, Seated Side Stretch, Cobbler, Reclined Bound Angle, Garland, Cow, Cow Face Forward Fold, Sage Forward Bend A, Half Bound Lotus Forward Bend, Sage Pose B, Toe Stretching Head Beyond The Knee Pose, Lotus, Bound Lotus, Foetus In The Womb, Plank, Four-Limbed Staff, Downward Facing Dog, Reclining Hand To Toe, Monkey God, Tortoise, and Yogic Sleep.
You could include several Standing Poses such as Mountain, Tree, Warrior Pose II, Standing Side Stretch, Triangle, Half Moon, Chair, Warrior Pose, Warrior Pose III, Revolved Half Moon Pose, Wide leg Forward Bend, Deep Fold Forward Bend, Forward Releasing Forward Fold, Standing Splits, Single Leg Forward Bend, Single Leg Swan Balance, Revolved Triangle, Eagle, Revolved Side Angle Stretch, One Legged Garland Pose, Half Lotus Toe Balance, Half Bound Lotus Stretch, Upright Big Toe Sequence, Standing Half Bow Balance, and Dancer.
Twists & Abdominal Toners
You could include several Twists and Abdominal Toners such as Double Leg Raisers, Boat, Revolved Easy, Seated Half Spinal Twist, Sage Twist, Twisting Forward Stretch, Seated Gate, Revolved Abdomen, Revolved Chair, Half Bound Lotus Twist, Spinal Twist in Half Lotus, Bound Sage, Bound Sage, Noose, Scales, Pendant, Half Lotus Heron and Extended Leg Fish.
You could include several Mudras such as Prayer Seal, Dhyani, Bhairava & Bhairavi, Sanmukhi, Chin, Chinmaya, Adhi and Brahma.
Category 4: Muscle
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A MUSCLE
You can sequence around any muscle you’re curious about.
Research the muscle in books and on the Internet (I recommend “Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff). Then create a yoga lesson plan that includes postures that help that muscle. Focusing on muscles is particularly running sports yoga workshops such as yoga for runners workshop and yoga for golfers workshop.
You could create a sequence around:
You could also spend time researching each muscle.
For example, I opened up my Yoga Anatomy book and looked up EXTENDED SIDE ANGLE POSE.
I discovered that ‘Extended Side Angle Pose’ uses the following 7 muscles:
|#||Muscle||My Google Notes|
|1||Triceps||large muscle on the back of the upper arm. Responsible for straightening the arm|
|2||Serratus Anterior||looks like 3 fingers pointing from ribs to abs|
|3||Internal Obliques||intermediate muscle of the abdomen|
|4||External Obliques||pair of abdominal muscles that function during breathing, particularly the exhale|
|5||Gluteus Medius||one of 2 large muscles in the buttocks that contribute to forward/upward/sideways movement|
|6||Quadriceps||includes 4 muscles on the front of the thigh|
|7||Hamstrings||posterior thigh muscles|
I visualise myself in my yoga class teaching Extended Side Angle Pose.
I remember the muscles in order from top to bottom. The first muscles are the ‘triceps’. The number 1 represents a ROCKET (because it looks like a rocket). So, I imagine a rocket going off in my triceps causing my arm to shoot over my head.
I carry on like this until I’ve got a bizarre journey in my mind that helps me remember all 7 muscles. It’s then incredibly easy to remember the muscles being used when I teach the pose. During the class, you don’t have to remember everything.
Even one or two points are better than nothing. Your students will consider you an expert and feel comforted that you’re able to explain what’s going on in the body during the stretch.
Category 5: Key Point
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A KEY POINT
Movements Travel Up Your Body
Most beginners lead with their heads. Their face is the first thing in and out of the posture. And you want it to be the last. The movement begins at the tailbone and travels *up* the spine. So, your key point could be Movements Travel Up Your Body.
Another Key Point could be Patience.
Guide students to only go as far as they comfortably can in Pigeon pose. Let them know that sensation is information. They are collecting information about where they are in the present moment.
As students relax in the yoga pose, you can introduce some basic anatomy information about the hips that will encourage the theme of patience. Explain that the hips have many layers of muscles and that as one layer relaxes (for example, the gluteus maximus), students may become aware of sensation in a deeper muscle (for example, the piriformis). Encourage them to be curious about how sensation shifts in a pose.
Growth Is The Most Important Thing There Is
Another Key Point could be “Growth Is The Most Important Thing There Is”.
You could include the following poses in your lesson plan:
- Tree (growing roots)
- Cobra (growing a new skin/body)
- Mountain (growing taller)
Category 6: Body Area
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A BODY AREA
You could create a yoga lesson plan around:
- Lower back
Category 7: Quote
Yoga Lesson Plans Focusing On A QUOTE
You can create a yoga lesson plan around any quote you’re curious about. Read the quote at the beginning or end of your class and repeat it lots and lots of times during the class.
Here are some interesting yoga quotes you could use…
“You cannot always control what
goes on outside. But you can always
control what goes on inside.”
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your
natural state. What you can do are yoga
exercises which may reveal to you where
you are resisting your natural state.”
“Yoga teaches us to cure what
need not be endured and endure
what cannot be cured.”
“When asked what gift he wanted for
his birthday, the yogi replied:
“I wish no gifts, only presence.”
“When the breath wanders the mind
also is unsteady. But when the breath
is calmed the mind too will be still,
and the yogi achieves long life.“
Therefore, one should learn to
control the breath.”
~ Hatha Yoga Pradipika
“Peace is every step. The shining red
sun is my heart. Each flower smiles with
me. How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows. Peace is every
step. It turns the endless path to joy. ”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.
The better your practice,
the brighter the flame.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar
“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”
~ Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
“If I’m losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher
and spirit reaches down to steady me.
It works every time, and not just in yoga.”
“Yoga has a sly, clever way of short-circuiting
the mental patterns that cause anxiety.”
~ Baxter Bell
“Concentrating on poses clears the mind
while focusing on the breath helps the body
shift out of Fight or Flight mode.”
~ Melanie Haiken
“Yoga accepts. Yoga gives.”
~ April Vallei
“Don’t try to get out of the World, get into it.”
~ Bhagavan Das
“To find out what is truth there must be great
love and a deep awareness of man’s
relationship to all things
which means that one is not concerned with
one’s own progress and achievements.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer, our words?
What if the temple was the earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water-the rivers, lakes, and oceans.
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was self-knowledge?
If love was the centre of our being?”
~ Ganga White
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