5 Tips for Teaching a Body-Positive Yoga Class
By: Becca Cerra, Yoga Alliance Foundation 2015 scholarship recipient
March 4, 2016
I have encountered plenty of students who leave yoga classes feeling disempowered, ashamed of their bodies – I even used to be one of those students before I learned to retrain my mind and body. As a teacher, I now have the opportunity to help other students use yoga to develop self-confidence. By creating a body-positive atmosphere in classes, students can transform their minds and feel better about their bodies.
Here are my 5 tips for teaching a body-positive yoga class:
Ditch the Mirror
Whenever possible teach in spaces without mirrors; this way students focus less on what their bodies look like in a posture and focus more on how their bodies feel in a posture.
- Give Friendly Reminders
Throughout the class remind students to focus their drishdi. By focusing their gazes on the tip of their nose, thumbs, third eye, etc. students are focused on their own practice only and no one else’s. Remind them yoga is a solo journey and not a competitive sport. These reminders will keep their gaze moving inward and help them feel subtle shifts within their body as the practice continues.
- Be a Cheerleader
Support your students and help them celebrate their breakthroughs. Whether you teach the same group of students every day for a year or for only one class, you’ll surely watch them progress. Do your best to acknowledge that. When you see a student self-adjusting give them positive feedback. Who doesn’t like to hear “good job?”
- Encourage Exploration
Give students options: start with the basic posture and slowly build up from there, encouraging students to find their own versions of each posture. Offer blocks, straps and physical adjustments to help students reach a little deeper in their pose.
- Practice Self-Love
Close practice by encouraging students to find gratitude for their bodies. I like to say, “bring your hands to heart center, gently bow your head forward, and thank your body for bringing you to your mat today, for all of its hard work in this practice and all that it allows you to do. Namaste.”
Try these 5 tips and you’ll surely leave students feeling great about their bodies! I encourage you all to get inspired and find your own ways of creating a body-positive class atmosphere.
Becca Cerra is one of the winners of the Yoga Alliance Foundation’s 2015 scholarships. Becca has been a guest writer for teen development specialists and body image experts, won the International Association of Eating Disorder Professional’s Art Competition, served as a mentor for the LGBTQIA community and held community-based programs combating violence against women. We thank Becca for her contributions to the yoga community and for sharing her knowledge with us!