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The Fundamentals of Workshop Design: Creating Success for You and Your Students

Presented by Rolf Gates | Published on: February 12, 2014


This week we present our sixth business of yoga video session release – Rolf Gates’ talk "The Fundamentals of Workshop Design." Rolf shares how to identify, develop and lead dynamic workshops that address the core criteria for expanding your offerings and maximizing your potential as a yoga teacher.

For author and teacher Rolf Gates, figuring out whether he was teaching for his students or for himself helped guide him into discovering workshop topics that he was genuinely interested in teaching and that also resonated with his students. Thinking of workshop design from the perspective of the students also helped Gates learn how to communicate his lessons in a language that his students would understand.

To Rolf, designing the first workshop should start with looking at the needs of your students and determining "what will really help them." Then, give them that.


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Accommodate your Students

Rolf stressed that successful workshops accommodate students. "Invite them to a party they want to go to," he said repeatedly at the conference, adding that it's about what the students want, "not a party you want to go to."

Understanding your clientele's lifestyles and schedules is also key to bringing them into the room. For example, holding a workshop at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday might not fit with their work schedule. However, a 7 a.m. event on a Saturday might work well for a mother who can attend the workshop and come back before her family even starts its day.

For later in the day, if you host a workshop at 2 p.m. instead of 1 p.m., that extra hour allows your students to finish their morning routines without feeling rushed around noon. That same sort of idea works for later in the day, as Rolf explained that a Saturday hour-long class starting at 4 p.m. still allows people to get together with their friends after 5 p.m. instead of after 6 p.m.

Know the Room

From his own teaching experience, Rolf offered a case study of working with students in Northern Virginia. Explaining that the student base for a class in the greater Washington, D.C. area would likely feature a lot of "Type A" personalities, he mentioned that he knew the students would push themselves to accomplish everything without giving themselves credit for what they achieve.

"I have a sense of the room I'm walking into. You know, what does that room feel like? It feels like a room full of people who are doing a really good job and aren't able to give themselves credit for it," said Rolf, using the phrase "glass half-empty" to describe how the students view their own accomplishments. "These people don't need me to caffeinate them and jack them up," he added. "They need a little ease."

Three-hour Blocks: From Theory to Experience

Rolf recommends dividing a class into a three-hour block. The first third of the workshop should introduce the new concept and focuses on education, or the dharma of yoga.

The remaining two-thirds should put the new concept into practice as "experiential learning." Grab your students' attention by explaining how they can incorporate what they're doing in the workshop into every day life. For some, that may be sitting quietly at home and "sweeping the garden." What's most important though is that you, as the teacher, are interested in what you have to teach and introduce concepts that you yourself actually practice.

About Rolf Gates

Rolf Gates is the owner of Rolf Gates Yoga and author of the acclaimed book on yogic philosophy "Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga". He conducts Vinyasa intensives, retreats and 200/500 hour teacher trainings throughout the U.S., abroad and online. Rolf is also the co-founder of the Yoga + Recovery Conference at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and brought yoga and functional stretching to the U.S. Department of Defense's Tri-County Summit on Sustainability.

Eligibility for Continuing Education

The full recording of this presentation counts for one Continuing Education Non-Contact Hour or one RYS Curriculum Non-Contact Hour under the Teaching Methodology category.


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