“Bring the heels of your hands together, carefully seal off every bit of space between them. One by one, draw your fingertips towards one another to form a bowl with your hands. Envision you’re carrying your heart between your hands. Every move you make, you move with the weight of your heart between the palms of your hands.”
I paused for a moment as I felt the fullness of my heart in between my hands.
After the instructor introduced this heart centered theme, she guided us through a series of postures to feel rooted, open and spacious in our hearts.
As class progressed, she delicately weaved the theme into her posture instruction. It was so natural, potent and effortless. It left me feeling drenched in the heart focused theme, both mentally and physically.
It is a class I’ll never forget.
If you’re reading this, you probably want to create more impactful classes for your students…classes that easily thread a theme throughout and leave them longing for more.
Being able to cue students through a series of postures is one thing, layering in a profound theme throughout is an entirely different story. It not only takes a lot of preparation and practice, but a sincere desire to communicate and heal through your words.
I’m here to give a few tips on how to introduce and apply your chosen yoga class theme to the next class you teach.
Still looking for theme ideas? Here are 25 yoga Theme Ideas to get you started.
How To Introduce Your Theme
Part 1: Set The Stage
As class begins, guide your students into the present moment. Allow them to settle into the space with ease so that they can arrive fully on their mat. Use a brief meditation to help them relax and quiet their busy mind.
Part 2: Introduce Your Theme
Once you’ve allowed space for your students to let go of their busy day, introduce your theme. You might recite a quote, share a personal story, or give a brief metaphor to share the idea to your class.
Themes that mirror your life experience are the most impactful.
If you’ve chosen a theme that describes something you’re going through off the mat, challenge yourself to be as vulnerable as you can. Your students will connect more with your vulnerability. They can sense when you’re being inauthentic.
4 Ways To Integrate Your Theme Into Class
Use one or a combination of the methods I’ve listed below to apply a theme to your next class.
1) Utilize breathwork (pranayama) to facilitate your desired outcome
Using guided breathing techniques in a yoga class is very common. Breathwork, or pranayama, elicit feelings of relaxation and support a gentle activation of your parasympathetic nervous system.
However, have you considered how to tie breathwork into back into your theme?
Let’s say you are leading a class with a theme about balance. Sama Vritti means same or equal breathing in Sanskrit. In practice, it is a steady inhale and exhale of equal length. This would be a great breathing technique to instruct during a class about creating balance, because that’s what you’re doing with your breath.
Not every theme will directly correlate to a specific breathing technique. Get creative! If your theme is about creating space, consider guiding your students through that creation with simple inhales and exhales. Inhale, invite in spaciousness. Exhale, release that which doesn’t serve you.
2) Select postures that support your theme
Yoga practice allows us to access both our minds and our bodies in new and unique ways. Along with giving your students something to ponder mentally, challenge them to feel your message in their physical form. Select postures that correspond to the theme and you’ll give them the opportunity to physically embody your words as well.
This technique benefits both the students who are there for purely the physical aspect, as well as those who are looking for more depth mentally.
Example: If your theme is around love and compassion, choose heart opening postures like Bow Pose, Camel or other backbends. This encourages an opening in their chest and heart center that will be felt both physically and mentally.
If your theme is about truth, any posture can work – but encourage them to truly feel the benefits of each posture; so rather than simply making the shape of a warrior, encourage them to truly deepen their foundation and stand grounded like a warrior. Another way to embody a theme about truth could mean listening to what your body needs and determining if you’ll go all in or take a step back on that day.
***Check out our tips for sequencing your next class
3) Carefully select dharma that reinforces your theme
The word Dharma is rooted in Buddhism and can be loosely translated as a discourse given on a philosophical lesson. Yoga teachers everywhere weave in their own version of dharma to engage their students and challenge their perspective.
It’s often the dharma that we remember that keeps us coming back for more.
As yoga teachers, we are also essentially public speakers. A major piece of our job is getting up to speak in front of a bunch of people you (probably) don’t know. It’s not for the faint of heart. Using dharma in your classes will help break down your message and make your theme easily digestible.
Tip: Don’t overdo it. Peppering in the topic a few times throughout class is usually enough. Leave space after dropping your wisdom for your students to process what you’ve said.
4) Use music to create an environment that “feels” like your theme
If you use music in your classes, utilizing it to enhance your theme can be a powerful tool. Music can carry your students on a journey from their bodies into their minds. You may want to choose songs with titles similar to your theme, or even lyrics that talk about your theme. This can be a great way to easily tie in your message without having to say much at all.
Bonus Tips (yay!)
Make your themes accessible
Concepts in yoga can be difficult to wrap your head around. Couple that with time limitations in a class, while also trying to focus on postures and general flow… It can be overwhelming for your students. Therefore, it’s imperative that you’re able to easily break down your theme in a digestible way for everyone.
Keep themes relevant to your audience
Who is your audience? Of course some themes are universal, but what may be relevant in a room full of seniors, may not resonate with your class full of millennials.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice talking out your theme or writing it down. It’s okay to use a Theme more than once; but I recommend trying it out on different audiences that you teach. As you use the same theme multiple times, notice how your delivery feels more natural.
How do you apply themes in your classes?
(leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you)