This Vinyasa Yoga revolution is very exciting! People are increasingly walking into gyms and studios to take Power Flow and Hot-Flow classes. It’s a mass movement to radiant health for both body and soul. This dynamic and energetic movement is making positive changes all over the world.
New students to Vinyasa flow yoga may find themselves in a mixed level or non-beginners class. This could be due to scheduling choices, friend introductions, or simply ignorance about modern yoga’s many types and levels. Vinyasa flow teachers all over the world are confronted with a frustrating dilemma. How do they teach safe, injury-free flow classes while teaching the appropriate title/level to most students?
Yoga teachers should be able to tailor their teaching to each student’s needs in a perfect world. This is a primary goal of many yoga classes and studios. This article is for those of us who teach mainstream flow classes (60 to 75 minutes of Hot Rockin’ Vinyasa! Up to 30, 40, or 60 people per class.
How to teach safe, multi-level Vinyasa flow classes
Start class with shoulder joint integration.
After focusing on your breath and warming up (of joints and muscles), you can add shoulder joint integration exercises using straps or blocks. For more ideas on shoulder joint integration, check out my Chaturanga class.
Move around on your mat.
You need to get off and walk around to see what’s happening in the back room, where new students timidly (and often bravely) roll out their mats for practice. They need to see you, and you need to see them! Sometimes, you can even show your support by smiling and giving thumbs up to them!
Give clear, concise alignment cues.
Even experienced practitioners benefit greatly from general alignment cues that prevent major joint injuries. While not all alignment cues will work for everyone, some common mistakes can injure new students.
Always offer different options: make it easy or difficult to empower everyone.
Hang the delicious organic carrot! You can also dangle the tasty organic carrot! Offer knees to Cobra before you offer Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog. Before offering Side Plank or more difficult variations, kneel to Gate and offer kickstands to Eagle and Tree (when the toe touches a block or the floor) before you offer the higher/ more extensive expressions.
Moments in the workshop
Breaks from the flow are great for beginners to get a breath/water break and advanced practitioners to showcase their hard work. When students start flailing, ask them to pause and get into yoga poses such as Malasana (yoga squat) or sitting on heels (or the one with their toes curled under). Talk to advanced students about poses like Chaturanga Dandasana, inversions, and deep backbends. I usually have advanced practitioners perform two rounds of the pose or flow; then, the new students participate in the third. This empowers and unites everyone, making it a great practice-building tool!
Fewer Chaturangas – more abs & backbends
I think no shoulder girdle should be able to carry the 30-50 Chaturangas weight/load in one practice. The flows are meant to challenge the body, warm it up and prepare the body for relaxation and stretching later. You can add abs strengthening exercises and backbends to make the practice more difficult (hopefully for strengthening or detoxifying). You can also ask them to hold the poses for longer. Talk about power! Holding still and focusing on the breath is the key to your power!
Do not skimp on the cooling down.
A Vinyasa flow yoga class is challenging, but a YOGA CLASS. It is not a cardio workout class at a gym. It is important to cool down students intelligently on the floor. After abs and backbends, you can start to release tension in your hips by using hip openers. Next, relax the nervous system with forwarding bends. Finally, massage the internal organs of the body with final spinal twists. Then, rest (really rest!) both the body (both the mind and body) in a comfortable position, such as a corpse pose (Savasana) or legs up the wall with Viparita Karani.