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How to Structure Private Yoga Sessions

Yoga boat pose man and woman yoga teachers

We just completed a 300 hour yoga teacher training module that tailored towards adaptive yoga and private sessions. This was taught by my brilliant partner, Brynn Byrne. I'm here to tell you a snippet of what I learned. The main thing being that of structuring private sessions.

There are 5 koshas, or sheaths, that adaptive yoga emphasizes for people. In English, they are the food body, energy body, mental/emotional body, wisdom body, and bliss body. People come into all yoga classes with a disposition for one or more of these "bodies". It is important for the yoga teacher to assess the student, making sure they recognize and/or draw out the goals, focal point, and kosha the student is entering the teacher/student relationship with.

By following the guidelines below, the yoga teacher can construct a program for any student coming in with any kosha emphasized:

1. Check-in. In order to really pick up on what the student wants and what their goals are, the yoga teacher has to listen. Most of the time, the student has a focus on the physical, so their focus would be on the food body. However, this is not always the case, and by identifying the kosha, the yoga teacher can be more specific with practices during the private session. This helps the student reach their goals faster.

2. Body Awareness/Scan. This can happen in so many ways. I've learned to have the student lay on their back and take them through a series of visualization exercises to help them relax and really be present in their body. It is easier to recognize what is going on in our koshas if we relax. Some people won't recognize anything going on in their body from this scan. Others will give you a lot more information. Either way, you can tell a lot about your yoga client through this practice.

3. Body Mapping. Have your client draw how they feel. Let me say that again. Have your client draw how they feel. Some people may find this silly. However, it gets your client to go deeper with themselves. It will help them to concentrate more on what is going on with them. Also, it is a good way to see improvement after a few months when repeating the practice.

4. Breath Awareness. Diaphragmatic breathing is always a good way to start. Have your student lay on their stomach and begin breathing through their bellies. The reason why laying on the belly helps so much is the ground serves as good feedback. The yoga student will be able to feel whether or not they can bring the breath down low into the body by feeling the pressure of the abdomen toward the floor as they breathe. Here's another way to practice diaphragmatic breathing.

5. Warmup. Most people need to relax rather than energize. Most people need to relax and slow down. This makes it important for the teacher to take their time with the warmups and not move into the asana practice right away. Think about using breathing exercises you know (here's a link to our YouTube Channel if you need inspiration), mantra, mudras, or short visualizations to prep the client.

6. Asana. Many people come to private yoga sessions to be taught asana, which is the movement based yoga we all know. There are so many variations of this, from Hatha to Kundalini to Forrest to Vinyasa Flow to Bikram Yoga. For asana practices we love at Elemental Yoga and the Mind Arts, check out Brynn's personal practice.

7. Savasana. This is said to be the most important pose in any practice. Translated out to be mean "corpse pose", this is the receptive part of the yoga practice. It is performed in between poses and at the end of the session and symbolizes the death and rebirth of the student. It helps the yogi to assimilate what they have just experienced, much like sleep helps us to process our day's experiences.

8. Meditation. This is my personal favorite. There are many links to meditation practices. I love the meditation practices in Ashtanga Yoga Primer by Baba Hari Dass. Find some you resonate with and you think may resonate with your client. Sometimes, people may come wanting to learn more about meditation. If you are a yoga teacher, you may also be a meditation teacher and not know it. If you're practicing meditation regularly and know practices that work for you vs. what doesn't work for you, share that with the inquiring yogi. Take on a private meditation student. After all, yoga means "union", it doesn't mean movements to help you be flexible and in shape.

9. Sharing. Here is where our listening ability again needs to be on point. We should be receiving data and listening throughout the whole session. At the same time, I'm going to emphasize this at the end of the practice. Listening is the number one quality a yoga teacher must have. From my experience of teaching meditation and metaphysics, I have to listen to the individual needs to the person in front of me. I can lecture to tens, hundreds, or thousands of individuals and give structured teachings that will universally work for people. In order for me to teach people how to move past a particular wall in their life or go deeper in meditation through a particular concentration shift or sensory withdrawal, I need to synchronize with them. Without listening this is not possible. Listen to your yoga student after your session and journal about what they need to accomplish their goals. It will be much easier for you to design their next session if you have notes to review.

I hope this helps. This past weekend in the 300 hour yoga teacher training module I learned a lot and I was inspired to go deeper as a yoga teacher. I cannot express the need we all have to be in community together. I have great respect for all the yoga teachers who hold such expansive space for people to connect with their highest Self.

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