Maybe you’ve been a teaching for quite some time now and you feel like you may have found some sweet spots in your teaching. You’re accustomed to seeing repeat students and you can see that there is a topic that both you and your students are wanting to dive a little bit deeper into. Sounds like you are ready to create and teach your first workshop!
I remember when I was asked to teach my first workshop, I was so scared. I wasn’t afraid to incorporate arm balances into my regular classes and I had a decent grasp of how to successfully teach some of them. I also knew there was interest amongst the students… so why I was so nervous?! These were some thoughts that were crowding my brain:
“Would anyone show up? “How can I make a workshop special? What if I get through all the information with too much time left over? What if I fail miserably?”
Despite all these questions I had going on in my head, I knew that if I wanted to further my teaching, I would have to push through these barriers and all the doubts.
I wanted to continue to grow as a teacher and I saw myself as someone who would one day lead workshops, retreats, teacher trainings, etc. and I knew for certain the only way I could feel confident in doing any of these things was to take the first step and just do it, whether I felt ready or not.
Taking the leap…
Fast-forward to the present moment (of this article being published), I have led multiple successful workshops in topics like arm balancing, inversions, prenatal and more. Every single workshop is different and as I have evolved as a teacher, the way I approach workshops has evolved as well. The first workshop I led was based on information I found online and from other instructors. As I’ve gotten more acquainted with my own teaching methods, I’ve gotten far more confident with putting my own spin on things or just creating something entirely new and on my own.
Now, since this is your first workshop (or maybe it’s not and you are just looking for guidance in this area), I am going to give you a quick, easy and digestible launch pad. These tips can help you to get the ball rolling and give you somewhere to start because sometimes it can feel overwhelming not knowing where to begin. Here we go…
Tip #1: Decide what you want to teach
This may seem obvious, but we’re starting at the beginning here! If you already know the topic of what you’ll be teaching, feel free to skip to Tip #2. If not, try to take an honest look at your teaching. Look back on each class and notice where you felt most in flow. Is it standing poses? Is it backbends? Is it yin, restorative, or meditation? Also be sure to take note of your students and try to pick up on where their interest lies. Notice the moments that ignite conversations or spark questions or where they seem to be progressing and where they seem intrigued. You can do this through conversation with your students and through your present moment awareness of the energy during class. Journal after your classes or make a note in your phone. Keep track of where you’re noticing there might be potential for a quality workshop. This may even result in multiple ideas!
Tip #2: Decide where you want to teach
If you teach at multiple studios, then this tip may be the most crucial. You might have a great idea for a workshop, but a great idea will only be successful if you have students who are interested in the topic being presented and the space that can energetically match that concept. This is one of the reasons I suggest holding off on doing any workshops until you have a decent grasp of the groups you are working with.
One studio may have a more fitness demographic while another studio may have a more quiet and meditative demographic. Based on the topic you’re teaching, especially if it’s your first workshop, think about where it could be most successful. That’s not to say that you can never teach a handstand workshop at a studio that’s considered more chill or meditative, but start off by giving yourself the best chance at success. Once you feel more confident creating and leading workshops, taking any topic and tailoring it to different demographics will become much easier.
In addition, once you have your topic and the location of where you will teach, try to come up with some goals for yourself. What do you think you’d like to achieve? It is reasonable for who you’ll be teaching?
Tip #3: Let all of your students know
Just because you have decided where you’d like to teach your workshop does not mean you can only invite those students to it. For workshops: The more the merrier! Let all your students know what you are teaching and when you are teaching it. You could have a student at one studio very interested in what you’re teaching somewhere else. Remember, this is a specialty event. You’re not asking your students to abandon their home studio nor are you dismantling your loyalty towards the studio owner you’re not doing the workshop at. Does this promote the studio you are teaching it at? Yes. But personally I see it as a disservice to you and your students to not let them know of the workshop you’re leading because a workshop is a great chance for anyone to deepen their practice. If you feel uncomfortable announcing your event in class, you can tell people in conversation or post it on social media but don’t keep it a secret!
Tip #4: Select your main focus areas
Let’s say you are teaching an arm balance workshop — What poses will you focus on? What specific points about those poses will you focus on? How will you repeatedly bring those points into practice to give your students multiple opportunities to grasp what you are teaching? The answer: Do not feel the need to teach a million things.
I actually approach workshops similar to how I approach my normal asana classes. In a normal asana class I choose 2-3 specific points to essentially drill into my students bodies and minds through practice. In a workshop, I typically do the same thing but now I have more time and space to do so. This allows me to be creative and take risks I normally wouldn’t take in class due to time, space, or level-of-students restraints; it creates room to explain how and why I’m asking students to do something; it also lends space for actual conversations to take place between myself and those who are in the class. Therefor, I can almost ensure that I can lead all of my students towards embodiment of the points of focus at hand.
Another thing to remember, if you’re teaching multiple “peak poses,” choose ones that have common alignment points. This way you can focus more on the alignment points themselves, as opposed to teaching each pose separately during your workshop.
Tip #5: Incorporate familiarity
It’s likely that people will be attending your workshop because you are teaching something that is new for students, or at the very least you are giving students the opportunity to learn something new so that they can refine what they already know. There’s an aspect of your workshop that will be “unknown” for your students which is great in my opinion, but why not combine those unknowns with something that is known.
Incorporating periods of a known practice or familiarity can allow your students to feel successful and grounded before embarking on the new thing(s) that you’ll be presenting. As we know, learning new things is great and necessary for growth! It can also be little bit scary and frustrating at times if we feel we can’t grasp the task at hand (think about putting together that piece of Ikea furniture), so incorporating things student already know can greatly help. Based on my own experience when people feel successful and grounded it’s like they have a solid launch pad supporting their willingness to listen and try new things. At the end of this article I give a formatting guide so you’ll be able to see where I sprinkle in these familiar periods.
Tip #6: You are allowed to interrupt the flow of class
This is a very important reminder! If you are used to teaching regular classes, planning moments where you will completely stop to break things down and talk more in-depth may feel unnatural. However, in a workshop situation, depending on what you are teaching, it’s important to plan time to put a break (or multiple breaks) in the flow of class to dive deeper. Your explanations can be more in-depth, you might have materials you’d like to hand out and go over, your demos can be more detailed, you might even want to incorporate partner/group work and/or need to change the formation of your students in the room (for example, if you’re using the wall). I usually put these moments before and after the moments of flow so that it doesn’t feel like a 2 hour lecture, but more of a “lecture and apply” experience.
Another tip for these types of moments: don’t just plan where they will be but also plan what the content will be and what you will say. These moments, while they are a little more free-form because questions may come up or you’ll think of another relevant point, should still be planned out. These “interrupted” moments are vital teaching moments to contribute to the overall goal of the workshop. Think about what you’ll say and how you’ll deliver it so you can be concise and to the point.
Tip #7: Get your students talking
I start off every single workshop with a little introduction of myself and the workshop, why I am teaching the workshop, and student introductions. I always go around the room and have people share their name and why they decided to sign up. For lack of a better term, I make people do an ice breaker. Personally, I love ice breakers because it gets people talking, contributing to the space, and allows for people to find commonalities, and genuinely connect with one another. It is very typical for people to sign up for the same event for similar reasons. Especially when you will be asking people to do new things and potentially face some fears, it’s nice to know that others are in the same boat. It creates a sense of “we’re in this together” mentality.
There are other great reasons for doing introductions. It gives you a better sense of what your students are looking for so you don’t have to guess! Your goals may not always align with your students goals and that’s okay. Being aware of my students’ goals gives me the ability to let go of my expectations and focus more on who the workshop is actually for: the students. This doesn’t mean that I forget about what I am trying to achieve, but it allows me to find where my goals and my students’ goals overlap. There’s also a high probability that someone will crack a joke or say something that will lighten the mood and it’s always a good thing to get people laughing.
Tip #8: Stay in alignment with yourself
It’s important to remember that you can create your workshops in any way that feels authentic for you. This opportunity has been presented to you for a reason either due to your teaching style, the way you instruct a certain topic, your background in a specific area, and/or your relationship to your students who will most likely attend. So don’t go changing yourself or doing something that doesn’t feel aligned, because it’s likely that will show. And if your workshop doesn’t go as planned, or you feel you fumbled a little bit, or ran out of time or didn’t take enough time…it is OKAY. You learn from your experiences, make adjustments, and apply what you’ve learned to the next one!