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How To Serve Your Mixed Level Students in Online Yoga Classes


Does this sound familiar?

You’ve planned a thorough Zoom class the night before, but when your students start logging in you realize that most of them won’t make it through the sequence you planned!

For example, you might have chosen to do shoulder opening but the majority have knee issues.

Naturally this will happen from time to time because your yoga students have different needs, capabilities, and different bodies.

Not to mention, your students have diverse expectations for yoga class.

It’s a lot to manage!

To prepare yourself to serve multiple scenarios in an online class, planning is key, but you also need the versatility and dexterity to teach a variety of students in a variety of situations.

Here are some tips to help:

1. Have backup class plans on tap
Use a journal, binder, or digital record keeping method to house a variety of pre-planned sequences and themes. This way, on the days where you have to throw your plan out the window, you’ve got other resources at your fingertips that will better suit your students’ needs.

Organize your binder into sections based on the different classes of asana (backbends, arm balances, twists, laterals, etc.) and plan several classes in each category with plenty of beginner and advanced options and variations of the peak poses. Whenever you need to shift gears on a class, you’ll have an archive of sequences and plans to choose from!

2. Serve the majority
Teaching to the majority of the room means catering the level of your teaching to about 80% of those who are at the same level. This way the majority finish class feeling empowered, inspired, and challenged. However, this doesn’t mean you ignore the 20% minority. You should still make a strong effort to connect with these students and offer them variations or modifications appropriate to their level.  For example, if 80% of the class were more new to the practice you’d want to offer modifications and props. If 80% of the class is more seasoned, you’d want to offer those folks some advanced variations to keep their interest.

3. Have a plan for all levels
Not every student will be able to do all the poses, so it’s important to plan accordingly. Teaching mixed level classes requires skill and an understanding of how to sequence for all different levels. For example, if you frequently teach to peak poses, have your newer students work on repeating the preparatory poses so that they gain strength, flexibility, and body awareness. Those who are ready can go for the peak pose! This way, there is something for everyone.

Pro Tip: To build community and inclusivity, don’t just celebrate the students who can get into difficult poses, also celebrate the student’s doing the preparatory poses and point out their great alignment and mindfulness!

4. Create a culture of safety in your class
One way to make sure you are serving all levels is to give the power to your students and encourage them to approach you. Rather than succumbing to the pressure to be a mind reader, make it clear that you’re open to a two way conversation where students feel comfortable stating their needs!  For example, give a disclaimer either as class starts or right after you’ve demonstrated a challenging pose.

You can say something like, “We’ve got multiple levels in the Zoom today. If any of the poses I teach are out of your comfort zone and I’ve not yet given an alternative, it is perfectly OK to remind me that you need a more approachable variation—just unmute yourself or type into the chat and let me know!”

5. Open your Zoom meeting early to talk to your students
Talking before class is the best way to determine what combination of levels you’ll have in attendance. If you have beginners in class, take the time to give them a quick crash course on Surya Namaskar, especially ashtangasana (Knees Chest Chin), chaturanga, and proper foundation in standing poses.

In summary, remember: You can’t be everything to everyone.

It’s impossible to please every single student that decides to take your class. Some may even leave the Zoom meeting disappointed, but this has happened to almost every yoga teacher at some point in their career.

That’s not to say you mustn’t try to please eager students.

If you want to know what your students want, the simplest thing to do is just ask. Strike up a conversation before or after class, or poll them via your newsletter or on social media to see what the majority of them are craving!

What hacks do you have to help serve multiple levels in yoga online yoga classes? Leave us a comment below!

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