Master Yogini Arati Lane Reveals Her Top Teaching Tips

I recently had a sit down with Healing Touch Vinyasa Lead Instructor, Arati Lane where she shares 5 of her Top teaching tips for yoga teachers.

Tah Groen:          Arati. Love you! I am so glad you're here! This is Arati Lane, she's one of the lead teachers for Healing Touch Vinyasa Teacher Training.

Arati Lane:           Namaste, I'm happy to be here.

Tah Groen:           Lots of transformations and growth in the way we've developed the training, and it's constantly evolving. Part of this is us wanting to share who we are and what we do.

Arati Lane:           What's important when you think about getting started to become a yoga teacher.

Tah Groen:           This is the very first step in deciding that you want to put yourself out there as a teacher, so we were keeping it simple. Let me just reiterate the points that Arati will share for yoga teachers.

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Number one is all about centering and alignment.

Number two creating Sacred Space.

Number three, a concept/theme or a pose that you're weaving in.

Number four, teach.

Then the fifth point, really key, is how do we connect? There you have it.

Tah Groen:           Let's start with centering and alignment and how that looks for you and what would be an ideal way for a new teacher to connect to that centering place?

Arati Lane:           I find it to offer yourself a way, as you imagine yourself teaching a class, what will be the first thing to do?   We think of maybe music lists, and what we wear, and who's there. That's all very important and that goes without saying.

Before we do any of all those, it's very important to center, and it will affect the room you set up and that goes right into the next point, the sacred space. First we need to find that within, and it needs to sometimes be in less than a minute. Sometimes you have time and you can use the yoga space, do some asanas, do some practice.

Often times, yoga studios are backed up. You have to wait outside, students are still talking to the teacher, and the teacher is trying to move students out.  There is no moment in physical space to do some practice.

Tah Groen:           Maybe take five minutes of quiet meditation and breathing just before you go in to teach your class.

Arati Lane:           Yes, or what I like to refer is, think of something higher than yourself. You kind of give up the, "Oh god, what do I have to say today?”  You can trust something higher; make a little connection to the divine, to the higher realms, to your heart, to something special. Find love.

Tah Groen:           Oh, I love that, yes.

Arati Lane:           Center yourself.

Tah Groen:           Yes, excellent.

Then that translates to the next step, which is the sacred space. How does that look and why do we need to have a sacred space for yoga?

Arati Lane:           Because we all rush, we all live mundane lives. We drive cars, we park, we get parking tickets. We live very removed from sacred, and that's what the promise of yoga is, to find sacredness within.

Tah Groen:           Can I ask, how do you set up the sacred space in your class?

Arati Lane:           It of course, it depends tremendously on where you teach. For example, I'm thinking of you just created a park class outdoors. You're amongst sacred, you have the trees.

Tah Groen:           Yes, from nature.

Arati Lane:           I teach sometimes at a place that's provided by the hospitals. They don't even allow candles, it's against the rules. Then they come with these little electrical candles, and you put those in the center.

Tah Groen:           That's a good idea.

Arati Lane:           It can be all kinds. Sacred doesn't mean it has to be only natural, but it has to remind us of something. What's nature, what's love, what's centered, what gives us a positive charge.

sacred space - photo credit: Kirby Trapolino

sacred space - photo credit: Kirby Trapolino

If it's okay with the center or studio, you can do your essential oils, you can do a little sage.  It is really, we say intention all the time and it's important.

Tah Groen:           Then you're creating that sacred space as you present the room. You're presenting the room and you're moving throughout the room and creating from your own heart, as a teacher, that sacred space.

Arati Lane:           Sacred space may change, it's not like a routine thing. It's not like now students expect you to always spray something, because you've done it once. It is something you need to create over and over.

Tah Groen:           It evolves.

Arati Lane:           Then it's natural, and it's in the moment. This is what people really want. They want that connection, like we have right now.

Tah Groen:           It means that you brought thought into it and that you care for their environment, and that we all crave change and variety. That's an excellent point, I love that.

Number three, be very clear about what you're planning to teach, so the theme.

Arati Lane:           You present a class and it seems for students that you premeditated it. You don't just come up with it at the moment. It is something you know works, that you as a teacher, you know it works. You offer something, that is a sequence, and you have a plan. Everybody likes that.

When you're a new teacher, you have a bit of a blank moment or you're afraid that you may lose your flow of words, your flow of energy.  This is your safety net.

Tah Groen:           It's you're calm, you're supported.

Arati Lane:           It's your focus, what you're going to bring in to get people's attention to actually elaborate on something simple. I think a key pose is something. I like to use the word "highlight." We witness people finding the highlight in a pose, and you help them point it out, so you elaborate.

Tah Groen:           Right, keeps you more focused.

Arati Lane:           You pick a pose, and you start at the very beginning. Let's just say with downward facing dog.

Tah Groen:           Okay.

Arati Lane:           Because that's a common pose. You highlight something maybe very subtle. Arms straight and hips up, we know that, heard that. Maybe something more subtle than that. You keep bringing that in and you add on. You said something sort of like, "Relax your face, your neck in that pose." That's not a typical thing to say maybe. Because we talk about legs and arms easily in that pose. Then you keep that, you put that and add something. For the next round of down dog, you add the arms and the legs, and then you go through systematic, through the whole pose throughout the whole class.

Tah Groen:           I see. Right, throughout the whole class. That's nice.

Arati Lane:           If you have sparked the interest, and if it feels like there's something like a common, "Let's look at this a little bit more."

Tah Groen:           You can feel the energy in the room, it's different.

Arati Lane:           Then you can feel the energy changing. Then you have everybody's focus, and that's what the thrill is.

Tah Groen:           Teaching it.

Arati Lane:           This is what teaching's is all about.

Tah Groen:           This segues right into step number four - instructing versus teaching.

Arati Lane:           What I find important to bring into a class is you can instruct a class so there's particular flow, especially with Vinyasa, there's something predictable.  A lot of instructed classes are rigid.  There's nothing wrong with it but me personally, I find it very important that we teach something in the class. Find something where the most advanced person is going to benefit from as much as the most beginner you have in your class, the least experienced in your class.

You always have somebody who knows a lot more in some poses and somebody who's still struggling with that particular pose. You find them, you find the balance of bringing their needs together. That's really important, because you need to be with everyone.

The moment you teach, you have a different kind of attention. It's not like you're going through the moves.  You flow with it, and that's beautiful. Then there's the moment you have warmed up, you feel the breath, you're in sync, you're in your yoga zone.

What do you want to bring in? What do you want to teach? Teaching means you're not going to continue instructing. It's your highlight, we jump to the point from before. You go back to your highlight, and then teach something about it.

Tah Groen:           You'll find yourself saying things that you didn't know you knew, and it just comes out for the benefit of everybody.

That brings us to the fifth point that we have, our last point, which is connection.  Bringing some of your humanity to your practice.

Arati Lane:           We all at some point have this moment where in yoga practice, or in your life have a breakthrough.  It could be an understanding. You have an “aha” moment of putting things together, and there's a moment of enlightenment.

Sometimes we are more misunderstanding and not understanding, and sometimes we spark and we understand.   For a lot of people it's, for example, recovery from an injury. It's a healing journey for a lot of people. It may be breath. It may be learning how to relax. It may be purely just healing broken bones, joints, misalignment.

It's very common with that healing experience, that that's your breakthrough, and that's how come you want to share that. Because it was kind of putting yourself together in such a new and enlightened way, that you must share that, and so you want to become a yoga teacher.

Tah Groen:           I love that. That's good.

Arati Lane:           Also, for example, people recover from nervous breakdowns or PTSD, recover from addictions. 

Tah Groen:           Making the best teachers.

Arati Lane:           They make really good teachers because they are moving away from the pride of, "I'm whole, I'm fit." It's humbling, so that's the breakthrough place I was talking about earlier.

Tah Groen:           Yeah. Excellent way of putting it.

Arati Lane:           Teach from that place where the confidence, the healthy, the wholesomeness comes from, not always been that way, happened that way.

Tah Groen:           It's the humanity of it all.

Arati Lane:           Very true.

Tah Groen:           We are all human and this is how we learn.  

All right, so that's awesome. Let's review.

Centering is first and foremost, alignment. Getting to that place where you can express your authenticity, right? Centering and calm.

Arati Lane:           Yes, so you're coming from within and not from some idea you had.

Tah Groen:           Exactly. Then that translates into the sacred space, which you can develop. I love the idea of not having it be the same all the time, move it. We are constantly changing our creative ideas, so to put that into it, put change or evolution into your sacred space.

Then a highlight, in the energy dynamics of the class. It may be a pose, it may be a moment where you decide to draw everybody in.

Then instructing versus teaching. Teaching is key, so remember to do that. That's number four.

The fifth, which is the one that gave me goosebumps, is bringing the humanity. Bring some of your humanity into it, because that's how we learn. We learn from those genuine moments where we're sharing transformation.

All right, so there you have it. Thank you so much for tuning in. Namaste.

Arati Lane:           Namaste.

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tah groen

Tah has been involved with Yoga most of her life. She started practicing as a teenager. Inspired by a mentor to join a class at 16 sparked the yoga fire which has been burning ever since. After launching a sportswear line with her then husband in the late 80′s and becoming a mother of two daughters, it was time for a healing change. Trusting in the age old adage, “Do what you love”, was the consistent echo in her mind. A pivotal time of transition, a powerful period in her life as she realized the path that called her. Do what you love clearly meant that she become a teacher. In 1996 working simultaneously within the health food industry as a reliable source for nutritional council and support, Tah’s yoga business grew. She was able to open one of the first yoga studios in La Jolla. Shakti Yoga was born. After enjoying this prime location for a handful of years she realized the benefit of being a mobile instructor. This was the next logical step for her since the established client base was corporate and private. As she teaches she shares her healing touch of Reiki and Thai Yoga Therapy. Tah lives in San Diego with her partner of 15 years; and besides her two daughters who are in their 20s, has a rambunctious 5 year old son, who instead of a dog to follow him around has a loyal Bengal cat named Jagger.