Teaching private yoga is a great way expand your business, develop customized sequences to meet a client’s need and apply your knowledge of yoga anatomy. While it can seem daunting at first, especially if you are new to teaching privates, it is an important part of developing yourself as a yoga teacher.
Here are 10 tips for teaching private yoga sessions:
Start with a sit down conversation with the client. Depending on how you got the referral, you may or may not know the client. I often get referrals via email and the client was referred to me by another student. If I have never met the client in a classroom setting, I will definitely meet them to get a sense of how they are, how they present and to have a chance to see them before our session. This usually only takes about 1/2 hour and I do it at a local coffee shop. If the client is someone I know from class, I might skip this step and proceed to our first session. However, always confirm at least via email the date, time, location, fee for service, cancelation details if they need to cancel ( will they be charged?) and how you accept payment. Some of this is more on the business side of the equation but it’s best to establish these details up front.
Use this meeting to find out why they contacted you, what their goals are for your sessions and anything that they wish to offer regarding their physical condition and familiarity with yoga. You’ll get more detail in your first meeting but this will give you a general sense of what they’re looking for from your sessions.
Establish where you will see the client and address who will provide mat and props. This is another business item but it’s important to mention. I see clients in my home, their home or a local studio where I can rent the space. Be sure you feel comfortable with the location and if you would prefer a neutral space, like a studio, for any reason, stick to that plan even if the client prefers you come to their home. Also, consider and clarify who will have mat and props so you are sure you’ll have them at the location for each session.
Take a written assessment to cover all aspects of the client’s physical condition. When you meet for the first time, take some time to do a written assessment. If you want, you can provide this to the client at the first meeting so they have it completed for your first session. This covers their demographic information, any relevant medical conditions, any limitations they have and anything else about their physical condition you may want to capture.
Determine the goals the client has for meeting with you. At the first session, in follow up to what you discussed in your initial meeting, emails or phone conversation, find out why they contacted you and what they hope to gain from the session(s). Do they want to learn yoga or heal from an injury? Do they just prefer private sessions over group classes? Get on the same page with the client so you can tailor a plan of action that makes sense for them. This will also allow you to confirm with the client if they expect to see you once or more than that.
On the first session, start with a postural assessment. I’ve found a great place to start with a new client is a postural assessment. This involves having the client in anatomical position and observing their posture. You’re looking for anything that stands out in terms of their physical shape when they’re just standing up. It could be any imbalance in the hips or hunching of the shoulders. I then take the client through some assisted range of motion in their upper body and look for any limitations. I have them do a few simple standing poses; a few Warriors, a Crescent Lunge and Tree and observe how they do. You can pick anything you want but starting at least with a postural assessment will alert you to any challenges they may face as you proceed.
Establish a game plan for your session sequences. Once you’ve gone through these steps, discuss the kinds of sequencing options you can offer. For instance, if someone want to learn yoga and your assessment of their physical condition at this point is that they are generally healthy but just new to yoga, offer to take them through a basic sequence comprised of Sun Salutations, Twisting, Balancing poses, Backbends and closing restorative poses. If your client has a specific injury, your postural assessment will have identified some of their limitations so you can share how you will customize the sequences over time to build their strength.
Assist the client in each session rather than practicing with him or her. This is fairly basic but use the time to assist, observe and coach versus practice with the client. A private session is all about the client and of course, not a time for you to get in your practice. This pretty much goes without saying, right? However, you may wish to demonstrate something and you should do this if necessary.
Create sequences that focus on both strengthening and lengthening areas of concern. Many people assume that practicing yoga is all about stretching but it should be a balance of both strengthening and lengthening. Also, as you are not a physician, if they have a complaint about “feeling tight” for instance, don’t assume your approach should be to simply stretch that area. Both you and the client should work together and try both stretch and strengthening postures and then ask him or her for feedback. The feedback should be given in the moment as well as after the sessions via email so you can see if they feel sore the next day or something else. You will be working together as a team (including any physical therapist input or any other treatment professional they may be seeing) to determine the best approach to addressing their needs.
Include use of reference materials to deepen the client’s understanding of what you’re doing together. I love bringing my favorite anatomy books, my own anatomy manual or any recent articles that might assist the client in better understanding the body, yoga or any other aspect of their health and wellness.
Figure out what “leave behind” tools you can create that will give the client something to do when you’re not meeting. One of the hardest things for clients to do is stay motivated between sessions and to know what to do. If they are not attending regular classes in between your sessions, consider writing down a basic sequence or writing down what you do with them each session. If you have the capabilities, set up a camera to record your session and post it on a private You Tube link for them to do when you’re in between sessions.
If you’re looking for some of the basics around yoga anatomy, including information about anatomical position, all geared towards working with both private and group class teaching scenarios, download my e-book below called “Key Aspects of Anatomy for Yoga Teachers.” Thanks for reading!