Jessica Perry, Yoga Medicine 500HR Trainee shares some insight on putting together your first yoga workshop after finishing your teacher training. Learn how to incorporate new concepts into your practice, and deliver a workshop to convey these experiences to your students. That is where the real gem and crux lies — how to transfer what you know into a meaningful, educational, and accessible workshop.
Getting Started is the Hardest Part
I began preparing for my first workshop on low back pain and how yoga may help relieve and prevent it. I was nervous and a little overwhelmed in planning the workshop since it was my first time. What if no one came to my workshop? Do I really know anything? Would I be able to help anyone? These thoughts are normal for me in just about anything I do. I fear wasting someone else’s time. I fear not being able to help. While I have those thoughts and fears in almost everything I do, the key to getting over them is to start. Getting started is the hardest part but the most rewarding once you get past that initial stage.
A few months prior, I had brought up my interest to teach a workshop to my fellow yoga medicine teacher, Shannon Stephens at Soul Yoga. Shannon graciously took me under her wing to help me decide on a topic and guiding me down the path in planning. Originally, I wanted to discuss everything about the back that I learned through the spine module. I was excited to share all the knowledge I had gained. I also wanted to test myself to see what I actually know. Shannon helped steer me in the right direction to focus on one area. That area would be low back pain which is a common complaint we hear from yoga students, friends, and family.
Planning the Content
In order to focus and get started in planning, I went to a local coffee shop. I sat down with my Yoga Medicine Spine Module manual, my notebook full of notes from that module, and a blank document opened on my computer. I typed out my ideas for the workshop and then started to organize them in a fluid way. It is similar to planning a vinyasa flow class: Decide on a theme or peak pose and break it down on how to get there.
What muscles are stretched? Which ones are shortened? What poses help with those muscles being lengthened or shortened? In this case it was what poses will help strengthen the muscles around the low back and why would that help with and prevent back pain. I planned the workshop by putting myself in the shoes of an attendee. What would I want to know? How do I learn? How do my friends learn? Can I make this accessible to a beginner? Will it be interesting for an experienced practitioner?
Laying out the Workshop
In the end, I broke the workshop into four main sections. The introduction was about who I am and what the workshop was about. After the introduction, I spoke of body awareness and why breath is important. The next part of the workshop was the anatomy of the low back. I kept the anatomy short and sweet in order to help reinforce the information in the yoga sequence. Next, we discussed a few common causes of back pain. Finally, I led everyone through a yoga sequence to tie it all together.
During the yoga sequence, I emphasized why a particular pose was important in regards to preventing or helping low back pain by referencing the anatomy and common causes we discussed. I pointed out which muscles the pose shortened/lengthened, and explained how that relates to low back pain. I referenced the common causes section and spoke about why it is important to be mindful of our muscles in a pose.
Reflecting on the Experience
Overall, I felt relieved, grateful, and a little stronger mentally after the workshop. I got over my fear of getting in front of a group of people and discussing things other than just putting them through poses. I got to take the time to explain more about why a pose can help us and how to avoid hurting ourselves. In class, we sometimes do not have time to go over that detail in depth. After the workshop I had several students tell me they enjoyed the workshop and requested I teach more. When I heard those words it made the fear disappear. I am glad I got started. I’m looking forward to translating the information I have and will learn through Yoga Medicine modules into workshops to serve my community.
In summary, what I have learned through this experience is do not be afraid to step into the role of teaching a workshop. The hardest part is getting started! Let your fears motivate you and guide you into what you want to deliver to your community. Remember you have the knowledge and it is there! Be sure to have a main focus for your workshop, break it up into pieces in order for others to follow and take away something, and reinforce the topic in your yoga sequence. I wish you a fun and successful experience in planning and delivering your first workshop!