The Spirit of Community in Chair Based Yoga

As a yoga teacher going from place to place to teach yoga classes I find it very satisfying to connect with other before and after a class.
I get great gratification also from people completely relaxing or letting go in my classes.
The best part though is when the students connect with each other; like Beth and Jessica, like Wendy and Tracy (you all know who you are girls), like so many others heading for coffee after the class, or the mums that wait outside my classes for their kids to finish with a cup of tea in their hands.

The spirit of creating a community is even greater in chair based yoga classes.
It takes a fair amount of effort for participants to make it to the class, from getting dressed, to transport. Chair yoga classes become the highlight of the day for some and a meeting place for others.

In my Chair Based Yoga Trainings I highlight the importance of creating community in classes. Students are made aware of the challenges; from accessing yoga classes and the best time to facilitate them, to setting up the class in way that creates community.

But beyond that what else can we do to facilitate the spirit of community in Chair Based Yoga?

5 ways to encourage community in your Chair Based Yoga classes

1. Set chairs in a circular manner

When participants are sat in a circle you (and they) can see everyone. No one is first, or last, no one is hidden, no one leads, we are just sharing, love, energy this beautiful practice. Setting class in this manner also allows you to observe your students throughout your practice.

2. Get to know your students

Arrive early, ask for their name (even if you forget after 1 week) and welcome your students to the class. Ask how they have been and make small talk. This also often reveals things their initial assessment would not; goals, aims, likes and dislikes, the reasons they come to class.

3. Celebrate your students

Celebrate their progress, including coming back to the classes every week, thei achievements and encourage them every step of the way.

4. Education

Education is key in delivering effective chair based yoga classes. Education on your students’ most common ailment and the root causes of their condition, their aims and goals, their background, including ethnicity.
Education will help you promote overall well being in your students lives not just in the class.

5. Clever Sequencing

This refers to constant adaptation of the poses and of the whole practice. Observe your students and adapt as you go. Show respect for their needs and offer several options for the poses you are teaching. Adapt the sequence as you go and move freely from asana to pranayama and meditation as you go, without relying on class plans to offer a comprehensive class plan.

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7 CLASS IDEAS IN BUILDING COMMUNITY IN YOUR CLASSES

  • Feel United: Chanting is a great way to feel united with each other and the divine. It does not even have to chanting, it can be just singing. People feel united when their voices unite and sound is sacred. Vibrations through sound will help everyone feel at home.
  • Community (great for sensory impairments): Stand (or sit) in a circle: Hold hands, close eyes, start breathing in/out and notice yourself breathing. Notice the person next to you breathing, then slowly progress to imagining inhale from the right arm up, exhaling left arm out; receiving right, giving left and so on.
  • Encouragement & support: Walk around the room, when ready stop and stand (preferably) back to back with someone:
    Breathe deeply and slowly, while eyes are closed. lean into your partner, let them lean into you, Lean some more and feel support back as they lean into you.
    Repeat with walking and leaning and OM, or hug in the subsequent times.
  • Compassion: Heart meditation from Special Yoga
  • Teamwork: Partner chair yoga
  • Kindness: The kindness Web: Sit in a circle (always a sharing circle) and bring a ball of yarn. Hold one end and throw ball to someone across the room while saying something nice about them, they hold a bit of the yarn and throw to another person. By the time it has gone all around it is a web. This could be about gratitude and respect also.
  • Diversity: Stand up. Legs together – notice how you feel. then legs hip width, then wider etc. Then at the end with eyes closed allow everyone to choose a standing stance and open the eyes to look around (everyone will be different).

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