How to Teach Your First Yoga or Fitness Workshop (and Why You Should Teach Workshops)

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Teaching workshops might be an obvious step or goal if you teach yoga but did you know that any group fitness instructor can teach a workshop? And even if you already plan to or hope to teach a workshop, that doesn’t necessarily mean you know the steps involved. If you don’t teach workshops or haven’t considered teaching a workshop, here are some reasons why you might consider adding one to your schedule:

  1. Avoid Burnout
    Teaching a lot of classes is a lot of work. I am probably preaching to the choir here, right? Teaching can be so fun and rewarding but it can also be a mental, physical and emotional drain, especially if your schedule is packed or you’re teaching on top of another job. Teaching workshops is a great way to avoid burnout because, although you put in a lot of prep work the first time, you should only have to make little tweaks and edits when you teach that same workshop in the future. Workshops also involve more ‘talk time’ and are (usually) less physical than a typical class so they can give your body a break and provide some variety which is always healthy for the mind.
  2. Earn Extra Income
    Just like with classes, workshop pay can vary dramatically. You might earn a flat rate or a commission based on how many students attend but, either way, workshops pay higher than an average class. Just make sure you get everything in writing from your studio, gym, business or group so you know what to expect, ahead of time, as far as pay rate and cancellation policy.
  3. Build a Following
    When I first started teaching, my blog and newsletter were geared toward my students (now, I provide support and resources (like this!) for other instructors) and I built up most of my email list and social media following from sign-up sheets at my workshops. You’ll want to get approval from your supervisor or contact person before passing around an email list sign-up sheet but most private studios and groups are cool with it and it is a great way to stay in touch with these students that you might not get the chance to see in your regular classes.
  4. Learn Something New
    Of course you want to pick a workshop topic that you know something about but you’ll still need to do some research and, if you pick the right topic, it should be fun to dive deeper into that subject and learn new details you didn’t know before!

Now that you know why you should teach workshops, you’re probably wondering how? Here are the seven steps I take to plan and teach a workshop:

1. Pick a Topic

First, pick a topic. Consider your audience, your format and what you’d like to research. One great way to pick a topic is to notice (and perhaps even write down) what students are asking for time and again. Basics workshops are almost always a hit but, again, know your crowd. If you teach at a yoga studio where the students are familiar with workshops, basics is probably still a smart go-to but the students might also be open to more advanced and more specific workshops. Are your students always asking you how to improve their crow pose or how to do headstand? Take note.

If you teach a non-yoga format, again a Pilates Basics or Cycling for Beginners workshop will appeal to a lot of students but if your cycling class is full of ‘real’ outdoor cyclists, maybe you teach a workshop about How to Train Indoors for Your Next Outdoor Cycling Race. If your step class has been steppin’ since the 80s, maybe you teach a workshop called Don’t Lose Your Step (How to Avoid Joint Wear and Tear During Step Aerobics). If you see droves of new barre students in the New Year or in the fall and many of them struggle with form, offer a Barre Basics Workshop.

2. Get it on the Calendar

Start with the places you already teach. Approach your gym/club/studio manager with your workshop idea(s) and be prepared to tell them how long it will last and a suggested day and time. Take a peak at the calendar and note when there aren’t any classes in session. This doesn’t mean that the studio is actually available but at least you’ve done your homework and they will appreciate the effort. If you’re teaching to students (and not other instructors), weekends work best. Be mindful of holidays and local school schedules try to avoid scheduling when students might already be off of their usual routine.

In addition to your current teaching locations, reach out to local groups, studios where you don’t already teach and businesses when the topic is appropriate. You can even rent space at most studios but then the promotion is usually 100% left up to you.

3. Promote

If you’ve made a flat-rate arrangement with a group, business or new studio, you might not be required to promote but make sure to mention your workshop on your social media outlets of choice and offer to provide flyers if needed. If you’re teaching the workshop where you already teach classes, of course you should mention it to your class a lot. Most students don’t hear everything you say, especially the first time. So mention the workshop and mention it again and again and again until it happens and then maybe even mention it after the fact so they’re used to hearing about special events on the schedule and then they can keep their ears open for the next time a workshop comes around.

4. Build Your Outline

Your outline is basically what you will say and what exercises or poses you will teach during the workshop. Only you will see the outline so it doesn’t need to look fancy at all but it should be easy to read with a quick glance during the workshop. Think back to the note cards you used during school presentations. Less is more.

5. Create Your Handout

Every great workshop comes with a useful handout. Your students will probably forget about 90% of what you taught the moment they walk out the door.  They likely have the best intentions but real life gets in the way and perhaps they take your Cycling for Beginners workshop with plans to jump into classes on the regular yet they don’t actually get around to it for a few months. Make your handout something that they could reference and still find useful in that scenario. I prefer to include pictures for yoga workshops and I just pick the most basic and useful information to include on the handout. The handout should be easy to read and professional but you do not need to be or hire a graphic designer. These days, there are even free graphic design apps. Keep it simple!

6. Practice

Make sure you practice your content a few times so that you’re not reading your outline during your workshop (glancing at notes is completely fine), so that you can fine tune little snags that you notice in the flow of your content or exercises and so that you can practice timing. Almost every speaks faster while a little nervous in front of a crowd than when practicing alone so keep that in mind and save a few minutes at the end for questions and clean-up.

7. Teach Your Workshop

Finally! It’s time to teach! Assuming you have experience in the area you’ve chosen for your workshop, it’s likely the actual exercise portion of the workshop will run pretty smooth. The part you’ll need to get used to is the ‘talking’ portion where the students are just sitting or standing while they listen. Handouts are nice so students can take notes on them if they like and I found that having a large easel with bullet points or even a PowerPoint presentation (for the less yoga-ish workshops) really helped in my first several workshops. It helped ease my nerves that the students had something to look at rather than just staring at me. These days, I don’t mind but it was really nice when I was new to teaching workshops.

8. Follow-Up

If you get the chance to collect email addresses (with permission, of course), then follow up with your participants a week or two after your workshop to find out if they have any questions. If you taught a beginners workshop, it’s likely they have questions but maybe they don’t think their questions is ‘good enough’ to bother you with an email. If you open up the door, they might just ask their question and you start to build even more trust. It’s then more likely you’ll see them in your class, hear from them again or even see their name on your next workshop registration list!

9. Repeat!

This is the best part about teaching workshops! Although there is so much prep work involved the very first time you teach a topic, you can reuse and re-purpose that content many times over in the months and years that follow. For example, I’ve taught my Yoga for Beginners Workshop and my Yoga for Runners Workshop at several different studios and even in different states! I’ve taught Yoga for Sleep, Yoga for Stress, a combination of the two (Sleep More & Stress Less Yoga Workshop) and I’ve used some of the content from each of these workshops in my Health for the Holidays Yoga Workshop and in a special Yoga for Heart Workshop I taught once during Heart Month in February.

I hope this has sparked some ideas for you to start planning your first yoga or fitness workshop! Let me know how it goes and contact me with questions along the way!

♥ Andrea

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