5 Tips to Encourage and Retain Yogis

Students take a break from yoga for many reasons: travel, injuries, or maybe they just couldn’t find the time to visit their mat for a few months. If you are working with a student that has recently come back from one of these breaks, you have a unique opportunity to help them fall back in love with yoga.

Hold space for each of these students with patience, kindness, and the following tips:

Find out what brought them back

If you are teaching private lessons, start off by asking the student what brought them back to the mat. What feelings are they looking for when they practice today? Is this different than what they were seeking the first time they began practicing? We all attend yoga classes for different reasons, and these reasons may change over the years. Even if you are familiar with the student and how they practiced in the past, be prepared to hold space and teach in a different way than before. Adjust your classes based on the student, not your past perception of the student.

Be gentle

Coming back to yoga after a hiatus can be a bumpy ride. Even if the student had years of practice under their belt, hitting them with a fast-paced vinyasa class filled with arm balances may do more harm than good. Start students off with extra props, restorative poses, and a slower flow so they can ease back into practice.

Check in

Hold space for each student, no matter where they are or have been in their practice. If you teach group classes, the best way you can get to know your students is to ask them about their practice before and after classes. Sometimes an extra support, even just asking how the person enjoyed the class, can be the final pull to bring someone back into a regular routine.

If the student left their practice due to an injury, check in after class about how they are feeling and if they had any issues during the practice. Offer specialized alternative movements so that the student can still practice, but ease into using areas that have been affected by an injury.

Offer alternatives

Students may have just left their practice due to time constraints or falling out of habit. If the student is still exploring their entry back into yoga, talk about alternative ways of practicing. If you offer classes at different times of the day or week, or have online resources, share these with your students. Help students figure out what is right for their practice and their lifestyle.

Remind your students that yoga is a journey…

…and that journey isn’t always a straight line. Doing a headstand once does not guarantee that you will do a headstand twice. When we are out of practice, we may lose the ability to maintain our focus or hold certain poses. This doesn’t make us “bad” yogis or less advanced students. Remind students that their past practice wasn’t wasted or lost because they haven’t been on their mat recently. What matters most is that they have arrived.

Ready, Set, Teach!

We have all been at a place in our lives where yoga was not our top priority, or even a thought in our minds. Be empathetic and remember to hold space as you discuss and teach yoga with students who are coming back to practice. Our dedication to sharing this practice in this moment is of the utmost importance.

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Megan Okonsky
Megan Okonsky is a writer, yogi, and traveler originally from Philadelphia, PA. Earned her 200hr certification in the Live Music Capital of the World (Austin, Texas). She currently lives in Australia.

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