group dynamics in yoga classesBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

What are group dynamics and how do they apply to Yoga classes? “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The sentiment rang true when Aristotle said it; and it’s still true today. Many of us have experienced it in class: The dynamic energy of a room full of Yoga practitioners, all practicing together on a day when every student’s practice is going well. It is an exhilarating sensation. Yes, but how can this mindset be cultivated?

There are some things a Yoga teacher can do to build and sustain excellent group dynamics in class. Below is a list of six ideas to consider, when preparing to teach Yoga training sessions.

1. Build a steady group of students. Keeping the same group coming back, again and again, is not only good business – it is also the best way for the students to feel comfortable with you and with each other. Introduce yourself, and strive to keep class times consistent. Minimize the number of substitutes, and cancelled classes, if possible.

If the Yoga school allows it, offer a sign-up sheet for students who want to receive updates from you by email. Keeping in touch with students leads to a cohesive group organically, and in addition, it provides a medium for feedback and a way to advise students of upcoming events.

2. Try to plan Yoga sessions ahead of time, and let student practitioners know of your “lesson plans” in advance. This can be as simple as saying, “This month, we will work on calming and restorative poses the first week and chest and hip openers the second,” and so on. This will allow the students to prepare emotionally before class, and they will be receptive upon arrival.

3. If you do not normally open with a chant, try one. Having the whole group repeat something in unison, before beginning, lays the groundwork for a feeling of unity.

4. Take your time. Be sure poses are not hurried. While everyone needs to work at their own pace, most students will respond to a medium tempo, rather than a rushed move from asana to asana.

5. Play soft, uplifting music. In some studies, listening to quiet music, with a positive message, increased feelings of bonding and teamwork.

6. Share after class. At the conclusion of a Yoga class, ask how everyone felt, and perhaps, share one sensation that felt particularly strong for you as the instructor.


For Yoga teachers, building excellent group dynamics can involve extra effort, but the emotional payoff from an energy-filled practice, and the increased dedication of practitioners, is definitely worth it.  Although solo practice is rewarding, a Yoga lesson can collectively gain so much more.

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