10 Dos and Don’ts for Teaching Corporate Yoga

It used to be that to get your yoga fix, you had to stop by a studio. But as the practice grows more popular in the West, yoga classes can be found all over the place, from gyms to breweries – and even at the office.

Corporate yoga is becoming more and more common around the world, but teaching it is probably not something your 200-hour YTT prepared you for.

As you can imagine, teaching to company staff in a boardroom is going to feel very different than teaching at a studio… The space is going to be different, you may be teaching a shorter class and you may be teaching to employees who have never done yoga before. It’s important to be prepared before going into an office environment to teach yoga.

I’ve been teaching corporate yoga and leading a team of corporate yoga teachers for 14 years, and I’ve learned a lot from the hundreds of clients we’ve worked with.

So, here are my top 10 dos and don’ts for teaching Corporate Yoga in an office:

1. Find out in advance what style of yoga your client is looking for

Most of the time, corporate yoga clients aren’t sure what style of yoga class they want. They usually tell us they’re all beginners, or that they don’t want a “spiritual” class. I like to follow the motto “give them a little of what they want and a little of what they need.” If they ask you for a super easy beginner class, you can still throw in a challenge – perhaps a standing balance pose or a backbend. If they ask you for a non-spiritual yoga class, you can still introduce the concept of chakras to them or read them a line from the Yoga Sutras. You just need to make sure that you have this conversation about expectations with them before classes start, so everyone is on the same page.

Find out in advance what style of yoga your client is looking for – restorative, vinyasa, hatha, yin?

2. Introduce spiritual stuff slowly

About a year ago, one of my new corporate yoga clients told us that they didn’t want any of “that mumbo jumbo spirituality stuff” when they were setting up their classes. Fair enough, I told them. However, I have always found Corporate Yoga students are actually very open to learning all about the spiritual side of yoga – they just need to hear it in small, manageable chunks. Give them time to ease into the classes and become comfortable with you. If you’re going to teach them to chant, for example, make sure you give them permission NOT to chant and also explain why chanting is a big part of yoga. Also, if you are going to teach something like chanting in your corporate classes, make sure you chant louder than your students.

3. Start on time, finish on time and be prepared for people to be moving around

Unlike a yoga studio, there may not be a clock in whatever room you teach in at the office. Take a watch or phone with you as it’s important to start and finish the class on time. Your corporate yoga students have taken time out of their busy day to do yoga with you, sometimes for just 30 or 45 minutes, so every minute counts. Unless my class organizer has asked me to wait, I always start the class on time. Finishing on time is even more important, as often people are racing back to their desks to finish a mountain of tasks. A 30 or 45-minute class is still “real yoga”. Each student is doing the very best they can. Hold the space for them, make it a nonjudgmental, supportive environment and your students will keep coming back for more

4. Be prepared to offer a lot of modifications

Sore necks, tight backs, scoliosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, a newborn, a recent car accident, people who don’t exercise…this is just a taste of the mixed soup you will experience in your corporate yoga classes. All are welcome, but it’s important to offer modifications when necessary. I always remind my students to breathe and not push through the pain. I give them permission to rest or stay in the modified version of the pose that day. Watch for red flags  – anyone who is about to hurt themselves – think knees in the wrong place in a lunge pose or a misaligned neck that could cause them great harm. Modify. A lot.

I give my students permission to rest or stay in the modified version of the pose that day.

5. Address common concerns

When anyone sits at their desk for a long period of time, they’re more prone to have back pain, neck pain, wrist strain, poor posture, tight hips, shallow breathing and more. Unlike when you teach at a studio, you have the advantage of being able to know your client and their needs beforehand. If you teach yoga at a car assembly plant you’re likely teaching people who have a physically demanding job – teach them a wrist stretch you know, they’ll appreciate it. If you’re teaching at an IT firm you’re probably teaching people who sit for hours and stare at a computer screen all day – you could teach them eye exercises to ease their tired eyes. Know your client and teach them a yoga class that will address their unique concerns.

6. Learn everyone’s names by the second class

While it’s not always easy to remember everyone’s names in a yoga studio or a gym setting, it is possible to do that in the office because you’ve been hired to work specifically with the same group of people. Remembering names builds trust with your clients and shows that you truly care about them.

7. Keep your instructions simple

While you may completely understand cues like “feel your sit bones,” people will be lost in your corporate yoga classes if you give too many instructions that aren’t super clear. Less is more. Keep it simple.

I’ve had people show up for the last five minutes, walk through the room in the middle of class (despite the sign on the door that clearly says “Yoga in Progress – Do NOT Enter”), talk through class, check their phone and do a whole bunch of other things.

8. Roll with it

I’ve had people wear jeans to corporate yoga, I’ve had people show up for the last five minutes, walk through the room in the middle of class (despite the sign on the door that clearly says “Yoga in Progress – Do NOT Enter”), talk through class, check their phone and do a whole bunch of other things. If it’s unsafe or disruptive to others, you have a right to say something. Otherwise, if it’s not bothering anyone (except you) and it seems to fit with their corporate culture, be prepared to simply roll with it and don’t get worked up.

9. Avoid partner poses

Unless you’ve been asked to teach partner yoga at your corporate class, avoid doing so. Remember, these people already spend a lot of time together, so they may not be thrilled when you start matching them up, especially if it includes leaning on each other, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes. Partner yoga isn’t necessarily off limits but if you’re going to teach it, know your audience and make sure you know ahead of time that it will be a hit, not a miss.

10. Do more than teach them

When you have your own corporate yoga client, remember that you’re not just teaching them – you’re managing their account. Go above and beyond their expectations by showing up early, providing them with a professional invoice to pay you and checking in from time to time both with your contact person as well as with the students in the class. You want them to feel like you truly care about them and you want them to feel confident that they made the right choice in hiring YOU to be their corporate yoga teacher. Always exceed their expectations.

Teaching corporate yoga can be a lot of fun! You’re helping busy employees to de-stress, boost productivity and increase energy.

It doesn’t hurt that you can also make $80-$120 or more from teaching a single corporate yoga class. It’s a wonderful way to spread the joy of yoga, teach what you love and make a great income. Remember these tips, and you’ll have a very successful career as a corporate teacher.

Edited by Jaimee Hoefert

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