To demo, or not to demo, that is the question. And it certainly is a question that sparked a lively conversion on my Instagram post. So much so, I figured I needed a full length blog post to share the nuance around the topic for yoga teachers demo’ing during their classes.
There are so many moving pieces that come into play in order to be able to teach a quality yoga class. And trust me, I totally understand how this can feel overwhelming as a new teacher. There’s so much to keep track of!
The good news is that my 100 hour yoga teacher training continued education course provides the exact tools you need in improving your own personal craft of teaching yoga. Or, better yet, tune into my free yoga podcast to get a few free pointers along the way.
This post will deep dive on whether yoga teachers should demo in their classes by providing the reasons why a teacher should steer clear of demos, as well as circumstances when demo’ing while teaching makes sense.
Feel free to chime in on your thoughts, approach, or opinions in the comments below or on my Instagram post.
Should Yoga Teachers Demo When They Teach?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for ANYTHING in life, let alone teaching yoga, I stick to this approach due to the benefits I’ve learned over the last decade of teaching.
Ultimately, I hope that you weigh out these pros and cons based on your own student base so that you can best serve the students who are coming to your classes. That’s the whole point of being a yoga teacher, after all.
Why Yoga Teachers Should Not Demo While They Teach
- You can see your students better.
- Your cues will be more precise.
- You can preserve energy.
- Reduces the chance of burn out.
- Increases energy for self practice.
- You don’t have to rely on your body for income.
- You can still teach when you’re injured.
- Your body isn’t the focus of the class.
- You won’t intimate students with your physical capabilities.
- Keeps the focus on the students.
- You can teach poses you can’t physically do yet.
- Challenge yourself and your students.
- Able to offer hands-on assists.
You Can See Your Students Better
Imagine you’re teaching downward facing dog, and you’re also in that position. You’ll be upside down! How well can you really see your students?
You get a much better vantage point of your students when you’re standing up, and walking around the classroom. When you’re able to see your students more completely, you’re able to ensure the quality and safety of their experience in your class.
Your Cues Will Be More Precise
The other advantage of being able to see your students more clearly is that you’re able to cue in a way that’s specific to their needs, rather than relying on a memorized script. If you can’t see your students very well, how are you expected to instruct them safely?
You Can Preserve Energy
Let’s be real, if you’re teaching 15 – 20 classes a week (like most full time yoga teachers are), you’re going to be exhausted if you’re demo’ing for all of them. Plus, a lot of teachers are also leading classes in hot studios, which only zaps your energy even more.
When you’re able to stop demo’ing, or at least reduce the amount that you demo, you’re able to preserve more energy as a teacher.
Reduces Chance Of Burn Out
Burnout is a very real thing in the yoga teaching profession. And physical burnout happens all too often. A great way to prevent physical burn out from happening is to reduce the amount you demo when you teach.
Increases Energy For Self Practice
When you stop demo’ing, you’ll find that you have the energy to self practice, which is vital for being a quality yoga teacher. Check out this post on how to maintain a self practice for more information.
You Don’t Have To Rely On Body For Income
It can be scary to rely so heavily on our bodies for income, because our bodies are prone to injury and illness. If you’re demo’ing all of your classes, then you’re even more reliant on your body for your income, than you would be if you were teaching without demo’ing in your classes.
You Can Still Teach When You’re Injured
One of the greatest things about not demo’ing in your yoga classes anymore is that if you’re injured, you can still teach! This means your income won’t be impacted just because you sprained your ankle, or hurt your knee. This is huge in creating longevity in your teaching career.
Your Body Isn’t The Focus Of The Class
We’ve all been to those classes where it feels more like an hour for the teacher to showcase all of their cool tricks, rather than teach us how to do them, right? Sure, it can be impressive to see what years of practice can do, but the purpose of the class is to teach, not to show off.
Plus, students can find this intimidating or inaccessible, and never come back to yoga again. We want to create an inviting atmosphere above all else.
Keeps The Focus On The Students
By taking your body’s capabilities out of the equation, we’re able to keep the focus more solely on the students. The point of this class is to give your undivided attention to students so that they feel guided, supported, and safe.
You Can Teach Poses That You Can’t Physically Do
When you don’t rely on demo’ing in classes, you’re able to teach poses that you can’t yet do. Yes, I know this is controversial, but I’m a firm believer in being able to teach poses you can’t do given that you have the anatomy and alignment knowledge to back it up.
Challenge Yourself And Your Students
Most of the time we demo as a crutch, not because it’s necessary. And our students can get used to that crutch, too. It’s so important to continually challenge yourself as a teacher in order to grow, and reducing your demos might be the perfect way to do so.
If you’re nervous about your students, just let them know at the beginning of class that you’ll be doing something a little different today by walking around and only cueing. Let them know that you’re doing this so you can see them better, provide more accurate cues, and hands on assists. When they know you’re doing this for their benefit, they’re likely to be more comfortable with it.
Able To Provide Hands On Assists
It’s physically impossible to provide hands-on assists if you’re demo’ing your entire yoga class. When you’re walking around the room while you teach, you’re able to provide physical adjustments and assists to your students to deepen their experience.
Make sure to always ask for consent before touching anyone.
When Yoga Teachers Should Demo While They Teach
- Teaching online.
- Filming in-person classes for online streaming.
- Doing half demos.
- For the first side of the sequence only.
- If your students are visual learners.
- To demonstrate a new pose or transition.
- As a last resort if your students don’t understand.
When Teaching Online
In the case when you’re teaching online, it’s pretty important that you’re demo’ing as you teach. Teaching online is a totally different style and craft of teaching than the in-person approach, which is why it makes sense to demo the entire class.
Filming In-Person For Online Streaming
A great tip to preserve energy is to film your in-person classes for online streaming. This way you can use one hour of your time to teach, but that hour will get paid over and over again. When you’re filming an in-person class, you’ll need to demo as you teach.
Doing Half Demos
Half demos are my favorite thing, because they’re so effective, while still preserving energy. Half demos allow you to still stand and walk around the class to get a good perspective on the students, but partially demonstrating what the next posture will look like with some part of your body.
For The First Side Of The Sequence Only
Sometimes it’s helpful to demo just one side of the sequence, so that your students feel comfortable. This is especially useful for when you’re just starting to transition away from demo’ing, and into cueing only.
I love this option as it provides support to all kinds of learners (both audio and visual), as well as all kinds of teachers.
If Your Students Are Visual Learners
You’ll be able to tell if you’re working with someone who’s only a visual learner. In this case, it can definitely be helpful to provide demos throughout your class. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to demo the entire time, just as needed based on their confusion.
To Demonstrate A New Pose Or Transition
It’s fun to mix it up as a yoga teacher by putting a funky new pose or transition into your class. When you have students who are used to your style and sequences, these new movements might throw them off. A great time to demo is when you have a brand new shape or transition in your class, this way your students can both see and hear in order to understand how it works.
As A Last Resort If Your Students Don’t Understand
If your students are absolutely not understanding your words, and their confusion is giving you stage fright- then demo. It’s better to keep the class moving and flowing, rather than freezing up. Of course, the more refined we get with our cues, the easier it will be for our students to understand us.
But for new teachers out there who still get easily spooked (trust me, that was me too!) this one’s for you. Demo if you need to. More importantly, demo if your students need you to. It’s not the end of the world.
So, which one will you choose? Demo or no demo?
Share your thoughts in the comments!