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How are your private yoga classes going? Are students breaking down your door to enjoy quality one-on-one time with you? Teaching private yoga classes is a great way to offer extra value to your students and build a new source of income. But if most of your private students aren’t returning for regular, ongoing private classes, you're probably doing it all wrong.


Teaching successful and ongoing private classes requires a very different skill set to teaching large group classes. So how do you serve your students in a way that turns them into delighted, repeat customers? Take a look at the top 5 mistakes yoga teachers are making in private classes and see what you can change.



1. Teaching a group class to an individual

The biggest mistake you can make in a private yoga class is teaching the same way you would in a group class. If you're standing in front of your student and demonstrating poses in the hope that they'll mirror your movements for the next 60 minutes, you're not adding any value and your student won't be back for more. The secret to teaching successful private classes is to personalise everything you teach to meet the needs of each student. Observe your student, notice their postural habits, listen to their questions and be sensitive to the needs that may lay hidden under the surface. Most of all, ASK them how they feel and what they need. Then tailor what you teach to suit that individual student (and continually refine your approach and techniques to meet their changing needs).


2. Getting off to a bad start

Your first session with a new private student is crucial. This is where you set the expectations, boundaries and rules of engagement for all future work. This session has two equally important parts:

A. The Yoga Practice - this is about understanding your client's needs, explaining your professional approach and philosophy and making sure the two are compatible. This includes taking a full case history,  obtaining written consent and undertaking an assessment of your student that offers insights into their physical and emotional needs. It also involves discussing issues such as consent to touch your student for adjustments and ascertaining your student's attitude towards 'non-mainstream' aspects of your teaching including chanting, spirituality, mantra etc.

B. Everything Else - this includes boundaries around communications between you (I had a student who took to calling me every day for advice - that wasn't healthy for either of us), fees, payment methods and dates and cancellation policy.


3. Failure to Follow up.

 This is a big one. I’ve heard yoga teachers say 'I don’t want to be pushy. If I do a good job, they'll come back'. That's not true. You can be the world's best teacher, but you're not going to get repeat customers unless you put in a bit of effort. Follow up every single student. That doesn't mean harassing them to rebook. On the contrary, following up with students adds extra value to your services and they love how it feels when their teacher takes a genuine interest in them. Try a simple thank you email and a bit of extra advice or a link to an article illustrating something you covered during your class.  Follow this up with a message asking if they'd like to move forward and enjoy some more of what you have to offer. Put yourself in your student's shoes and think about what you'd like to hear from your own teacher - encouragement, support and genuine care.


4. Poor Record Keeping

I can't emphasise enough how important it is to keep good records of your private classes (and to make sure you store those records in a way that complies with privacy laws). You need to accurately remember what you did with your student in previous sessions, what modifications they needed, what their questions were, what the emerging patterns of injury and discomfort are and a thousand other things that will help you to teach your student safely and effectively. If you don't keep a careful record, you won't have that information at your fingertips which could put your student at risk if you fail to take their injuries into account each and even put you at risk of litigation if you can't prove you listened to and acted upon information provided by your student. Besides, nothing makes a student feel more warmly towards you (and want to rebook) than knowing that you care about the details of their practice and of their lives.


5. Withholding the gold stars

 We all know that yoga’s a journey, not a destination. But everybody likes to feel they’re making progress and if your students don’t earn a few gold stars along the way, you’ll soon lose them. That doesn’t mean you have to coach them into performing the perfect asana, though. I find it helpful to ask students what they really want to get out of their yoga classes. I then work with them to figure out what it will look and feel like when they are getting what they need. This conversation also helps me to manage their expectations – a beginner hoping to do unsupported headstand in a few weeks is likely to end up very disappointed.


One of my students, Maria, said she wanted to improve her upper body strength and feel calmer. How do we measure that? For the strength part, we chose a pose that she wasn’t confident performing and created a road-map for improving her comfort and stability in that pose. We could then see, week by week, how she was travelling in terms of her body’s responses to the carefully sequenced preparatory poses. We agreed that ‘calmness’ could be measured by how she felt when performing a particular task at work that was making her feel flustered. We started working with some mindfulness techniques and, as her practice developed, evaluated her levels of composure at work. In this way, Maria was able to see the fruits of her efforts and was encouraged to continue with her classes.


If you offer your students real value, genuine care, a roadmap for progress and great communication, they will get much more out of their classes with you and be delighted to sign up for ongoing private classes.

FREE Private Student Registration Template. This invaluable document will help you build a rapport with your student and understand how to approach your classes with them. Fill it in with your student on their first visit and then update it each session to keep a record of your student’s needs, questions and progress. CLICK HERE for your free template.   

Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She's passionate about inspiring yoga teachers and the wider community to create healing, joy and purpose. Join her for Yoga Therapy Teacher Training and Yoga retreats in 2015.Got a question about yoga or ayurveda? Ask Nikola here.  


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