How to Weave Story Into Your Yoga Class
When I was a teenager, newly introduced to the yoga studio, my favorite teachers all had one specific trait in common: they were storytellers. As they guided us in and out of postures, they would also guide our minds with their words. Some teachers told stories of the Spiritual Gods that many yoga poses are named after, others told stories of experiences they’d had, and others simply encouraged students to focus on an intention by consistently bringing it up in different ways throughout the class.
As a new teacher, I also wanted to become a master storyteller in the studio. I remember coming to every class with a new story in mind. I would practice it in my head, and make sure it made sense with the flow of the class. However, by the time I sat down on my mat to teach, I would lose my nerve.
I had two main concerns:
What if the students were in the room just for the physical practice and became annoyed by my story?
When in the world would I tell my story, when there was so much else to think about as I taught?
Time and again, I let my stories fall to the wayside in favor of a more straightforward approach to teaching.
It wasn’t until I decided to create a class focused around garudasana or eagle pose, that I decided to really “go for it” with the story I had planned.
So, how did I muster up the nerve to finally use the yoga studio to tell a tale? Well, I prepared!
Before my first successful story, I wrote out a literal script of what I wanted to say about the Garuda. Then, I broke up the script into four sections and decided when I would share each different piece. Below, I will share my script and how I used the Garuda story during class.
On the day I shared the Garuda story, I walked into the yoga studio and because of my preparation, I had the confidence to teach the class as I had planned it. Since then, I have continued to practice weaving stories into my classes, and it only becomes easier and more natural to me the more I do it. Luckily, it now requires much less preparation than that first time.
If storytelling is something you’re also interested in doing as a new teacher, there are two resources that I would like to provide.
The first is this post on when exactly you can weave stories into your yoga class. The linked blog post talks all about the most opportune moments when you’re teaching to tell a story. The second resource is the following script that I used during my class on the Garuda, including the poses that correspond with each piece of the story. Feel free to use this same script in a yoga class of your own, or use it as a guide to tell your own story! We've even designed a PDF download of the script so you can print it out:
The Story of the Garuda: Yoga Class Integration
Yoga Pose: Opening Savasana
Story: “The garuda is a mythical creature from Hindu mythology. The garuda is birdlike, with a mixture of human features and elements of the bird – the wings, beak and talons of an eagle. The garuda is known as the “carrier of Gods” since the Vishnu uses the garuda to ride upon.”
Yoga Pose: Supine Twist with Eagle Legs, side one
Story: The yoga pose “garudasana” or Eagle is named for the Garuda. When looking at the sanskrit name we see: “Garuda” followed by “asana” – which is literally Garuda’s pose.
Yoga Pose: Supine Twist with Eagle Legs, side two
Story: In hindu myth, the Garuda is known for strength and determination, overcoming impossible odds to fulfill the wishes of those that he loves.
Yoga Pose: Tadasana with hands at heart center in Anjali Mudra
Story: The Garuda is often depicted with two of his four hands pressed together at heart center, in anjali mudra. A gesture of offering and devotion. Fitting for the Garuda’s selfless spirit.
Yoga Pose: Downward Facing Dog
Story: So today, as we move through practice, I invite you to cultivate the same spirit of the Garuda – strength and determination – onto your yoga mat.
(You’ll likely move through more of class at this point and you can continue to pull in different aspects of the Garuda’s story into certain poses. The “peak posture” in this case would be garudasana, which you can make your way to by mid-class.)
Yoga Pose: Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Story: While in this shape, imagine that the spirit of the Garuda is coursing through you. Feel the strength in your legs. The power that runs through the whole midline of your body. Feel strong in this shape.