Reffing Yoga (also known to some as Teaching Yoga)

I started reffing people through yoga practices Jan4, 2010. Yep, not that long ago. [sorry if you thought I was a 110 year old guru; should have read my “about me” page] I can’t put it into words how much I love it. It’s so very hard to describe the feeling you get after leading a group of yogis through a strenuous asana practice. You basically get high off their energy. Even better is the look in a beginners eyes when something “clicks”. When you can see it in their quirky smile that tells you they’ve just accomplished something that couldn’t do last week. You get that in seasoned yogis but something about a newbie’s look is just so fun! Probably because I was that yogi. Not that long ago either. Well, it doesn’t feel that long ago though it was probably 5 years now.

I guess that’s why I love yoga (since I know you were thinking that exact question); it’s an ever evolving, ever challenging, ever changing game. I call it a game because using the word practice brings up flashbacks of running sprints at basketball – working towards the BIG game at the end of the week. With yoga there is no end goal, no play-off. Every time you step onto your mat it’s THE show. And a show for yourself. I’m sure in the next couple of weeks I’ll write about my struggles with competition and how challenging it was (and still is) for me to overcome that. But not today. Nope, today I wanted to tell you about my love or yoga and leading yoga games. Leading yoga games = Reffing yoga.

Here are some things I’ve learned so far while referring yoga:

Go in with a plan but be ok with ditching it: I’ve gone into to lead a Level 2 class and had a room full of beginners. That series of going from Warrior 2, to standing cat, to half moon to standing splits just isn’t going to work.

It’s ok to mess up: My mind tends to run a few steps ahead of my verbal skills so I constantly trip up on cueing – ‘sokay! I laugh, I say “rather lift your LEFT leg”, I move on. The players aren’t there to judge me. They are there to move and groove – so don’t beat yourself up over it!

Tell it like it is: Don’t try and get fancy with cues. Not only will you get tongue tied (see above) but it won’t sound natural. It won’t sound genuine. It will also probably mess up people’s groove. “Glide your right appendage to the sun above you”? Really? How about “life your leg”!

Tell it like it is: This one refers to the “musings” throughout class. Again, people can tell when you’re speaking from your heart and when you’re verbally copying what someone else has said. You’ll never catch me taking about the peace within or shining your love out from every limb as you extend in wheel. Not that I don’t love hearing that out of one of my favorite refs, but because it’s not me.

Look and Listen: Stop focusing on your words and look around the room. How are the players doing? Are they out of sync with their breathe? Are they totally hunched over from that not-so-great cue you just gave? Well then adjust. Give them another cue. Bring them back into down-dog or child’s pose to reconnect with their breathe. Again, take a minute to go outside what YOU thought the class would be and make it what the players need it to be. Warning: This is hard for anyone, especially beginning refs. Hell, I’m still learning this one.

That brings me to my last “learning” for this post: It’s about THEM (the players), NOT YOU! All of the above comments lead into this and this is what I tell myself before I walk into any class. I guess it’s my reffing mantra. “It’s about them, not me”. If you teach for yourself then it’s not going to benefit anyone, not even you. If you teach for your players, then they will benefit. When you ref it’s to help someone else’s game. You can play your own game later, let them play this one.

Ok, that’s all for this one.  See ya yogis! -B


February 17, 2010. Tags: , , . Teaching.


  1. Doniree replied:

    I love your take on all of this! Makes me yearn to teach, but I know where my energy’s best spent right now. I can’t wait to take your class 🙂

    • Brit replied:

      Thanks lady! It’s been wonderful so far and I can’t imagine that slowing down! Miss you lots…

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