Teaching Yoga to Athletes

Jessica, a marathoner, triathlete, and yoga teacher, wrote me from San Diego, asking about how to get started in the field of teaching yoga to athletes.

I was heartened to hear that she actively trains and competes. It’s certainly not a prerequisite for teaching a great class for athletes, but it definitely helps to be able to feel in your own body the demands of training for endurance sports, to feel the fatigue, to notice the tightness and strength incurred in training. (The same thing goes, of course, for team sports athletes.) When you are in training, your own personal practice will give you some valuable insight into what feels good and what is too demanding.

The central question of the field—one I come back to again and again as I schedule workshops—is whether to bring the yoga to athletes or the athletes to the yoga. That is, do you go to where the athletes train to teach, working at a health club or directly with teams, or do you offer a class in a yoga studio and invite the athletes to join you there? As yoga becomes more and more accessible in America, the latter is easier to do. Many of the barriers that made yoga seem intimidating and offputting to athletes have now fallen, so a studio class may be more successful than it would have even five years ago.

At the start of a career in this field, however, I’d suggest going to the athletes. This could mean teaching at a gym, visiting a team sport during practice, or offering a stretch-out after group runs or rides. This helps you build a client base that will come to you when you do offer studio classes.

I explore this question in depth in my weekend workshops on teaching yoga to athletes. We discuss the needs, abilities, and limitations that athletes bring to a yoga practice; investigate ways to modify classes for athletes of various sports and levels of experience; discuss the pedagogy and business of working with athletes; and work on sport-specific sequencing. (Read more on my approach on teaching yoga to athletes.) I’ll be offering one at Yoga Tree in San Francisco this August, and another at my home studio, Carrboro Yoga Company, later this fall, with advanced trainings in the works for 2012 (e.g., at Kripalu in late January).