How is a Private Lesson Different from a Group Class?


Almost every yoga teacher training out there focuses on how to teach group classes. We learn everything from teaching to a peak pose or building up a krama sequence to learning how to teach a well-rounded class with all the elements like sun salutations, arm balances, inversions, hip opening, backbends and forward folds.
But what about teaching in a private session? Should every class still be well-rounded or build to a peak pose? Should every session still end in traditional savasana?
Well let me ask you a question? If you were a student being asked to pay $150 for a class that is really similar if not the same as a $15 class, would you do it? I know I wouldn’t.
So this begs the question…in what way should a private session be different from a group class? In my opinion, none of the “rules” from your 200-hr or 300-hr training apply. To teach a truly awesome private session, you need to start from scratch.
Okay, I know that sounds really intimidating. But it’s not as hard as you think; it just takes a little bit work. To start with, I highly recommend you decide what constitutes yoga for you. Is it specific poses like downward facing dog and crescent lunge? Is it movement paired in a specific way with breath? Is it a practice of mindfulness that focuses on creating a deeper connection with what is going on in the body? Is it breaking through the mindset we have thus far been conditioned to?
Once you are able to answer those questions and really figure out what yoga means to you, then you have the freedom to teach ANYTHING within those parameters that you think will help your client achieve their goals/needs. That means you can throw out the rulebook on having teach sun salutations or a “well-rounded” sequence. You can teach only what is essential to the individual you are working with.
Since this is such a broad and multi-layered topic, let me give you a few examples:

  • For a student who wants to gain arm strength, you might have them do pushup drills, tricep dips and rotator cuff strengthening exercises. You also might introduce weights or resistance bands to the mix.
  • For a student who is really stressed out, you might take them through 20 minutes of very physically challening practice appropriate for their body and then spend the rest of the 40 minutes taking them through a journaling practice or guiding them through a meditation or visualization.
  • For a student with a shoulder injury, you might theme the class around teaching them how to do yoga without weight-bearing on their arms. You might give them alternatives to a “flow” they can use in group classes and spend the rest of the time making them feel strong in their legs, core and mind.

Once you establish what teaching yoga means to you, you can let go of:

  • Teaching sun salutations or any part of it (like downdog or chaturanga), every class or at all!
  • Counterposing every pose you are teaching
  • Doing a well-rounded sequence
  • Teaching a vinyasa style class in which poses continuously flow into each other
  • Teaching a traditional savasana or meditation to clients who can’t sit still
  • Teaching only traditional yoga poses

I hope this is helpful to you and opens up a whole new space for creativity and excitement in terms of teaching yoga privately. I talk about this extensively in my trainings, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at and I’m happy to have a chat with you!