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by Nancy Gerstein
Human Kinetics, 2019
Review by Beth Cholette, Ph.D. on Dec 17th 2019
Author Nancy Gerstein is a yoga teacher and entrepreneur who previously released the book Yoga’s Guiding Light, a manual providing 74 brief yoga class lesson plans. Gertstein’s current release, Motivational Yoga, is also aimed at yoga teachers. In this new work, Gerstein again offers lesson plans for yoga teachers, this time providing 100 different options of varying lengths plus five additional plans intended as outlines for yoga workshops.
The lesson plans in this book are organized into a total of 17 chapters. Early chapters cover yoga practice basics, including Beginning Lessons, Breathing Practices, Asana (physical practice), Salutations in Motion, Prana (energy), Pranayama (breath), and Motivation. The next few chapters introduce yogic philosophy with Yamas, Niyamas, and Chakras. This is followed by a focus on the themes of Mindfulness, Lessons from the Heart Center, and Emotions. Finally, Gerstein presents information relevant to specific types of settings in the chapters on Workshops, Yoga for Special Populations, Practices for Home and Office, and Guided Relaxation.
The format is consistent for every chapter and individual lesson. Each chapter opens with a quote from the Buddha. The components which make up the lesson plans include Intention – Lesson – Asanas for Deeping – Motivation Off the Mat – Wise Words – Teacher Tip (occasionally included). The plans are accompanied by black and white photos that illustrate all of the poses included in that outline. An example of this format is “Morning Gratitude Meditation,” which is found under the Motivation chapter. The Intention of this practice is “to feel grateful for your life.” The Lesson section, written as a script that the teacher can offer the class, includes a gratitude meditation. There are seven postures listed under Asana for Deeping, including Warrior II, Humble Warrior, and Supported Savanasa. One idea listed in the Motivation Off the Mat section is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Wise words offers additional wisdom related to the theme plus another Buddha quote, and finally, the Teacher Tip suggests dedicating the class to someone who has been inspirational. Some of the plans have as few as four postures, while others, especially those which contain vinyasa flows, have as many as 8-10, with numerous poses comprising the flows.
The workshop outlines are significantly longer, providing additional details—for example, duration and props needed. There is information on how to open the workshop, elements such as journaling prompts, and numerous “Workshop Wisdom” reflections to supplement the Teacher Tips. In the book’s Glossary, Gerstein offers pronunciation and translation of many Sanskrit terms. She also provides a Recommended Reading List as well as an Asana Index.
I am a yoga teacher myself, and I enjoy planning my classes around themes. Gerstein’s prior offering, Yoga’s Guiding Light, has been one of the most helpful books I have found for this purpose. Upon receiving Motivational Yoga, I was surprised to see just how similar it is to Gerstein’s last offering. As noted above, Motivational Yoga contains more lesson plans, and the book is longer overall (343pp as compared to 235pp for Yoga’s Guiding Light), with four additional chapters added (Motivation, Workshops, Yoga for Special Populations, and Practices for Home and Office). The format, while expanded in this new work, is almost exactly the same. For both books, the lesson plans do not really offer a complete outline for a full 60-90 minute yoga class. I have found Gerstein’s ideas extremely useful as a foundation for my own planning, and yet I’ve generally needed to supplement her lessons with additional poses of my choice.
In the end, I think that Motivational Yoga is an excellent option for assisting and inspiring yoga teachers in developing themed yoga classes. For those unfamiliar with Gerstein’s work, I would suggest that owning both of her books is not necessary, as the more comprehensive information provided here is likely to be an ample source of wisdom.
© 2019 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.