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From Chaturanga to E-Learning: Four Instructional Design Lessons From Teaching Yoga

I trained as a yoga instructor because I love practicing yoga. I didn’t expect it to change my approach to instructional design, but these are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

Be authentic. Students know right away if a yoga teacher isn’t being authentic; it’s difficult to teach a sequence without having felt it in your own body or to use words that aren’t your own. As an instructional designer, it’s not typically my role to know all about the content at the kick-off of a project. But in order for the courses I design to be effective, it is essential to have subject matter experts involved in the project. They provide critical support to verify the accuracy of the content.

Teach to your learners. While a room full of experienced yogis might take down dog without hesitation, a group of beginning students probably needs a bit more explanation when you’re cuing in order to make the pose accessible. The same goes with instructional design. If you know the level of familiarity your audience already has (or doesn’t have) with the content, the learning can be tailored to suit their need and ensure everyone finds the content accessible.

Guide your learners, don’t force them. A yoga sequence, or flow, guides students through a practice, while giving them space to find their own breath rhythm and attune to their bodies’ needs. A good learner journey or eLearning module does something similar: it provides structure to the learning while remaining flexible to different learning styles and learning needs.

Find some balance. A power yoga teacher brings in a variety of different elements to lead a balanced practice, including twists, standing poses, seated poses, backbends, and inversions. Just like a yoga class made up entirely of standing poses doesn’t lead to a balanced experience for students, an eLearning module made up only of text-and-graphic pages doesn’t make use of the interactive elements that bring balance to the presentation style of a course.

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