Today, I’d like to share a guest post from one of our first ever Namaslay® 200hr. Yoga Teacher Training graduates, Danielle, on all her fears and doubts going into her first time teaching since becoming a certified yoga instructor. Show her some love in the comments if you can relate! xo Candace
On 27th July 2018, along with 24 other amazing souls, I graduated from Candace’s very first Namaslay® 200hr yoga teacher training in Thailand. On 9th August 2018, I taught my very first yoga class at my husband’s office. This is how I went from training to teaching, complete with all fears, doubts, tactics, practicalities and reflections.
A week before I went to Thailand, one of the managers at my husband’s office said they wanted to bring in a yoga teacher starting in August. My husband, Steve, said “I know a yoga teacher!” and just like that, I secured a weekly class before I was even certified. With a class to teach two weeks after qualifying in the back of my mind, I flew to Thailand. The training was such a uniquely beautiful (and incredibly demanding) experience, it’s hard to put into words (I did my best with a video testimonial which you can watch here) and it was also a vat of creative ideas, different areas of expertise and endless support and empowerment. It was the perfect place to bounce ideas off various members of our collective master class.
Whilst there, I wrote a poem for a presentation we had to do. It seemed to go down well so I wrote another poem for the teachers which I read at our graduation. It seemed to go down even better and I thought, “I might be onto something here”. I always enjoyed writing rhymes when I made birthday cards for my family but never thought of it as something I could incorporate into my work. That’s the beauty of yoga, it is a form of creative self-expression and throughout training I was doing my level best to be a “YES!” person, so I decided to start ‘poetry yoga’. I wrote a flow and I wrote two poems, one to introduce the theme at the beginning of class and a second to close Savasana.
Immediately, the doubts came flooding in. But, what if they don’t like the poetry? What if I forget the flow? What if it runs over or under? Or I can’t cue it or it’s too hard or too easy? What if I’m facing the wrong way, or I’m too quiet or they find me boring? What if, what if, what if?
A few months ago I told one of my teachers I was going to teacher training and I could really use some advice about approaching studios and getting classes when I was back. She invited me out for coffee and told me everything she knew about the practical side of teaching in Bristol, but she also spoke candidly with me about everything else. She said to be prepared to be overcome with a torrent of self-doubt about my teaching and my knowledge, that I would be questioning my worth, comparing myself to other teachers, always wondering if I was good enough, if I knew enough, trying not to take things personally when people would stop showing up to my class, when other teachers had more successful classes, a constant battle against the inner voice telling me I’m not good enough. She said that my own practice might suffer, that I would go through cycles of low motivation or zero inspiration; that I would be doing so much growing and the people around me might not be ready to come with me. And she said it would be the most wonderful and incredible journey I would ever take. She said the more you learn, the more yoga becomes your life and asana is just sharing a part of it. If only I could have even begun to grasp then how true these words were.
A couple of hours before I had to leave for my class, I went through the whole flow in my living room. I introduced myself to the sofa, opened with my poem, cued and demoed the sequence, dropped in my anatomy knowledge bombs at appropriate moments to the empty room and gave savasana assists to eight pretend students before closing. I tried to remember everything I had been taught, I wrote down which way I would need to be facing before every thread so that I would never be facing away from my students, I thought up options and modifications for many of the poses and how I would introduce them. I practiced the tricky cues so I wouldn’t mess up and tried to project my voice, matching the tone and tempo with the segment we were flowing through. And then I did my best to let it go, opened the door and left.
I did everything in my power to keep myself upbeat and positive. I did laughing yoga with myself which cracked me up (and probably made me look like a crazy person), I reeled off things in my head I was grateful for, one after the other without stopping. I thought about how lucky I was, how I was literally living the goal I had set for myself. I had quit my full-time job, gone to Thailand to directly train with the person who first introduced me to yoga and now I was on my way, not to take, but to teach a class, because I was a yoga teacher! Like how surreal and wonderful is my life right now!? And the whole way I was silently chanting the mantra I had stolen from Candace ever since I first read about in Namaslay®:
“They sit there, staring back at me expectantly. I close my eyes and take another deep breath, feeling the nerves wash over me.
Inhale: You have nothing to prove.
Exhale: And everything to share.
I open my eyes and welcome the students to the workshop. ‘So, let’s begin,’ I say and press play on my playlist.”
You have nothing to prove and everything to share. I’ve used it countless times since first reading it almost a year ago and now, I was repeating it broken-record style as I walked through the gorgeous British sunshine, reminding myself just how blessed I was.
I was feeling great...until I got there. I saw people and thought, shit. I went into the toilet and gave myself a little pep talk. There were a lot of “you’ve got this” and deep breaths before walking into the room. I set up my class, I sat at the front and I welcomed people. I smiled and laughed and joked with them. I acted as if I had all the chill. And as I started to teach, I realised something – the students were more nervous than me. That’s when I had an epiphany. I realised, they are worried about their yoga. They are not for one second expecting me to be nervous, they think I have my shit together because I’m the teacher. I AM THE TEACHER. And that was that, I put on my best teacher voice, relaxed and taught my class.
I didn’t use any cue cards (except for my poems) as I found at training I would rely on them and doubt myself even though I had memorized the sequence. Sure, I completely forgot where I was going with it at one point. Did they notice? Nope. I literally fell out of a pose at one point. Did I panic? Nah, I just laughed at myself and they laughed with me. Did I have an absolute nightmare with left and right? Absolutely. Thankfully my kind husband was at the front of the class and suggested I write ‘L’ and ‘R’ on my hands (what would I do without him!?). At the end of the day, it’s all the things that make me human and truthfully, I thrive off people laughing and having fun, even if it is at my expense!
Afterwards, I was absolutely buzzing. I was on a yoga high. Just ask my husband Steve who had to deal with me on a two-hour car journey straight from class to my parents’ house where we were staying for the weekend. I would not shut up, going between talking at a million miles an hour and dancing in the passenger seat to the music I had cranked up to full volume. Candace had asked me to let her know how it went and as I typed it was like verbal diarrhea onto the screen and straight into her messages. I was just so excited that I had taught a class. I was a yoga teacher!
In between bouts of annoying my husband on the drive home, I reflected on the class. I thought how next time I could do fewer poses and give them longer in each. Definitely a longer savasana. I struggled because I desperately wanted to get off my mat like I had been taught at training, but they were beginners and needed me to demo everything. So I had practice trying to keep my voice audible and even whilst moving through a flow myself. I wanted to do some assists but also wanted to let them just have a go and thought I would wait until they knew me a little better. But all in all I was happy. With my sequencing, with my cues, with my energy and that fact that I had bloody well done it!
All these things I was so nervous about. Will they like the poetry or is that too ‘much’ for an office-based class? Is the theme okay or do they feel like I’m just some hippy yoga teacher judging their corporate ways? Will they like me and my silly self? How will savasana go down? What if nobody wants me to touch them!? I asked for feedback at the end of the class and one email I received said, amongst other things: “I particularly enjoyed the readings at the beginning and end and it was relaxing too to smell the lavender and adjustment for savasana at the end. More of this please! I really enjoyed your upbeat and fun approach...thank you for the session and see you next week!”
And just like that, I remembered what all our teachers had been trying to drill into us. Be authentically you. Turns out all the things I worried about, all these things that were very ‘me’ were all the things this person loved about my class. There was at least one person out there who wanted what I had to offer. At least one person who would prefer to spend their hard-earned money and an hour of their precious time practicing with me, than going home after a long day at work. At least one person I could share yoga with, so that it could help them like it helped me, bring them the joy it had brought me. That one person made me excited to go back the next week, and the next week and the next. And all it takes is one person. That one person who makes you a teacher.