Yoga Teacher Talk is a new series I'm excited to unveil here on YBC where we'll discuss all different aspects of teaching. I'm hoping it'll be a great resource for current teachers, and those thinking about attending a teacher training. There's also a Yoga Teacher Talk section in the YBC Yoga Forum, and we'd love to keep the conversation going over there, too! Come join!
When I started teaching yoga, I was terrified. I felt like I wasn't good enough. I had a lot of self doubt. I was overly critical of my teaching. My playlists. My sequencing. I felt like because I couldn't do the perfect scorpion pose, I had no business teaching. Looking back, I realize it's all a bunch of bull. Those self doubts don't serve you. Here's what I have learned, and would like to offer as advice to all the new yoga teachers out there.
1. Perfect your craft.
To be the best at whatever it is you do for work, commit yourself to absorbing as much info as you can. For yoga teachers, this means reading yoga magazines, and yoga books. Attend classes often, and with a variety of teachers. Take master classes. Attend workshops and lectures on areas that are of interest to you.
2. Prepare to work.
News flash. Teaching yoga is hard work. Well, I suppose it doesn't have to be. You could just show up completely unprepared, but I promise it's not worth it. Besides, if you love it, it should be the type of hard work that's rewarding and feels good. Spend time on class prep. Pick themes and focuses that challenge you in your teaching but that you feel confident to teach.
3. Avoid teaching what you don't know.
This varies depending on who you ask, but in my opinion, the last thing I want is an injury (or a lawsuit!), so if I don't know how to properly instruct a pose, or if I can't do it myself, I'm not going to teach it.
4. Don't take it personally.
There will be people out there who don't love your class. They might even be rude about it. Kill 'em with kindness. They're seeing your class through their own filter, and whatever's going on with them has nothing to do with you. Let it go.
5. Take constructive criticism seriously.
Consider making a little announcement at the beginning or end of class letting students know that you welcome their feedback. Pay particular attention to the construction criticism and learn where your weaknesses are and make a plan for improving. Pay attention to the praise, too, but don't let it get to your head.
6. Say yes.
When you're just starting out, say yes to new teaching opportunities whenever you can. The studio needs someone to cover the 6am Sunday class? Take it! Another teacher needs you to cover his class last minute? Take it! When you say yes to opportunities, it might be scary and way out of your comfort zone, but it's what will help get you out there and help you gain more experience.
7. Be professional.
Yoga teachers have a bad reputation for being, um, out of touch with reality when it comes to the business aspect of things. Make a commitment to be professional. Arrive early to class. Arrive prepared. Stay after and answer questions. Respond to emails in a timely fashion. Make your emails clear and to the point. If you're organizing retreats or workshops, stay on top of the correspondence. Stick to deadlines, and be a reliable leader.
8. Set boundaries.
Teaching yoga can be emotionally draining. You're often giving so much of yourself that by the end of a class you feel just as tired as the students even though you likely didn't do much of the actual asana. Set a specific amount of time at the end of each class where you will stay to answer questions and chat, but when that time is up, make sure to get yourself out of there and get some time alone to decompress. An overextended teacher does not a good teacher make!
9. Smile when you talk.
In my personal opinion, I love instruction that is taught in a natural voice. However, sometimes we're so focused on saying all the things we need to say that we don't consider the warmth in the voice. A tip: Add a bit of a smile to your face as you talk. I'm not talking a full clown's grin, just try to feel the sensation of a smile on your face as you speak. It warms the voice without it becoming too sugar coated or fake.
I keep a notebook of my favorite quotes, themes I want to explore in class, a place to jot down reflections of the class, feedback, and more. This is my favorite notebook because it has a strap that keeps it closed, and a pocket in the back to keep article clippings, photos, and business cards. When people are settling in at the beginning of class, you can open up the notebook and read from it, or just glance down and remind yourself of that funky twist in sequencing you want to try.
11. Act as if.
Let's talk confidence. If you're feeling anxious or nervous before class, look at your body language. Are your shoulders rolled back? Is your head held high? When you put your body in the shape it looks like to be confident, you will feel confident.
12. Practice teaching.
When you're really, really new, the best advice I can give is to practice speaking your sequencing. I mean, get down on your mat, and talk yourself through your sequence. Be your own student, and let your body do what you're instructing to see if what you're saying is making sense.
13. It's not about you.
If you find yourself going into self-doubt mode, tell that voice to shut the heck up. Then, remind yourself that no one really cares about you. Wait, hear me out! I mean that in the best way possible, haha. They're not here for you. They might think they are. They might have even put you on a pedestal. But they're here for the yoga. They're here for how good they feel when the breath works and the body moves. Take the pressure off yourself because you're just here to shine the flashlight as they move forward on their yogic path. Sorry, I know that sounds cheesy, but think about it that way and the pressure's off. So deep breaths, and let go of that self doubt.
Related 4 way to silence your inner critic.
Let's talk Are you a new yoga teacher? How's it going for you? Are you a yoga instructor? What pieces of advice would you add? What topics would you like to see in the Yoga Teacher Talk series?