I got back from Costa Rica late last night - what a long travel day, culminating in the discovery that my bag didn't make it home. :( It's somewhere in Miami which is a real bummer because I need to fly back to Miami later this week and really have to do the laundry that's in that bag. Ah well. We had such a great week in Costa Rica, though, and I'm excited to share photos and stories from the trip later this week.
Today I wanted to chat about a few ways I've used to help me become a more confident yoga instructor. I remember when I first started teaching and I would prep for a one hour class for days in advance. I'd write down quotes I wanted to read and sketch out sequences, and practice my welcome speech. It is sort of sweet, looking back on it, but I was also filled with anxiety. I wanted to deliver great classes, yet I was just so nervous that my planning wouldn't translate or that I'd be finished with my sequence and still have 20 minutes left to kill. To ease my anxieties, I did the following things over and over again. These have served me well and hope they'll help someone out there, too.
1. Give yourself a pep talk. I used to get super nervous before I would teach. I'd have butterflies and my heart would race but I'll fill you in on a secret thing I used to do to help. I'd give myself a pep talk. Whatever I needed to hear in that moment (you got this, this class is going to be great, just breathe), I'd say it to myself as convincingly as possible. It didn't take away my anxiety completely, but it certainly helped.
2. Know your weaknesses and work through them. Identify your weaknesses and work on them one at a time with each class you give. One of my weaknesses, for example, was not being able to put into words what I wanted to say, so on my drive to the studio, I would practice key phrases for things I know I'd want to describe. Practicing these key phrases five or ten times makes it so much easier in front of a big group of people. Another weakness, for example, was blanking on a part of the sequence I'd arranged for that class, so I'd aim to arrive 20-30 minutes early and physically go through it myself. Muscle memory, it seems, is much more powerful than trying to remember the poses in my head.
3. Say yes to all teaching opportunities. When I was first starting out, it was hard to come by an opportunity to teach so whenever I did get the opportunity, I jumped on it, no matter how scared I was to teach. Practice makes progress, I promise.
4. Get to know your students. The class, after all, is about them, not you. You're an integral part, but you're not the show. So get to know your students. Use their names when you can, ask for feedback, and listen to what they have to say. Having a professional relationship with my students always made me feel more at ease. It's easier when you're putting familiar faces through a class vs total strangers, right?!
5. Take a power stance. As the class is about to start, if you're finding yourself feeling overcome with anxiety, take a power stance. If you're sitting, sit tall. Uncross your arms. Lift your chin until you feel it's parallel to the floor. I used to walk into the bathroom before class and take a couple deep breaths in the mirror, standing tall, shoulders back, hands on the hips. It's silly but it really did work to ease jitters and feel unstoppable. Assume the position of someone who is calm and collected and you'll be on your way to feeling the same.
6. Take a yoga class. Take as many classes as you can. Not only for your health but as research to find that you like about how other teachers instruct. If it's something you can easily implement into your classes, then great - go for it. If it's something that works for that teacher but may not fit into your style of teaching, acknowledge that it's perfect for them and let it go. I had a fabulous teacher who always came barreling into the room. She is a loud, beautiful, funny person and it works for her to bust up in the room announcing her arrival with a louder than life laugh as she carts her stuff across the room....but that's not me, and it wouldn't be authentic if I did that, so I smile and acknowledge that's her thing and let it go. In that same breath, though, I admire that she is at ease with herself as she enters the room and I try to aim for that same vibe, but in my own way.
7. Laugh at yourself. At the end of the day, it's just not that serious. It's a yoga class and we're all doing the best we can, you know? Who cares if you screw up? I can't tell you how many times I have messed up a sequence, fumbled my words, said left when I meant right. When it just becomes too much, I laugh. It gives others permission to laugh at me as well (and hopefully dispel any annoyance they're feeling) and transforms the overall vibe of my classes into what I always aim for: lighthearted, fun, and not too serious.
If you're a teacher - what would you add? If you're a student, what do you love about your confident teachers? What do you think they do to help them exude confidence?
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