One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is how to dissipate nerves as a new yoga teacher. Confession: I still get nervous before classes. Well, that's not entirely accurate. The emotion, I would say, is a mix between twenty percent nervousness and eighty percent excitement. My point here, I suppose, is that I don't think being a little nervous is all that bad. To me, it just means you want to lead a great class.
But how do you set the tone for your class so that both you and the students have a good experience?
The one thing I always do is say hello. I do this for two reasons. One, because it helps to transform that little bit of nervousness I'm experiencing into pure excitement and two, because whenever I attend a workshop, I always feel nervous as the student, especially if it's a teacher whose class I've been dreaming to take for ages.
I really try not to put people on pedestals (I don't think it's healthy for anyone when we do that), but sometimes you can't help but really look up to someone and for me, the nerves kick in then. I hate that nervous feeling as a student, and as a teacher, I don't want anyone to feel that way if they're take my class. I want people to feel at ease.
So before class starts, I introduce myself to each student. If they're standing, I stand. If they're seated, I kneel down so I'm at their same level and say hello. I always shake hands, make eye contact, and ask them their name and maybe another question or two ("How was the drive? How are you feeling today?"). If I sense they're stressed or nervous, I try to make a joke or let them know they're encouraged to do anything they need to do to have a good class (take a break, skip poses, do a different pose, etc). And then I always thank them for coming. I mean, they could be spending their time anywhere else, with anyone else, and here they are at my class. I'm always so blown away that people would want to carve out time in their day to come practice with me, so it's important to me to let them know I appreciate them. Without them, this whole YBC® thing doesn't work, you know?
So there's my little tip. It's not a mind-blowing revelation but I think as yoga teachers we sometimes get so caught up in worrying about #allthethings. Sequencing! Music! Ambiance! Tone of voice! Adjustments! Checking people in! Are the cell phones off?! Are my pants on inside out?! (True story, that happened to me once.) We get so caught up in all these other elements that we forget the basics. A simple hello, a handshake and a 'thank you for being here' go a long way to let the other person know you've seen them, you've acknowledged their energy, and you're appreciative of their presence, and that's at the root of what we all want both on and off the mat, I think.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Does it matter to you, as a student, if a teacher says hello? As a teacher, do you remember to do it or do you think it doesn't make much of a difference?