My yoga practice has evolved over the years in ways I never thought possible.
I never considered myself the “teacher type.”
I love being a student. I love asking questions. I love learning. And yoga is a practice that offers non-stop learning for those curious types (and unlearning, for that matter).
But eventually I caught the bug like many of us do, and next thing I knew, I found myself enrolled in my first 200-hour teacher training just a few years after I started a more serious and consistent practice.
Although teaching came more naturally to me than I initially thought, the past 3 years of teaching has provided wonderful opportunities to amplify the student within me, and learn even more about the practice.
I’ve made a commitment to always being a student first, and this has enhanced my ability to teach greatly.
After 3+ years of teaching, here are my best tips to becoming the best yoga teacher you can be!
1) Put your personal practice first
Prioritizing my practice has been the single-most beneficial factor that has enriched my own teaching. This means carving out time to get on my mat as much as I can each week. The commitments I make to attend class are sacred and rarely do I cancel.
Time on my mat is my greatest teacher (whether I’m being guided by someone else, or engaged in a home practice). I learn what the postures feel like in my own body, so I’m better able to guide others in their own experience.
One of my teachers once said, “you only teach what you know.” Thus, taking the time to get curious and explore the boundaries of my own body and mind, will help me encourage others to do the same in a safe and mindful way.
2) Ask for mentorship opportunities
Even though it’s tough to play “favorites,” we all have teachers in our network that we prefer to see more than others. Most likely, it’s because their style and words resonate deeply.
If you find yourself gravitating towards one particular instructor, consider asking them about mentorship opportunities. There is a real need for yoga teacher mentors because most yoga teacher training graduates don’t feel ready to teach after their first 200-hour training.
[BUSINESS IDEA: Since most yoga teacher training graduates are looking for some extra guidance… why not set up a yoga teacher mentorship program? Serves a similar purpose as an internship. New teachers would be more than willing to pay for the guidance of an experienced teacher.]
Mentorship as a yoga instructor is a great way to learn from someone you admire, while getting 1:1 feedback about your own individual style.
This is something I haven’t yet done, but plan to this upcoming year.
3) Explore new studios, teachers, and styles
Yoga is everywhere. Chances are, you can find a studio or gym that offers classes in your community.
It’s easy to get stuck at the same studio week after week. I have noticed a positive difference in how I teach, when I started attending a variety of studios and started taking classes from a myriad of instructors.
Every opportunity on your mat is an opportunity to learn. Even if you walk away with a bad taste in your mouth, you still learned something!
I understand it can be difficult to take classes from a bunch of different studios if you’re on a budget. Yoga is not cheap!
Thankfully, more and more donation-based studios are popping up. Check out the local co-op and community centers in your area – they often provide free yoga.
Karma Yoga programs are worth exploring too. Some studios offer a karma yogi program, where you can donate some time to help out at the studio in exchange for a free or discounted membership.
The more you can diversify your practice by attending a variety of styles and teaching, the better off you will be as a teacher!
4) Seek out what you need
My practice has taken on many different shapes over the years as it evolves along the ebbs and flows of my life. I love the heat, I hate the heat, why do all vinyasa teachers sound the same? Kundalini is weird, I LOVE Kundalini…..
This means, at different times, I’ve craved different things. This has helped me diversify my practice (see above) and get a more broad understanding of the never ending practice of yoga.
I’ve committed to seek exactly what I’m curious about, whether that’s a specific style, posture or instructor I’ve heard about. I make time to attend workshops specific to what I’m curious about, or finding yoga teachers who exemplify what I’m seeking.
If you don’t take time to seek out what you need and want, you’ll be waiting a long time for it to come to you (if it comes at all).
5) Journal. Before, during, and after class
I keep multiple journals to gather my thoughts around yoga. I have a journal to capture my musings after morning meditations, one that I bring to workshops and trainings, and one solely for classes I attend each week.
Writing helps me reflect, digest and process all that I’m experiencing on and off the mat. Each week I take time to review what I’ve written, and then integrate what’s in my journal entries, into my classes.
A relatively new habit I’ve started is journaling during every class I attend.
I write about anything and everything during the class:
- Class length and style
- How I’m feeling prior to the practice
- Verbs used by the instructor that resonate with me
- Cues for new postures
- How I feel after class
This has helped me immensely as of late. I consider every class I take an opportunity to learn and feel new things, so writing about it allows me the chance to be even more introspective once I leave the mat.
6) Forget the “what” — Instead, ask “why”
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know…
This has helped me so much while learning about yoga. Both as it relates to my own body and practice, and helping my students move safely and appropriately in their bodies.
Instead of learning “what sequence your favorite instructor uses” – imagine how powerful it would be to learn WHY that instructor chose that sequence. This makes you a more dynamic teacher.
Example: Forward folds and hip stretches are important after lots of back bending.
During a recent class led by a well-respected instructor in my community, someone interrupted her to ask a question. The instructor encouraged this type of feedback and conversation, even if it meant stopping during the middle of a class to break something down.
Whether in class or not, asking questions and getting curious will only help you gain more knowledge about the practice, which will feed your teaching beautifully!
What helps you become a better teacher? Leave a comment below!