To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” – Pema Chodron
Do you feel you could teach yoga in your sleep? Is teaching yoga becoming a task that you do mindlessly everyday?
If so, you may be on autopilot. Remaining here for too long, can have adverse effects on your teaching.
As a new teacher, this rarely happens; everything is new, nerves accompany you, and it’s generally easier to be present moment to moment. But as we become more and more experienced, it can be easy to drop into the done-this-a-thousand-times-before mentality.
The remedy? Pull yourself back into the present. Shake things up, find inspiration, and re-ignite the fire within. In addition to continually getting thrown from the nest as Pema would say, we have compiled a list of tips to help you stay awake to the experience of teaching. Even if you’ve done it a thousand times before.
Check them out below!
1. Explore other teachers and practice with them.
Teaching yoga can take us away from having fun in our own practice. It’s easy to get caught up practicing where you teach, or not practicing at all. Have you dropped off from exploring other teachers and practicing with them? When you change it up a bit, you can learn so much! You can learn other cues, class themes, sequencing, and more to inspire your teaching practice.
Try going around to different studios in your area and attending a class you’ve never been to before– both in the style of yoga you teach and in different styles!
2. Learn something new.
The idea of maintaining a ‘beginners mind’ was engrained into us during teacher training. But as we grow as both students and teachers, we get caught up easily and it can get to our head. Because of this, it can be easy to remain in our ego state and not as easily drop into this space and remain a student. So consider for a moment – when’s the last time you dropped back into this mindset and learned something new?
Perhaps you’re interested in a new style of yoga for which you haven’t yet received training? 15 and 30-hour trainings have been popping up all over and are great for learning a new style of yoga. Look into restorative yoga, yin yoga, or trauma-informed yoga mini trainings. Each can help re-inspire your teaching practice and bring something fresh to the style you most often teach.
If signing up for a new training isn’t in the budget right now, see if the studio you took your training through will let you sit in on the anatomy segment or another interesting segment of the next teacher training. Often times they’ll let you do this at no extra charge since you were a previous student of the training! Sometimes re-learning or going deeper is all the refresh you need.
“Teaching yoga doesn’t end with a 200-hr certification….this is a lifelong process of educating yourself and practicing. Be hungry and humble in your efforts to develop, but don’t be afraid to step into your own power when it’s time.”
Learning something new can expand beyond the studio, too! Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby can inform your teaching in unique ways. Think about steadying your breath and remaining focused while rock-climbing can have an impact on you as a teacher. Or learn how to weave or knit; this can induce feelings of peace but also humility – as you’re exercising your beginners mind! (see above 🙂 )
3. Evaluate your teaching.
Change is the only constant in life, this is certain. We cannot avoid changing, but are we evolving alongside it? It’s up to us to actively evolve and want to get better. There is always room for improvement as a teacher but are you trying to improve?
You can evaluate your class by recording it and listening to it afterwards. Or, ask a trusted friend to sit in on your class and give you honest feedback.
A few things to look out for:
- What cues you regularly use (are there any you use too often as a crutch?)
- How you weave your class themes into your cues
- Your sequencing/the flow of the class
- Filler words
Remember: this isn’t an opportunity to shame or judge yourself if you find yourself thinking you could do better! We can always do better. This is simply to help you improve as a yoga teacher, so that you AND your students can benefit.
Additional Resource: Modern Yoga: Rethinking Outdated Cues
4. Get personal.
Our teaching is a reflection of our own lives, our own process, and our own healing journeys. Have you let your personal practice fall off? Are you stagnant in your own healing journey and growth?
Consider weaving more of your personal life into your class themes. This doesn’t mean you need to go into every detail of every thing, but delivering the over arching lesson can be helpful for you and your students!
Also dive into your own practice, and get creative with it! Do you have default transitions between postures and series? Or maybe you avoid certain postures because you don’t know how they feel in your own body? Explore, try something new, and find what feels intuitive. A creative personal practice has been the absolute best thing for getting me out of autopilot as a teacher.
Not convinced? Check out this article, Why Yoga Teachers Need to Maintain a Personal Practice.
5. Think about cues.
Cues are one place where we can really get mindless. What cues are you using and what do they actually mean?
Write a list of the cues you regularly use and think about what they actually mean. Ask yourself: is this actually what I want to say? Or do I want students to do something different with this cue?
Brainstorm a list of new cues that you can mix in to get what you really want to say across. Taking classes from a variety of other teachers can also help you think of new cues and ways to word things.
6. Reconsider why you teach.
Why do you teach yoga? Are you on autopilot because you’re overworked, overtired, or just not passionate about yoga anymore?
If you’re feeling overworked and overtired, some self-care and restructuring may be needed. Check out these articles to help you explore self-care and creating a yoga business that doesn’t burn you out:
- Self-Care for Yoga Teachers: 11 Tips to Avoid Burnout
- Creating the Perfect Teaching Schedule for You and Your Business (includes a checklist for dropping a class!)
- How to Make Money as a Yoga Teacher: 25 Ways to Diversify Your Income
Think about what motivates you to teach yoga. Your intention for teaching will spill over into your classes. Teaching a yoga class just for the money will feel different than teaching a yoga class to be in service of your students. Are you teaching yoga for the “right” reasons?
If you’re just not passionate about yoga anymore, what happened? How can you re-ignite your passion for the practice and for teaching? Check out numbers 4 and 7 of this list for some help with finding the passion again!
7. Get inspired.
Getting inspired may or may not be related to yoga. Like I said above, your teaching is a reflection of your personal journey and practice.
What makes you feel inspired? What makes you feel creative? What makes you feel alive?
And most importantly, are those things part of your daily life?
If not, how can you restructure how you spend your time to incorporate more inspiration, more joy, and more pleasure? This could be as simple as taking a walk in nature everyday for 20 minutes. Or listening to your favorite podcast.
What do you think? Are you on autopilot as a yoga teacher? Try out a few of these tips and comment below to share what you learned!