It’s safe to say that yoga has been the catalyst that changed my life. A deep commitment to the practice led to teacher training where I experienced a monumental shift within. That shift resulted in leaving my lifestyle behind to travel the world.
Since then, being a traveling yoga teacher has impacted me more than I could have ever imagined.
I had no idea that enrolling in my first teacher training back in 2013 would involve so much growth. The past few years of teaching around the world have been informative, humbling and exhilarating. Amidst a flurry of other emotions along the way.
Each training and workshop I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of has gifted me a new lens in which to dissect life, while reminding me to remain grounded in my own truth.
This practice has provided me with a foundation in which to grow… spiritually, emotionally, mindfully. As I continually reflect on what I’ve learned from teaching, I’d like to share those reflections with you.
Here are some things I wish I had known when I first started teaching.
Don’t have to know it all.
When I had a student tell me before class that she was 24 weeks pregnant, I froze. Anxiety flooded my mind and my body tensed up. I began worrying about her safety and if I could remember all the modifications for pregnancy I learned in teacher training…
It took me months to learn from that experience and shake the nerves every time a pregnant student took my class.
Because you carry the label of teacher, doesn’t mean you have to know it all. Your students are the experts of their bodies. We are the experts on guiding an experience. Whether your students are pregnant or not, only they know how they really feel. As a teacher, we’re there to hold space that allows them to tune into that “knowing” more fully. Of course we encourage this in a safe and mindful way. 🙂
When you let go of feeling the need to know it all, you’ll bring more peace with you as the role of a teacher. It’ll loosen up the pressure you put on yourself. Furthermore, admitting when you don’t know something to a student, shows them that they can fully trust the things you DO know. Win-win.
Every BODY is different
Before every class I teach, I run through the sequence in my own body to see how it feels. I make necessary adjustments to transitions or postures to ensure it flows together intuitively.
When I first started teaching, I remember having the occasional student who wouldn’t follow my cues and would be doing an entirely different set of postures. I often took this personally felt offended. Was my teaching not good enough? Did it not feel good to them? This was my ego talking. (See below – It’s not about you…). It can be difficult to move past moments like this, but your students are taking what they need and leaving the rest. That’s what we teach after all, right?
With more experience, I’ve grown to admire those students who follow their own rhythm. I’ve become inspired by their ability to tune into what their body needs at any given moment. After all, they made it to their mats and that’s often the hardest part of the practice.
Understanding that every ‘body’ is unique in what feels good and what they need, is an important lesson as a yoga instructor. Not every tree pose will look the same on your students. And every day brings about new challenges on (and off) the mat. Your job is to create space for your students to explore what that feels like for them, in any given moment.
Be a student first.
As I was falling in love with the practice, I was planting seeds to become a yoga teacher. Getting on my mat is what started my initial journey. The student within me became amplified even more so as I began teacher training. But the student mindset can become suppressed when you begin teaching.
It’s easy to lose sight of your own practice once your time is spent creating classes. I became consumed with putting together sequences, building my playlists, and deciding how to theme my classes. At one point, I was teaching 4 classes a week on top of a full time job and a part time gig at Lululemon. I barely had time for myself let alone time to get on my mat.
I’ve found the more I’m able to practice as a student, the more confident I feel as a teacher. My practice informs my teaching more than anything else.
Authenticity attracts students
Take a moment to think about a yoga instructor you really admire. Ask yourself, what is it about the way they teach that keeps you coming back for more?
If you want to be the teacher who people come back to, be YOU.
Being able to hold a handstand, or float gracefully in and out of inversions doesn’t make you a better teacher than the rest. What will attract and retain students is you being yourself. It’s as simple as that!
The more willing you are able to be vulnerable and share your truth, the more your students will feel a deep connection to you. Authenticity breeds trust. This is what will keep them coming back for more.
Things don’t always go as planned…
And that’s okay! Like many things in life, things don’t always work out the way we hoped. You may have planned out an entire class ahead of time, just to arrive and completely forget all of it. This happens to all of us; new and seasoned instructors alike. It can be difficult to let go of control in situations like this, but it’s the best thing you can do.
Just breathe. 🙂
Resting postures in yoga classes like child’s pose and downdog are great times to regroup and remember what you’re doing.
When plans fall apart, it’s a great time to exercise your ability to be flexible and go with the flow. Feel free to make a joke about it with your students. This can help you build more trust by admitting you made a mistake. Being vulnerable connects us all, and shows them that you’re human too.
It’s not about you.
Although as a teacher you’re front and center, it’s really not all about you.
The tendency to feel pressured to create the perfect sequence or say the most profound, thought-provoking thing, is common worry amongst new teachers. It’s so easy to get caught up in your plan (see above) and think only about yourself… even if all of your prep work is actually for your students.
At the end of the day, you are guiding an experience for your students. It is not about you, your outfit, your playlist, your anything. It’s about how to hold space and create an environment for your students to explore their own bodies and minds.
TIP: While greeting your students before class, take the time to get to know them and avoid worrying about how they will perceive you. Simple things like remembering their names will make them feel good and hopefully they’ll come back to your class.
Teaching yoga doesn’t stop when you step foot outside the studio. Everyone and everything has something to teach you. Take what you’ve learned on and off the mat and infuse it into your classes. You will teach your students something new, and at the same time, learn something new about yourself.
I’d love to hear from you! If you’re a new or seasoned instructor, what is the most important thing you’ve learned over the year(s) of teaching?
Cheers to learning,
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