February 19, 2013

13 Things Every New Yoga Teacher Needs to Know.

You have finished your 200 hour yoga teacher training and bought your teaching insurance.

Now, its time to show the world your passion about yoga and maybe even make a difference in the world; a yoga teacher must not only know how to teach yoga but also how to create an environment conducive to healing and learning.

Here are some tips to help you—most teachers, including myself, have been guilty of not doing some of these things when we first started teaching. Save yourself from making these mistakes so that people will keep coming back to your class and more importantly, you will create a safe space for transformation, not only for your students, but for yourself as a developing teacher.

1. Start and end your classes on time.

Really. We are a busy culture—some of us need to know that we can honor our time commitments like getting to work or picking up our kids from daycare.

2. Speak loud enough—and don’t play music at a volume that drowns out your voice.

You might have something important to say or you might be concerned that you have nothing to say, but it won’t mean a thing if no one can hear you. You come across as unsure of yourself if your voice is too soft. Be aware that when you are in downward dog or some other inversion, your head is facing away from the class—you gotta speak a lot louder if you are going to teach from that place.

3. Open your eyes.

Yes, you. I know it can be scary to look out at all the yogis but you need to be the authority of the class, especially during the centering. You will appear disconnected if you close your eyes for long periods of time. I know it can be tempting to go inside and stay there; I have even had some new teachers tell me that they teach better if they can close their eyes, but most likely they just feel safer not having to look out.

Plus, you will not know how your directions are landing if you cannot see your students, and I guarantee you someone will be wide-eyed staring at your shut-eyed face wondering if anybody is home. Remember: people want a live teacher who sees them. Be present, both inside and out.

4. Do not make teaching your yoga practice.

People are paying to be taught yoga instruction by you, not to do yoga with you. Besides, it’s not a genuine yoga practice; your body might stay in yoga shape but your mental and emotional body cannot go to vulnerable places while you are responsible for holding the safety of a class. A dedicated yoga teacher will get their own yoga practice in outside of teaching.

Don’t overload your teaching schedule. Leave time for your own yoga.

5. Don’t stay on your mat the whole class.

This is a trap for doing your own practice and becoming stagnant. When you stay in one place, not everyone can see you. Move around. Teach poses such as Warrior Two and Triangle from the sides of the room. Even if you are not yet comfortable assisting, get up off your yoga mat and offer people blocks or straps if you see they need them. Engage the whole room.

6. Mirror teach.

Almost all seasoned teachers do this; experienced students expect it. Start immediately so that you can master this technique. (It only takes practice.)

7. Don’t teach to the student with the most or least amount of yoga skill.

Teach somewhere in the middle and make room for all students to take it at their own pace.

8. Don’t let the warm-ups go on forever.

Don’t take students into difficult poses without being properly warmed up or they will rightfully resist you.

9. Don’t show off.

If you can do a handstand but are teaching to a bunch of beginners, don’t bother popping up into one. The students already assume you can do advanced poses—you don’t need to prove it.

However, don’t hold back from being an inspiration either. Demonstrating to students where a pose can go next will serve to ignite their desire to deepen their own practice. Be real…but don’t be obnoxious.

10. If you have students with limitations, offer some simple modifications.

Don’t pretend the stiff tweaky people don’t exist.

11. Teach breathing.

Everyone needs to slow down and take deeper more connected breaths, including yoga teachers. Breathe deeply throughout the whole class—lead by example.

12. If you mess up, don’t over-apologize.

Acknowledge it briefly and move on. Otherwise, it gets awkward and the students feel like they are taking care of you.

13. Come prepared with a class plan but be open to ditching it.

Be structured, yet allow for intuition. Most importantly: be yourself. You don’t have to put your foot behind your head or know the Sanskrit name to every pose. You don’t have to speak like a poet or chant like a goddess. It will make everyone more comfortable to see the real you—no one likes a fake, distant, pretentious teacher.

If you are funny, make some jokes. If you are intense, flaky, energetic, optimistic, etc., let a little of your uniqueness shine through along with a mindfulness about holding space for your students to discover who they are and what they need.

You can speak your yoga truth, plain and simple—and that can be enough.

Teach from your heart and teach from your center; be open to taking some leaps of faith as you learn how to convey the language of yoga in a way that is relative and meaningful.

Not everything you say or do will work each time and there will be some awkward moments, but there will be some gems in each class, jewels that you carved out of the dirt.

Be humble.

Be appreciative.

To teach yoga is vulnerable.

To teach yoga and have others do what you ask them, and listen to you, not only with their minds but their bodies as well, is a gift.

At the end of each yoga class, thank your students for receiving you as their teacher and then make sure to do at least one thing to take care of you sometime during the day; maybe a cup of your favorite tea, take a warm bath, or go for a walk outside.

Nurture the yoga teacher, because that’s what you are.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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