I have been teaching yoga for over 10 years, but can vividly remember that when I first qualified from my 200 hr teaching training, I felt completely alone, there wasn’t much resources out there to give tips for new yoga teachers and didn’t have a clue where to begin. The yoga scene has changed a lot since then! There is more yoga than ever before, and also a LOT more yoga teachers, but for many, I see this leaving them feeling overwhelmed and that there is too much competition. Sadly I think a lot of newly qualified teachers end up going back to their old job or teaching part time. I truly and passionately believe that the more great yoga teachers out there, teaching quality yoga, the better the world will be! So it’s my mission to share yoga as widely as possible and help empower new teachers and help create community. Here are 10 things I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out teaching…
1.You will NEVER know everything, and that’s OK
One of the best things about being a yoga teacher is that there is ALWAYS more to learn! You will literally never get bored, as long as you stay curious. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and one could never learn it all! Also things are constantly changing. If I look back to ten years ago when I did my first TT, our understanding and scientific knowledge of the body has progressed in leaps and bounds! For example, advances in neuroscience has changed how we view the brain, and our understanding of what fascia is, and how it works has changed completely. It’s an exciting time to be a yoga teacher! Many of the things Yogis have know for thousands of years are slowly being backed up by science! What do we learn from this? That often the answers are inside us! Yogis in the past didn’t have access to all of the knowledge and data we now have and yet they were able to learn so much from study of the self. They lived in an entirely different landscape to us, (and a different pace!) but our internal physical bodies are the same. So enjoy the start of your journey and don’t put pressure on yourself to know everything now.
2. Be OK with not knowing
As a yoga teacher, we are often asked lots of questions, whether its on Philosophy or Anatomy or Meditation. (honestly be prepared for all sorts of questions!). You might be very knowledgeable in some areas, but as above, we will never know everything. Because you’re taking the seat of the teacher, people sometimes put you on a pedestal and expect you to have all of the answers. It’s so important that we learn to be OK with not knowing. Be an expert on what you do know, and share that passionately, but if you’re asked something you don’t know, be honest. It’s great to have someone you can refer them to, OR tell them you’ll look into it and get back to them. You are a yoga teacher NOT a doctor, or physio, or a counsellor!
3. You will never be everybody’s yoga teacher
OR Not everyone is going to like your classes. When we first finish our Teacher Training, we might try and sound like our favourite teachers or teach exactly from our TT script. But one of the things that will define your success as a teacher is to BE YOU. Remember there is only one of you! People will come to you when you teach from the heart, and will come because they like YOU, when you find your authentic voice and sound like yourself. Of course not everyone will like you, and you don’t need them to. If they don’t, they aren’t your people. We are as individual as our thumb print, and the better you get at being YOU, the more people will be drawn to that authenticity. Don’t try to please everyone in the room.
4. Teach from your own experience
Often when we first start teaching, we feel that we need to be able to teach everything. The good news is that you really don’t. Your teaching will be more powerful when you teach from your own experience. Share how yoga has helped you and teach the things you know work.
Live your yoga, feel what it does for you and teach from that place.
5. Nerves and fear can be your friend
When we first start teaching yoga, it can be nerve-wracking. To be honest, on occasion I STILL get nervous now, even after ten years! I’ve learnt to recognise that this is a good thing. It shows I care and I can transfer this nervous energy into something powerful. Where there is fear, know that there is an opportunity for growth.
A couple of tips for things that help me when I’m feeling nervous: one is to sit down and try to get to the root of what it is that is scaring me. Write it down and then change the statement replacing any negative parts with positive phrases, ending up with an empowering statement. Keep reading and repeating this and remember: we have the power to re-write our stories! Also, try writing down the worst that could happen if you fail and the best things that could happen if you succeed. Often, we realise that we have far more to gain than we do to lose and that if we make a mistake, we can learn from it. The most important thing is to get out there, do our best and to learn from our mistakes.
6. Simplicity and repetition are GOOD things!
Sometimes we feel we need to always teach something new and worry that we’re always teaching the same thing. Well guess what, that’s OK. In fact, it can be a good thing. Our bodies learn from repetition and your students will often feel good practising the same things, being able to see their improvement or grasping of different concepts. Also we can do the same things in a hundred different ways, focusing on a different aspect. You could teach Surya Namaskar for weeks breaking it down with different focuses. And quite often, the most powerful lessons can be taught in the most simple of poses, so don’t feel that every time you turn up, you need to re-invent the wheel. As long as you’re still inspired by what you’re teaching, then your students will be inspired too.
7.Practise, practise, practise and all is coming…
When we first qualify as a yoga teacher, it can be so consuming that every class we take and every time we practise, it becomes mental preparation for teaching. We spend the whole class thinking “oh yes, I’ll teach this in my next class” or “oohh, I wouldn’t teach that like that”… we become so consumed with teaching that we lose the joy of our own practice, because we are rarely ‘there’. We aren’t in the present moment. It’s SOOOOO important that we carve out time for our Sadhana, that we separate class preparation time and our own practice. It’s probably THE most important thing about being a yoga teacher. It’s where you’ll find your inspiration and the experiences you can share. It will help you conserve your energy and give you the space and time to check in and slow down. And although it’s really important to keep studying with different teachers and being inspired and learning from them, having a personal practice IS not the same. Remember we have so much wisdom INSIDE us. There is so much that we can’t learn from books, or even from teachers, until we embody that wisdom.
8. Encourage your students to become their own best teachers
The best teachers will encourage their students to become their own best teachers, to encourage students to trust their own inherent intuition so that they don’t hurt themselves, and so that they can find their own best practices to support and help move themselves closer to balance. Practising in a group has wonderful group energy, but people need to take responsibility for themselves and their bodies.
9. Be fully present
When you arrive on the mat and take the role of the teacher, leave everything else behind. There might be days where you feel a bit off and like teaching is the LAST thing you feel like doing. I have a couple of little rituals that help me get in the zone. Each time before I leave the house to teach, I say a prayer, asking for guidance and help to let the teachings flow through me, remembering that I’m a vessel and inviting in the wisdom of my teachers and my teachers’ teachers. The first thing I do when I arrive and start teaching is to tune into my breath: as I connect to that, there is a coming home to myself and I’m ready. Whatever else is going on outside can wait. Find what helps you to find that connection, things that will help you to get in the zone, no matter what is happening in life.
10. You need to be an expert on boundaries
You will find that people come and ask for you all sort of things. People expect you to give your time for free or teach them yoga in your holidays or give free classes. You might get asked to teach for very little money or in places you don’t want to teach… You need to become good at saying no. This took me some time, as I realised I was a dedicated people pleaser!
My new aim is to live with a heart wide open, but have super strong boundaries.
Its OK to say no. In fact, it will be better for all parties if you only do things that make sense to you, that you intuitively know are right. It takes time to develop this Viveka – clarity of seeing. We need to trust that when we say no to things, the right alternative will come along. When you get asked to do something, sit with it and give yourself time to give an answer. Its much harder to back out of something once you’ve said yes, so say you’ll think it over and get back to them and give yourself time to make a decision that will serve everyone.
So after all that is said, know that yoga teaching can be one of THE most fulfilling jobs in the world! YES, its hard work and it’s challenging and its FAR from a get rich scheme. But if yoga is your passion, it can be one of the best jobs in the world. You are helping people to feel better and making a positive change in the world and you will feel better too as long as you keep a healthy balance!
If yoga is your passion, go out there and spread yoga!