So, I made it through the long journey: I’m officially a 200-hour certified yoga teacher now.
I completed my training at the end of January, with a great sense of accomplishment and a typical question: what next? I knew that I wanted to teach, but there is a certain ineffable leap to make from teaching in training to teaching in public, and I felt nervous.
Still, I recently inquired at a local studio I attend, and magically, given a chance to interview. I taught a practice class to the owner and she graciously took me on for one class per week. I have only taught a handful of small classes so far, but each time I gain a little bit of confidence. The confidence comes not so much in feeling sure of what I do know, but in my ability to learn, observe, and respond in the moment. It seems with many things in life, keeping a student’s attitude is supremely helpful.
Along those lines, I’d like to share three lessons from my new adventures in teaching over the past few weeks.
- Don’t Judge A Pose By The Groans
It’s important to conceptualize a class fully–following either the generally accepted order of events within a style or fitting a theme according to those specifications–and to have a sense of the experience you want to give as a whole. However, creating too rigid of an expectation for students’ reaction to that experience can be disappointing. At the end of class, most students have thanked me and gave thoughtful feedback; during class, I’ve seen several grimaces and a few exasperated sighs. Rather than take lukewarm responses during class negatively, I’m learning to focus on what I am sharing in the moment. People come into yoga with every kind of ache, physically and psychologically, and an unhappy look may or may not have anything to do with whether or not the individual likes me as a teacher. Students (within reason) want to be challenged. Flexibility and strength take work. I’ve probably made a surly face at least once in every yoga class I’ve ever attended, without realizing it (unless it was in Pigeon prep, then I knew). All I can do as a teacher is center myself on offering the safest, most positive and engaging sequence for whatever part of class they might be in at that time. My sincere effort is what matters, and the outcome is a process beyond me.
2. Be The Spa You’d Like To Attend
So this is a jokey heading, but it’s a powerful reality. If I am not calm and sanguine, neither is the room. No matter how much it kills me to be the perfect model for the core work I’m instructing, when I’m already sore, while projecting my voice to the room, I can’t let that affect the look on my face or my tone. If I believe in yoga, I have to make an offering that is bigger than my mood. Chances are, by the end of 75 minutes pretending to be confident and happy, I’ll probably feel better, and I won’t be pretending anymore anyway.
3. My Practice Is My Preach
Letting my personal practice of asana and meditation go by the wayside is no longer an option. While I could have bargained myself out of it before when I didn’t feel like dedicating the time, citing that a lapse is only affecting me, that’s not the case now. I need a strong, ongoing inner relationship to yoga in order to keep my teaching alive. Without consistently experiencing the postures for myself, it’s difficult to find my own voice to teach with, and easy to fall into parroting cues verbatim as I’ve heard them before. Yoga is an oral tradition in many ways, and there are certainly repetitive aspects by design in teaching. Yet, I think it’s important to keep a living connection with the material in order to grow personally and professionally.
“Teaching is really a natural extension of one’s practice–one wants to share something that’s so influential and beautiful in one’s life.” -Rodney Yee