Lessons learned while teaching Yoga
Hello my dear readers, I am finally able to BREATHE – and write! Most of October has been consumed by work for me – there was a giant project that took up so much of my time. It was a real struggle for me to balance my life. But all that aside, I’m here now so thank you for welcoming me into your inboxes, and computer screens 🙂
Despite all the stress I’ve been under at work, it is time for me to celebrate my 1 year anniversary of being a yoga teacher! I am truly SO grateful for the opportunity to be one and teach. I could probably write a soliloquy about how appreciative I am of this whole experience, but I won’t bore you with the details of that.
Instead, I would really like to share with you all the lessons I’ve learned thus far being a yoga teacher. As wonderful it is to able to assist, lead, and be in a room with like-minded individuals going through a physical and mental practice, there are definitely ups and downs in the world of yoga. But that’s the thing – yoga even recognizes this duality that exists in the world. With the good, there comes the bad and vice versa. It’s all about how you react to and learn from it. So without further ado, here is my list.
1. Always center yourself before teaching
I teach weeknights after a full day of work and if I’m driving to the yoga studio in heavy traffic – many times, I have forgotten all about Ahimsa (non-violence) I mentally yell and curse at the jerk driver who cut me off, or at the signal lights that seem to be green for all of 10 seconds tops, and more. So by the time I arrived at the yoga studio – I would be ANGRY and irritated. I have never taken it out on my students or anything, as I genuinely lighten up the moment I get ready to teach, but the whole experience of ARRIVING affects the way I teach in some way.
It is so important to be present when you teach. I seriously DESPISE not being there fully for my students (yes – despise) So now, I have a new routine. As soon as I leave work to drive to yoga, I turn my phone to Do Not Disturb. I listen to soothing music or enjoy the silence of not being connected to anything or anyone. I remind myself constantly of how I’m fortunate to be able to teach and how I enjoy seeing the smiley faces of my students who greet me and so on. I’ve done this routine for about 2 months now and it has worked wonders. I arrive in a calm head-space and am ready to be there fully for my students.
2. Don’t tailor your teaching to one student
Often times, as yoga teachers who teach a regularly scheduled weekly class, we tend to build followers or regulars who come each week. We become comfortable with our students. With time, we have built a level of trust with each other which enables my students to be OK with wherever I take them.
However, if someone new walked into class and said “Hi, I’ve never done yoga before. I’m looking forward to this class” – I would mentally break into a sweat while nervously smiling at the student and welcoming them. I’d ask myself all these questions like “Should I stick with my asana sequence? Should I change it? Should I do more cues? How will the rest of my class respond if I change the sequence?Will my other students like it if I go a bit easier this time? Oh God, I hope I make sure I give them a good class. What if the new guy never likes yoga because of me?” etc, etc..
However, I have learned over time that this is not necessary. One student’s needs do not outweigh the others’. Be aware of their presence and performance in class, but treat them the same as all the others. I have learned not to give them extra attention or adjustments. They themselves wouldn’t want to be singled out you know? “Oh look at me, I suck so the teacher is here adjusting me constantly”
Just stick to your plan, be aware, and maybe add some extra cues such as “Go where your body can go today” and let everything else be as it was. It’ll work out 🙂
3. It’s OK to make mistakes
So one time, I took my student through an asana sequence, and we finished the right side. As we moved onto the left – I forgot a giant chunk of the asanas. My mind kind of blanked out. Then I slowly started freaking out mentally like “HEEEE-HHUUHHH OMGGGG…HOW CAN I BRING THIS CLASS BACK TO BALANCE..OMMMGGG WHAT HAVE I DOONNEE…” I blurted out “Oh uh sorry…whoops – can we go back to this asana you guys? Sorryyyyy!!” and you know what? My students simply chuckled and we went along with the class. There were no eye-rolls or sighs or comments after class.
It happens. We make mistakes as teachers – it’s all about how you recover and learn from them! Just laugh at your mistakes and your students will too and they won’t take it to heart. Trust yourself and trust them too.
4. Teach to the room’s energy
There are times when I’m so excited to introduce a new asana or new sequence I’ve come up with. But as a yoga teacher, I have to be flexible – pun intended. Some days, as my students enter the room, I can sense that they just want something more relaxing and restorative. Some days they want to be invigorated. Even though my class title might say Hatha or Gentle or Power, ultimately it’s about teaching to the students’ needs. Even if it’s a Power yoga class where we do more challenging asanas, I will tone it down a bit and include more meditation and restorative poses in the end. Or if it’s a Gentle class and I can tell that my students need a little pick-me-up, I’ll add a couple of heart opening asanas like Camel (Ustrasana) or modified Eagle (Garudasana – open the back of the heart)
Being mindful of the students is no.1 for all teachers and I’ve learned that my own desires for them don’t outweigh what they actually need.
5. Continue to educate yourself
It can be really easy to get into routine while teaching yoga. Week in, week out, teaching the same asana sequence with slight variations here and there – and then what? How can one provide more than just asana practice? How can one learn to adjust different students’ needs? How do you better yourself teacher overall? I personally find myself researching a lot of about asanas and how they affect certain muscles, connective tissue, etc. There’s also quite a bit of information out there about how yoga helps us mentally. I really enjoy reading articles, and books that detail the effects of yoga on our mind and body. We are fortunate and live in a time where there are tons of resources around relating to yoga – why not take advantage of it?
But, as B.K.S Iyengar once said – the best teacher lies within you. Practicing yoga on my own helps me apply whatever external knowledge I may have gained. Once I experience how a certain yoga asana feels on my body, or how an intention resonates in my mind, I am able to bring that to my students with much more gusto and ultimately – help them be on a path to reach their best (whatever that maybe)
If you got to this point in the post and read everything – then I’d like to give you a giant hug – wherever you are.
As always, thanks so much for stopping by and reading.