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How to Overcome the Fear of Teaching Yoga

How to Overcome the Fear of Teaching Yoga

When I was a new yoga teacher I was so anxious leading up to my classes that I wanted to stop teaching altogether. I was overwhelmed, frustrated, and felt stuck in my own head when all I wanted to do was help students feel how I knew yoga made me feel – amazing.

My anxiety was debilitating but the urge I had to teach never went away. I’m sure you have this urge too or you wouldn’t be here. Your voice and passion as a yoga teacher is needed because yoga truly makes this world a better place. If your fear is standing in the way of teaching, then these yoga teacher tips will help you move past anxiety, sidestep your fear of judgment, and help you start teaching instead of just thinking about it.

1. Be Prepared

Those yoga teachers who show up to class with no notes and the perfectly timed sequence to music…don’t compare yourself to them! They have most likely taught the sequence plenty of times or have practiced it often enough themselves to have it memorized. They have taken the time to refine it so that it feels effortless for them to teach. In other words, they’re prepared.

But being prepared doesn’t mean not having notes or the perfect sequence. It’s most important to be prepared to the level that you need in order to feel calm. When I first started teaching I was always creating new sequences to try and wow my students, but constantly learning and trying new sequences meant I wasn’t as familiar. I didn’t feel as prepared as I wanted to.

Now I teach the same classes over and over. I use the same playlists again and again. If repetition means that you feel more prepared then go ahead! There are low chances that your students will notice or care. The notes that you have by your mat don’t matter and neither does the expertly curated playlist. Practicing without music is always an option too.

2. It’s About Your Students

You are a human being and even as a yoga teacher your ego can get in the way. But the most important thing to remember is that your students are there to practice for themselves. It’s not about you and what’s going on with you, but how your students feel.

When you take the pressure off of yourself to show up perfectly, to look a certain way, or not have anxiety before class, you are able to show up for your students that much more.

Your main goal is to help your students connect more deeply with themselves through the practice of yoga. As long as you can do that, then you are teaching beautifully.

3. Breathe!

Your yoga practice comes into play when you teach too! I recommend giving yourself at least a minute or two before class to ground yourself through your breath so you don’t jump into a class in a heightened state of fear, worry, or anxiety. If you’re feeling lethargic your breath can help elevate your energy before a power class to help uplift your students.

If I’m feeling tired I like to practice breath of fire (Kapalabhati) or breath of joy to ignite a bit of inner fire that boosts energy. If I’m feeling anxious, am stuck in my head overthinking what I’m about to teach or something else entirely going on in my life I do taco breath (Sitali) or alternate nostril breath (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama).

Your breath is just as important during class as well. If you find yourself moving through a sequence too quickly or notice your thoughts wandering away from the present moment, drop down into your breath. If this means leaving your students in a pose for a few breaths, so be it, it gives them time to refocus on their breath as well.

4. Take Time to Ground

Your students may come to love your sequencing or how you cue poses, but the thing that will continue to draw them back to you again and again is your energy. Your energy affects how your students feel (and how you feel!) and it’s that feeling that will make them want to be in your presence.

That presence is cultivated when you take the time to ground yourself before teaching a yoga class. This could look like listening to a soothing playlist while driving to class, doing a few rounds of breath before you walk into the room, or doing a yoga pose or two yourself first.

I like to arrive to class 15 minutes early so I have some time for myself in the space before my students start coming in. If I’m rushed getting to class then I know I’ll be off and will likely begin my sequence still in that rushing energy with a side of panic. Before your class you are your own teacher. Check-in with yourself and ask yourself what you need in the moment so you can be as grounded and rooted as possible for your students.

5. Practice Beforehand

I know this tip for new yoga teachers is a little obvious but it’s worth repeating. Your best sequences are made from your practice, not from sitting and writing out a sequence that you believe anatomically will work. Your body will tell you how great a sequence is by how it feels in your body. You know how to teach yoga more because of your own practice than from all the cues you’ve memorized.

When you practice your own sequences your body then does a better job of remembering it than your mind alone. It’s a win-win.

Does this mean that you can’t create sequences on the fly as you teach? Nope! But I encourage you to do this mindfully. I typically always have notes for a sequence close to my mat in case my mind goes completely blank. This helps to soothe my anxiety and gives me a back-up. Any sequences that I teach on the fly I’ve done with smaller classes and with students who are very familiar with yoga because your attention will be less focused on your students if you are teaching spur of the moment.

6. You’re Not Alone

There is so much compassion and understanding when you recognize that you are not the only yoga teacher dealing with fear. There is nothing wrong with you for being scared to teach, for experiencing anxiety leading up to a class or having nerves (in front of a class or a camera!)

When I was experiencing the most anxiety before teaching, having a specific time to show up in-studio and knowing that people were waiting on me so I couldn’t “escape” if I needed to leave the class caused a whirlpool of unease in my stomach and a tight squeeze in my chest. It did nothing but bring me out of focus of my students and left me questioning if I was even meant to be a yoga teacher.

The feeling I got after class is what helped me continue coming back and left a spark of hope that one day my anxiety would subside. I can’t say it’s fully gone now, but using the practices I’ve mentioned in this article are what helped me calm that anxiety and the fear of judgment that likes to now only occasionally rear its ugly head.

If you truly want to teach, you will find a way to move through the self-doubt. And if you’re sitting there asking how my free Command Your Confidence course is packed full of the practical how-to knowledge that you seek.

7. Talk to Your Students

Talking to your students can help remind you that this teaching time is less about you and more about your students. It also helps you to remember why your students show up and all the ways that you already know how to help them.

Having a chat with your students can help you get out of your head and focus on what’s happening in the moment. It can leave you feeling more connected to them, and thus able to deliver an even better class. I love the tidbits of information I get from my students to know how they’re feeling so I can personalize the class even more for them. What your students say is just information to soak in that will continually help you know how to become a better yoga teacher.

8. Start Where You’re More Comfortable

Sometimes you are thrown into a situation and you have no choice but to just teach! This is how I taught my very first class. Just weeks after my first YTT I got a text from my trainer to sub a class the next morning at 10AM. It was 9PM at night when she sent the message. I said yes, pulled together a super simple sequence, and used a yoga playlist I found on Spotify. The best part was that I didn’t have much time to overthink it, I just had to do it.

After that class I had nothing lined up and my mind was left to its own devices. Cue the overthinking and analyzing how not good I was as a teacher. Out came the thoughts of “I’m not good enough to teach yet,” “I need more yoga training before I can teach,” and “What if students don’t like me?”

If you give your self-doubt thoughts a chance to surface, they will. But you can make it a bit easier on yourself by starting to teach yoga where it feels the most comfortable, even though it will be outside of your comfort zone!

You may prefer to start teaching on video first and uploading your sequences to YouTube. Not having a live audience can release a ton of pressure and having a video means you can go back and practice what you’ve taught to critique yourself.

Heading straight to a studio may be what you need to boost your confidence as a yoga teacher. The challenge to get into one of the top studios may thrill you, or opting for a smaller studio with fewer students per class could be exactly what you need to get started.

Teaching yoga online to a live audience but in a place you’re familiar with may give you that bit of extra comfort you need to get going. Teaching your friends or family yoga in a park is still teaching too! There is no right or wrong way to start teaching, so long as you start. Be gentle with yourself but also follow through on your self-promises to become the teacher not just think about becoming the teacher.

9. Have a Go-To Sequence

When in doubt, have a go-to sequence for those days when your head feels foggy, you feel a bit off, or nothing is going according to plan. This sequence is one that you know well and is a reminder of why you came to the practice of yoga for yourself. Having a go-to ensures that you will never be left wondering what to teach and can help eliminate any doubts you may have about how powerful yoga and your teaching it is. Think of this sequence as your security blanket.

What’s next?

  • Give yourself a date to teach a yoga class by and follow through on that self-promise/challenge!
  • Stuck in the phase of thinking about teaching but feel the tension of not yet teaching? Sacred Exploration, my private yoga & coaching program helps you move through just this so you can become a confident teacher on and off your mat. This work does spill into your relationships and habits too!

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