I uploaded my very first yoga class to YouTube in 2020 and started teaching yoga in local studios the following year. Having taken both of these avenues I understand the subtle differences that come with each style of teaching. No matter where you’re teaching yoga or have yet to get started, these are the tips I wish I had known earlier or listened to when someone gave me the same advice.
1. Just Start Teaching
It doesn’t matter if it’s online, in a studio, to your family, your dog, or on video for yourself. The key is to just start practicing teaching as soon as possible. My biggest regret is that I waited a full year after my training to start teaching. I was so scared that people would judge me or that I wouldn’t be good enough.
Just because you know how to teach from your yoga teacher training doesn’t mean that you really know how to teach. Your yoga practice is called a practice for a reason, your teaching is a practice too!
I had a bit of a different start too because I did my training right before COVID hit. This forced me to go online first, where I started a YouTube channel, that was both a positive and a negative. It was easier to start teaching online because I didn’t have people physically in front of me, but it meant that I adapted to a certain way of teaching that I then had to work on adjusting once I started teaching in person.
There is no right or wrong way to get started teaching, but the longer you wait the more you risk not remembering your training and it may take you longer to get back into the swing of things.
2. Your Personal Practice Really Does Matter
Keeping up my personal practice was drilled into my head during all three yoga teacher training I took. But I didn’t understand until I was teaching a couple of classes a week in-person and filming online yoga content that my practice was falling to the wayside.
At first I practiced at a local studio and sometimes online while also teaching. Eventually I stopped going to classes at my local studio altogether and then stopped practicing at home online for long periods.
I once practiced yoga Asana daily, but suddenly I was lucky if I got one practice in a week. I let my classes become my practice which is not the same in the slightest. When you’re teaching you are not getting the same relaxation and depth of your practice which is essential when you spend time teaching others. You must be able to practice what you preach or your students will see right through you.
It’s so easy to let yourself fall victim to your hobby becoming your job and mixing the two indefinitely. If you notice yourself in this pattern I encourage you to try taking 10-15 minutes a day just to do a practice for you with no one leading you. These small practices helped me build my short and hour-long in-studio classes and eventually, I had my very own style that was easy for sequencing and for my personal practice.
3. It’s Okay to Teach the Same Classes Again…and Again
Creating sequences is a lot of work. Give yourself a ton of credit for the amount of creativity that goes into balancing a class plan, making a playlist, weaving in a theme, and doing so effortlessly in front of students!
One thing I wish I learned earlier is that my students rarely notice when I teach the same class. They need the same class taught over and over so that they can get better through repetition. You may think that always providing a sparkly new sequence may razzle and dazzle your students, but the reality is that yoga is less about the choreography, and more about how your students feel.
4. Don’t Be a Copy-Cat
Since I kept up my practice with other yoga teachers after my training and when I started teaching, I was easily influenced by the classes I was taking. It’s wonderful to have a guide and be able to notice the finer details of a class after your training. But it’s not so great for creating sequences that are truly yours.
Yoga teachers will always be influenced by one another. The difficulty comes when you’re not able to find your own style or take too much inspiration from another teacher’s sequences.
My classes were heavily influenced by the most recent classes I had taken. We all have to start somewhere, but I wasn’t leaning into my creativity. It wasn’t until I started jumping onto my mat without any guidance whatsoever that my style began to unfold.
With practice, a mix of other teachers’ cues may become your own with your flair thrown in. It takes time to develop your teaching style, so start right away.
5. Having Notes Close-By is a Good Idea
I used to think that having notes in class or checking my sequence while teaching made me look like a bad teacher. But it’s better to check your notes and teach your sequence seamlessly than freeze mid-class and have a bunch of eyeballs staring at you waiting.
If you don’t need notes, that’s wonderful. But for the anxious teachers or for the days when your mind just isn’t as sharp, having a reminder of your sequences, theme, and cues close by means that you’re a teacher who cares. It is not a fault, but simply a back-up.
6. No, You Don’t Need More Training
As a lover of learning and wanting to continuously further my education, I despise hearing this. But it’s the truth! I always recommend that new teachers hold off on continuing their yoga education for at least a year.
Even though I felt like I didn’t know enough to teach, getting my sequences onto the mat, my cues spoken, and yoga concepts explained helped to make me a more confident teachera. If I had jumped straight into a 300-hour training it would only have been more confusing trying to teach more advanced concepts. Reality check: your students don’t need the advanced concepts for it to be a great class or theme.
Your basic anatomy training is enough from a 200-hour course, and if a student has a question that you don’t know the answer to you can always look it up when at home and get back to them. They’ll appreciate and trust you more when you’re honest and say when something is within your knowledge or not.
With yoga, there will always be more to learn and more courses to take. It is a lifelong journey and if you wait until you’ve taken all the courses and training you think you’ll need, you’ll never teach and share your voice with the world.
7. You Don’t Have to Demonstrate Everything
Demonstrating all of your classes is a surefire way to burn out. It’s also a very easy way to hurt yourself and can cause imbalances in your body if you’re demonstrating mostly on one side.
If you’re teaching classes that are recorded online, demonstrating is required. But if you have students present, whether online or in-person you’ll want to spend time off of your mat, watching your students, and paying attention to what your students need.
Sometimes I think a cue is obvious but I get blank stares from students who have no idea what to do with their bodies. I don’t necessarily see this while I’m demonstrating. Seeing your students’ reactions will give you clues for what cues you need to adjust and what parts of a sequence benefit from being demonstrated.
8. Leave Perfectionism at the Door
I refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist but I still brought some of these tendencies into my classes while teaching. I thought my perfectly curated sequence was all I’d need, that my playlist would match up just as I practiced and that my timing was thought out. As much as I try at home to create the ideal class, it’s always different once I’m in the studio, or even recording classes in my living room.
I trip over my words, forget parts of sequences, and mix up my left and right all the time. When I’m recording I like to leave these mistakes in because it reminds my students that I’m only human, mistakes happen, and it encourages patience.
While in the studio I often laugh at myself, call myself out, or make quick comments to get my students laughing. This is always a fun trick to get them to forget they’re holding high lunge for a couple of beats longer on one side.
If you let your mistakes throw you off your students will notice. If you go with the flow and continue onwards, your students will think nothing of it and more often than not appreciate your humor and ability to adapt and keep going.
9. You Will Not Like Every Student (& Every Student Won’t Like You)
I wish I could love every student, but the truth is that I don’t. It has become a skill to keep a neutral face even while students make rude comments or speak up during a class in ways that I deem inappropriate or distracting for the other students. But I treat them with just as much respect and kindness as I do all of my students.
You have no idea why your students are showing up to their mat or your class. It could be the only class that fits into their schedule, or they could secretly love your teaching style but have a funny way of showing it. It’s not your job to love or even like your students, but to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to all so your students can feel their best.
When it comes to students not liking you the same reasoning as above applies. Their faces during your class could mean they’re questioning you, a pose is uncomfortable, or their thoughts are somewhere else altogether! Students will judge, it’s part of the human experience, but how you continue to show up says more about you and your teaching, than it does your students.
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