I’ve been teaching yoga steadily for a little over two years. Its not a long time but its long enough to understand what makes a great teacher. This advice is coming from my own experience and by all means is subjected my personal opinion.
So lets start from the beginning-
In January of 2014 I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to step up in front of an real life class, where I had 60 minutes of their lives in my hands. I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty and the reality is- it wasn’t! As humans we are our harshest critics and others around us can be pretty unkind as well. Luckily most everyone was open to this being my first class and gave me the forgiveness I desperately sought for afterward. After reaching the peak of teaching my first two weeks of classes, I realized that I was getting better and I was now able to share the joy that yoga brought me with others. From there it escalated as my teaching style began to sound authentic to me and I had become comfortable being a leader in front of a group of people who look to me for guidance.
Fast forward to a year later- I caught the teaching bug, I was actually getting paid for doing something I loved and transcending yoga philosophy to my students. This is where the it all started to slowly unravel. I asked myself, my students were loyal but am I giving them what they deserved? I quickly realized that I had fallen victim to teaching FULL TIME. This means I was teaching more than I was practicing, at times I was just teaching and went through weeks of giving. I noticed my sequencing and cues became flat, repetitive and simply not exciting.
To over come this bout I attended an intensive workshop with Katherine Budig. I then reclaimed the joy that I experienced practicing yoga, that feeling I initially had that I wanted to share with others. Katherine re-egnited my flame and I promised myself to never let teaching surpass my own practice.
It has now been a little over a year since I attended that workshop and since then I have attended many more from Katherine, Carson Calhoun, Ashley Cebulka, and other great names. So here is what I do now to bring and maintain fresh, fun and excitement to my classes:
- Take classes from other studios and instructors. Anywhere I visit I try to attend a studio and experience their vibe and teaching style. Doing this has provided the experience and knowledge that I need to provide my students with something new.
- Online yoga classes. I occasionally follow along and physically take online classes, but I primarily use them as educational/observation aid.
- Yoga is not all asana practice. Make a point to be kind, help others, meditate, practice breath work. Educate yourself on other things that can compliment yoga like chakras, auras, crystals and gemstones, anatomy, mantra meditation.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. The only way to be the best you can be as an instructor is to practice. Teach as much as you can while maintaining your own practice. If someone asks you to teach a free class outdoor to a special group of people, or teach a free class to a community, use this opportunity to learn more about yourself and teaching style. This way you can also learn what cues work and what postures work for certain environments and populations. Try to look at free classes as a way to gain experience and not charity work.
Bottom Line, Don’t stop practicing and learning. Remember that you are a students before you are a teacher.