10 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Yoga Teacher
Guest Writer, Kalea Thompson @kaleathompson
1.) You will always fail if you never try.
How many times have you missed out on an opportunity because you feared the outcome? I can answer that for you. A LOT. We are constantly psyching ourselves out because we want to be perfect in every aspect of life. Guess what? If no one ever took that leap of faith, we would never have discovered yoga pants! But seriously, going in to yoga teacher training I feared a lot. I wanted to be at the same level as all the other yogis. I wanted to excel, but how would I excel if I never tried in the first place. So, I took that leap of faith, I signed up for teacher training, and I am happier than ever.
2.) You are not, nor will you ever be "perfect", and neither will your practice or teaching.
If we were all “perfect” this world would be so boring. Our imperfections are what make us BEAUTIFUL. So many times, I thought to myself, “how the heck am I going to teach yoga if I can barely do *insert your pose of choice here*. It doesn’t matter! Yoga is a work in progress, that is why it is called a practice. The same goes for teaching. Teaching is scary. Being in front of all those people trying to find clarity in you. There might not be anything scarier than that. But, your students are more encouraged by your failures and your imperfections because it makes them feel human. Rock those flaws, and teach those poses that make you feel less than perfect, because nothing worth having comes easy.
3.) You don't have to be an amazing yogi to be a yoga teacher.
There is a common misconception that all yoga teachers are master yogis. False. A lot of yoga teachers go through yoga teacher training to better themselves and to increase their practice in whatever way that means for them. If you have never practiced yoga a day in your life and one day you wake up and you think, “hey, I want to teach yoga.” DO IT! Take that risk. Better yourself to help better others. Who knows, maybe you inspire someone who looks up to you, and because of YOU they decide to take a yoga class, and they start to improve their health and wellbeing. Cool. The fact that your simple decision to become a yoga teacher, even though you can’t do every single pose, changed a life of someone that otherwise would have never stepped foot in a yoga class.
4.) People make the conscious decision to spend an hour with you.
You teach a class, no specific reason. It just fit your schedule. In that class, you are teaching a class of people that are new to yoga. This is maybe their first or second class and they still are terrified and nervous, and feel as if they do not know what they are doing. How do you respond? You rock that class out! Your students CHOSE YOU. They saw your name on that schedule, in that time slot, in that studio, and they chose you. Who cares who they are? I mean obviously, we care, but it doesn’t matter if one person shows up to your class, or thirty people show up. At the end of that hour, one more human is going out a little bit healthier, a litter bit brighter, to spread the love that you just shared with them during that hour. We get the honor of showing and speaking movements that allow our students to be the best version of themselves, and that is pretty cool.
5.) Your students teach you more than you could ever teach them.
It’s true. Your students will shape you as a teacher. Yes, we have our own styles and ideas, but when students come to class for you specifically, that teaches you a lot. Eventually, your students open up. Not only is yoga a time for their physical practice, but for a lot of people it is social, emotional, mental, spiritual and we get to be a part of all those journeys. We get to hear about the differences that they are making in their lives because they came to your class, or because they heard that one single word that you said under your breath during a class that you don’t even remember, and that is why they come to yoga. Our students make us take the bigger picture and see all the tiny components of it. Teaching is the greatest, but seeing people become inspired and improve themselves is the single best thing to see as a teacher.
6.) You won't always cue everything perfectly, and that's ok.
Some days, words suck! Like you are standing in the front of the class and it’s like you are from another planet. You can’t make sentences; you can’t say words. Its ok! This is an opportunity to take your imperfections and make them beautiful. This is where people experience laughter and joy. The world is already so serious, so why should we make yoga serious? We shouldn’t! Maybe sometimes yoga can be serious, but for our students, this is their opportunity to escape the world. They won’t care if you jumble words, or mess up. If you can’t cue downward dog, model it. Actions are more powerful than words. Actions speak all languages.
7.) Even when your world is in shambles, hold it together for your class.
Have you ever gone to a class and immediately as you walked in you heard the instructor talking negatively with a negative mood and just, blah. No! Everything is already negative enough outside of yoga. Even if you feel as if you are physically, mentally, actually falling apart, you are leading this group who chose you to help them feel better about themselves. They are in your class to forget about it all and take a minute for themselves without any distractions. Do not be that distraction that changes their opportunity to get away from it all.
8.) Understand that life happens. People will be late to class.
You have been in their shoes. Going to yoga class midday or early evening. Depending on how close you live to the studio, it’s definitely not the easiest commute across town during rush hour to get to yoga on time. If someone is five minutes late, so what? You’ve been late before, and it stinks when your whole day is messed up because of it. Maybe your class is the only kind of order that your student has during that day. There are so many “what-ifs”. You never know what your student is going through, if someone’s late, let them in. They made the effort to get there, they deserve the opportunity to make their day better.
9.) Words are powerful, and so is silence.
Some people are natural talkers, others are not. As a teacher, you need to find that balance. Yes, you need to be able to guide your students during class so they know what you are cueing them to do. But how do we know when to shut up? We use words when we want to get our point across, but we do the same with silence. Yoga can be a time for self-reflection, a social event, or the removal of all stimulation. As a teacher, you need to feel out your class. What are they feeling that day? Are they benefiting from your words, or would they be better off meditating on their positive thought or phrase that they might have come up with at the beginning? So many people are over stimulated, that sometimes silence means more than words.
10.) If nothing else; love, listen, and laugh.
Life’s tough. Sometimes our days are just crazy and we can’t function without coffee, yoga, and a nap in that order. As a yoga teacher, you are a safe haven for many people. People that are escaping real life for a solid hour. As an instructor, if nothing else goes right, don’t forget to love your students, listen to their hearts, and laugh a lot. Class doesn’t have to be serious. After all, laughter is the best medicine.
I am from Columbus, Ohio, and attend The Ohio State University. I fell upon yoga randomly three years ago at the gym I was working at, and I fell in love. It was pretty much love at first sight. I kept going back, I found what I liked, and I practiced all the time. Now, I am teaching and learning in every aspect of my life. I was inspired to write about this topic because I was terrified going in to teacher training, and I think these “yoga teacher lessons” are powerful for not only current teachers, but people that are thinking about becoming a teacher as well.