So, are you ready to spread the spark? To infect others with what has infected you?
Yes, yoga is infectious
Dr. Hansa Yogendra, is known to have been once asked by a student: 'What do you think is more difficult? To practice yoga or to teach yoga?' She is known to have answered – 'To Teach Yoga.'
Yes, teaching yoga is not easy.
It is a litmus test of your yoga practice and can be scary to face if you are not ready for the mirror it shows you, class after class, student after student.
So, let's delve into all those things that you can do to up the ante in your yoga teaching profession, and to be a teacher students want to come back to, again and again, …or wait, shouldn't they be on their own if the teacher does the job well? Let's begin with that!
1. Make yourself dispensable
I can hear you thinking, 'WHAT!' But you read this right.
Teaching yoga is about making another human being self-reliant and independent in terms of taking care of their health and mental wellbeing, and in going beyond their limitations.
Yes, yoga is infectious
I have heard enough number of teachers (some of them veteran ones!) say that they have got students sticking to them for years. While back then, it seemed like a testament of their teaching finesse; today, it appears sad to think that their students are probably 'not growing'?
Teaching yoga has to be about awakening the student's inner self-awareness so that they can then go about their lives with the ancient tools to handle their bodies, their thoughts, and their energies.
So yes, your ultimate success as a teacher lies in your students ‘NOT needing you anymore!’
2. Stop being an alignment Nazi
Yeah, I know.
It feels great to fly around, correcting people in every nook and cranny of your class to make them fit into the perfect geometry of 'how you see every asana.'
(Been there, done that.) But come on!
It is a yoga class, not an assembly line.
And you are a gardener, not a Quality Analyst.
So, allow for some blossoming of buds and celebrate imperfections, will ya? Every flower in a garden is unique, so is every Downward Dog!
Perfectionism doesn’t help – worse, it might just break some spirits – which indeed shouldn’t be happening in a yoga class, of all places in the world!
Encouragement, motivation, and reinforcement of the learner’s capabilities are the hallmarks of a great yoga teacher.
Of course, feedback is essential, but it shouldn’t become the be-all and end all of your yoga classes.
3. Prepare a box of surprises
It is all too easy to make rows and columns of yoga learners do your favourite asana routines day after day, week after week.
But just think for once about your favourite subjects of study – chances are, those school teachers brought novelty to the class activities, got you interacting, and engaged you in creative ways.
Variety is the spice of life.
It is the same with yoga.
Those sixty-odd minutes are all you got to make them fall in love with yoga-ing.
So, google if you need to, for inspiration. Or scribble all you want in your class planning diary. But when you walk into that class and present yourself to eager learners, let every minute be full of fun, experimentation, and adventure.
Some ways to achieve that is to mix up slow and speedy practices, challenging and soothing techniques, asanas and meditation, discussions, and group activities.
The sky is the limit to how you could design your yoga classes.
4. Keep learning and stay versatile!
There are as many styles of yoga as the number of practitioners.
When you join a TTC course, you are more likely to get exposed to one or two kinds of yoga philosophies and practices. While that is more than enough to get you started on the path to self-improvement, it may not be enough to equip you for years and years of teaching.
Every student is different. Every personality, every health condition requires a different approach.
Your classes will usually see a mixed set of takers, and your responsibility as a teacher is to allow them all to nurture in your presence. Back to the gardener analogy, different seeds would need different sowing approaches.
So, keep adding to your toolbox and keep sharpening your tools!
Kids, elderly, patients recovering from chronic illnesses, pregnant women, or jumpy youngsters who want to sweat it all out – as a yoga teacher, you need to be competent to cater to all individuals.
5. Welcome Feedback – of various shades
It may be a simple anonymous Google Form or candid in-person feedback from students every month.
The point is, you must know how you are doing as a teacher.
And nobody knows better than your students. So, keep the two-way traffic open. Ask your students which kind of practices they liked, what they would like to do more of, any new things they want to learn, and so on.
The yoga class belongs to your students, so give them the ownership to co-create the session structure and feel in control!
A pre-decided, top-down, mass drill approach does not fit with yoga teaching.
You need to be ever so sensitive and flexible to the dynamic needs of the group of students. A simple example is – a student says, 'Oh, the weather is getting hotter and hotter by the day,' and you may take that as a cue to include 'cooling practices' in that session, for the benefit of all learners.
You will be surprised how much these small things matter and how your students respond to them.
Being always watchful of the learners’ needs will help you tailor your practices and care better for your class participants.
6. Never compromise on personal practice
As you grow into an inspiring yoga teacher season after season, you will realize your calendar is beginning to get 'a bit crowded in there.'
Back to back classes, running from one studio to another, corporate yoga sessions, and what not!
In all of this, you may soon find your very dear personal hour of yoga practice evaporating into the thin air right in front of your eyes.
Never let that happen!
You may think – but I do end up practicing ‘while I teach.’
You are wrong!
For you will soon regret missing your sacrosanct ‘me-time.’
Teaching yoga and practicing yoga are two different things, and the former can never substitute the latter.
On the contrary, it is your yoga practice that will both feed into your yoga classes and bring out the best in you as a person.
So, never shy away from saying no to a long-term commitment that impinges on your very own spiritual growth.
Finally, as you enter this promising career of mentoring and guiding hundreds of people towards a life of health and happiness, stay true to your 'Self.' You may come across many who follow the 'fake it till you make it' approach, but they cannot keep up with the façade for long.
As theory meets practice, you will discover some unique experiences – many of which may be contrary to what you studied in your teachers’ training course. Stay open for that.
And likewise, let your students stay open, for their own unique experiences to unfold along the way.
Cheers to teaching.
And to learning all over again!