Things I wish I’d learned before I started teaching yoga
It’s more than 6 years now since I qualified as a yoga teacher, and my relationship towards it has changed a lot in that time. For all those new yoga teachers, yoga teacher trainees or curious yoga students, I thought I’d share some of my lessons learned.
Before I started yoga, I wish I’d known:
1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Because I loved it SO MUCH, I thought that once I became a yoga teacher, that would be my main identity. This a phenomenon known as ‘flattening’ and Pandora Skyes writes about in her excellent book ‘How do we know we’re doing it right?’ It’s the idea that in order to be whole we have to reduce our identities down to one primary thing. For me that meant I felt I should discard the parts of myself that didn’t ‘fit’ being a yoga teacher. I’m far more comfortable now in owning and enjoying my multiple identities. I’m a writer, a doctoral researcher, a (currently frustrated!) traveller, an appreciator of gin and tonic AND a yoga teacher. It’s ok to layer yoga teaching into your life – it doesn’t have to be everything.
2. There are many different models of yoga class teaching. To share just a handful I’ve tried in the last few years, you can teach:
- Classes at a commercial gym or a local leisure centre
- Corporate yoga to employees in their offices
- Private one to one yoga classes from your home or visiting their home
- Yoga studio classes
- Your own classes by hiring a room in a community centre or something swankier
- Online yoga classes either live or pre-recorded
- Cover or supply classes for when the regular yoga teacher is away
- Classes at a yoga retreat (highly recommend this one!)
They all have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to consistency, earning potential, atmosphere, loyalty, flexibility etc. It’s therefore worth experimenting and seeing what works for you, which leads us on to…
3. Everything is an experiment. This is a great life philosophy (and a favourite of my partner Tom). Yes, you should do your best – my own yoga teacher Vidya of Frog Lotus Yoga International encourages yoga teacher trainees to “Make every class a 10/10” and it’s true – your yoga students deserve that positive intention. However, not everything will work out. Your teaching cues might not flow, the room might be too hot or you might have low attendance. If you treat it all as an experiment, it takes the sting out of it – you’re always playing, experimenting and learning.
4. Not everyone will like your teaching, and that’s ok. When I started teaching yoga, I wanted to win everyone over, hoping that they’d like the yoga as much as I did. It’s a lovely feeling when they do. Getting positive feedback at the end of class, or via a thoughtful Facebook message later that evening is fantastic. But I’ve come to realise that teaching yoga is a bold and creative act. When people don’t love your teaching, yes reflect on it and see what you can learn, but then let it go. You need to be brave about this. Trust that although you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, you will attract the students who are receptive to what you have to share.
5. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Because teaching yoga takes courage, energy and commitment, it also takes a lot out of you, especially if you’re on the more introverted end of the spectrum. I love yoga teaching and I get such a buzz out of it, but I choose not to do it all day every day. Be careful not to overcommit to too many classes, jobs or creative projects especially at the start. The things that nourish you matter too – whether that’s meditation, seeing friends, taking a bath or enjoying a G&T. Remember, you are not just a yoga teacher.
Most of all, be kind to yourself
It’s such a challenging and exciting time when you begin teaching yoga, and I hope these help. Yoga teachers, let me know your own lessons learned in the comments below – what do you wish you’d known when you started teaching yoga?