Let’s face it: teaching yoga can be sort of nerve wrecking. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes action that most students don’t experience – until you are placed in the instructor’s shoes. I have always admired my teachers’ ability to effortlessly guide us through a wonderful class; they make it look so easy. On the flip side, I’m sure we all remember our first time teaching surya namaskar A, right? In our heads it seems so easy to tell someone how to get from tadasana to adho mukha svanasana and back up to tadasana. BUT it’s a completely different story when the words come out of our mouth!
As a new yoga teacher, I have experienced my journey thus far being full of learning, smiles, happiness, and some pretty hilarious moments. Conversations with recent yoga TT grads about letting go of fear and finding the confidence to teach has inspired me to share my experiences and teaching confessions…
#1: You are not alone. That nervous feeling you get in the pit of your stomach before teaching (the same one you have right bungee jumping, riding a rollercoaster for the first time, or going on a first date) is completely NORMAL – remember your breath and intention. Come back to the reason of why you decided to teach in the first place and let that be your guide.
#2: Awkward assists. So, you have students come into parivrtta parsvakonasana and you’re going in for the assist when all of the sudden…yes that was her boob. OH CRAP, what do I do?! Do not make it a big deal – accidents happen. Make sure your student is comfortable, apologize, and maybe even laugh it off. When assisting or adjusting, be confident and respectful (there is nothing worse then creepy soft hands). Stay calm and carry on.
#3: Lost vocabulary. Did I really just put two words together and accidentally say ‘fart’ (during an audition of course) or say ‘stretch what we just stretched’? Clearly I did not want my students to fart, but mixed up words and weird phrases happen all the time. What to do? Become a professional at laughing with yourself – your students will appreciate it and laugh too.
#4: Music blurp. When the music is turned up loud and students are grooving at their own pace through surya A is apparently the most opportune time for a hard ‘f’ bomb to be dropped during class. I could have sworn the edited version of that song was on my playlist…oops!!! Nine times out of ten, students are so tuned into their breath and center that they didn’t hear it (or if they did, they don’t care). Do not call attention to it and perhaps nonchalantly change the song, no biggie!
#5: BE YOU. After the first class I taught at my home studio, a student told me my voice was mousey and she thought I would be ‘one of those teachers’. This slightly devastated my teaching high and I hung onto every word that was said. Moral of the story- people will speak their mind. Remember the old ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme? You have to be strong, you have to be confident, you have to be fearless, you have to be YOU – there is no one better to be. Your authentic self is beautiful and unique. It will shine through your teaching style and allow you to give your students the best yoga class.
#6: This is the BEST ‘job’ out there. Confucius said, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” He must have been a yogi. If fear of the unknown, letting your guard down, overanalyzing whether or not students will like your class, or anything else is holding you back from getting up there and doing your thing, don’t let it. Look it straight in the face and blast it to the wayside. All of that nonsense fades away (*cheese alert*) and something magical happens when you teach. There is growth, there is empowerment, there is community, there is inspiration, there is love, and happiness is created. Embrace the beginning and enjoy the journey because there is nothing else like it yogis.
Rachael Waverka is a registered yoga teacher (RYT 200) based out of the Dallas, Texas area with a Master of Public Health degree, a Certified Public Health Practitioner (CPH), holds a BS from Texas A&M University, and is CooperTrained in Providing Dietary Guidelines. She instantly fell in love with the yoga practice after the first time she unrolled her mat. The beauty of Vinyasa flow linking breath with movement and the mental clarity that a moving meditation provides continues to bring her to practice. Rachael’s passion and goal is to improve the health and wellness of others through yoga and healthy lifestyles.