I can barely believe it, but today is my 5-year teaching anniversary. Part of me feels as if it should be my 10 year anniversary and then another part of me cannot believe that I taught my first class so long ago now. I had arrived home ready to go from teacher training, having already taught my mock class before I left, took a single day off to sleep and recover, and then hit the podium on a Tuesday. I walked through the hot room doors with many expectant faces of the friends and fellow yogis I had practiced next to for 6 years, lined up mat to mat to support me in this first class, the heat blaring in the most blissful way as I led them from posture to posture.
This is back when I thought I had it all figured out. I had the Dialogue seared into my mind and I thought that all I had to do was simply enjoy this new phase of my life. Five years later, I have acquired a bit more knowledge about what this lifestyle of teaching yoga as a career entails, and I thought I’d share it with those of you taking your first steps up to the podium to teach your first class or to those that have only been teaching for a few short months.
- Your class will change and you want it to. When I first got home from teacher training, I remember thinking I would give myself a year to get comfortable enough on the podium to make it my own. A year. Not 1 month. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everybody has a different skill set they bring to their class. For me it was easy to talk in front of large groups of people, for others this can be struggle. Start with the words you learned at your training and go from there. You, your very essence and what you want to relay to your students, will coming shining out of those words over time.
- There is more drama in yoga than anyone would like to admit. I hate to tell you this, but there are times when I feel yoga teacher life is way more dramatic than the life I had as a working actress. Make the choice to stay away from the drama. If you need to switch studios and decide to work somewhere else, make that choice for you. Your students can sense drama as soon as they walk in the door. They showed up to destress and heal, and will start attending a different studio if they feel like their teachers are always stressed out. Keep your own personal drama outside of the studio doors and stop gossip in its tracks if you can.
- You’re going to have to make hard choices, but make sure those choices are made with a clear mind and open heart that speaks to your integrity. I’ve had to stop working and move on from places I considered my home studio… twice. These were hard choices, but the right ones for me. I believe in the Bikram Series. I believe in the discipline of the practice. I want to support the studios that feel the same way for as long as I can. All yoga is good yoga, but I love teaching this yoga. You might have made different decisions when placed in the same situation and that’s okay – everyone is different and is on their own journey. Be sure to always be true to your Self and trust your gut instincts.
- You are never done learning. You do not know everything because you attended teacher training. I hate to say it guys, but you need to keep learning. Attend posture clinics and seminars as much as you can. Get in front of someone that knows a heck of a lot more than you at least twice a year. Start teaching at studios that offer feedback after your classes. Feedback is just as important when you first start teaching as it is five years later. It is a sure fire way to continue to improve in the craft of teaching yoga. It is an endless process. Make sure your cup stays empty, so you can continue to absorb and learn from your experiences.
- It’s all about the students. Remember why you decided to teach yoga. It wasn’t so that you could have 90-minute power trip, it was so that you could be part of someone else’s yoga journey – that you could witness the healing of bodies and minds in a profound way. You are here to serve and help them as much as you can. There are more students than I could ever imagine that have touched my heart with their stories, with their tenacity, and with their grace. They make this life wonderful and meaningful in ways I simply don’t have words for. If it’s not about the students, what is it about?
To all of my fellow teachers I wish you every good thing this life has to offer. I hope your passion for teaching yoga is infectious and you become your own unstoppable force. I hope your message, what you bring to your classes, changes the lives of those who hear your words for the better and at the end of the day you are happily exhausted in the very best way possible. Know that your life is being used as a vehicle for change in someone else’s and honor that. For I believe, losing yourself in the service of others is the highest light.
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