This article was written by the lovely Lauren Caselli, who I am very excited to welcome to the YOGANONYMOUS team! Lauren and I worked together in a less than yogic setting (a corporate office building in midtown Manhattan) not too long ago, and I am thrilled to be working with her again, here. Enjoy, stay tuned for more from Lauren, and check out her website here.
I’m a Yoga Teacher! Now What?!
I’ll never forget my last day at the Shangri-La Retreat Center in Bondalem, Indonesia. Between hugs and tears of goodbye, I had been handed a piece of paper saying that I had completed 200 hours of training that certified me to guide others to discover their own relationship to yoga and the yogic lifestyle. I was elated with my own personal growth and hungry to start spreading the yoga word. When my opportunity to teach a class of high-energy kite-surfers came two weeks later in Mui Ne, Vietnam, the only thing I could think was…
Even though I had been practicing regularly for over two years before I arrived in Indonesia, I felt that, after I completed my 200 hours, I had only just discovered yoga. I grew and changed so much during the training, and felt that what I had learned was just the tiny tip of my yoga-potential iceberg. I still had so many questions. There was so much more to learn. How in the name of Buddha was I going to guide other people on their journey?!
The perspective change of going from student to teacher can be frightening. Maybe your first class will be a disaster, no one will like you, and you’ll fall out of tree pose (or all three simultaneously). But sometimes the greatest teachers aren’t the ones who construct the most challenging sequences or can instruct a fast vinyasa flow without even batting an eye or tangling a tongue. Below are some tips to be mindful of that will calm your nerves and rev you up as you embark on your teaching quest:
1. Remember power of touch.
It says “I’m here for you”, “you’re doing great” and “you have my attention” all with a simple, well-placed hand on the lower back, assist in wheel, or shoulder rub in savasana. I know that if my teacher places a gentle hand on my hip, I will focus my attention to that area of the posture and my body will automatically correct itself. By noticing your students and helping them bring their awareness to their bodies, you keep them present and make them feel more connected to you at the same time. I love attention, so when a teacher showers me with a little and believes that I haven’t yet reached my edge, it makes me dig into the very depths of my core to extend myself just a little bit more.
2. Show some genuine, heart-opening, lovely love.
I used to go to a vinyasa class at my old fitness studio solely because the instructor assisted every single student in savasana. Research shows that human beings need to be hugged 10 times each and every day (and I’m guessing they’re not talking about those fake-y, air-kiss hugs that frenemies give each other after three-hour brunch). In a society where we are isolated by our earbuds and our smartphones and our oversized sunglasses, yoga class may be the only time where we have a real, personal, loving, human connection. Don’t underestimate the importance of simply your attention, your touch, and your support. It can change people’s perspective and as a result, even change their lives.
3. Teach from your own experience.
Not every single student will love you. That’s okay, and probably good because otherwise you wouldn’t have anything to grow towards. But most will like you if you are genuine and not trying to emulate some other popular teacher’s style. The easiest way to connect with your students is to relate your own experience to the practice that you are leading that day. If you love to sing, open your classes with a group chant. If you want to try to slow your students down after a stressful day, try a breathing exercise. Maybe put on some energizing music or a song that you particularly love. I am addicted to books and therefore, love nothing more than telling stories about my own experiences. I open all of my classes by telling a story about things that I’ve been struggling with, learning, and growing towards in my yoga practice and also in my own life. It shows my students that I’m relatable and that I’m still learning, too.
First, your own. Only by exploring your own practice will you be able to open up your heart and be able to challenge others to explore theirs. The more advanced you become in your yoga education, the more valuable of a teacher you are. Easy-peasy.
Second, teach as much as you can, whenever you can, wherever you can. Sure, you will have bad classes. You will have students come in late, leave early, be irritable, and complain. Let it go, and keep going. The best teachers are the ones who make mistakes, and who learn in the wake of their failure. You won’t be perfect all the time, but if you trust yourself and your practice, you will get better. Promise.
5. Always be a student – even when you’re the teacher.
One of my favorite teachers always used to say “our degree of knowledge is equal to our degree of ignorance.” Frightening, but exciting. You will learn libraries of information from your students because they are all different. Don’t be scared or overwhelmed by the knowledge you have to gain because, ultimately, more experiences and more knowledge will make you a better teacher. Thank them for offering you the gift of their presence and their attention. Call them by their names. Make your class a community where you’re all openly learning from each other. Soak it all in and remember that there’s always more to learn. And that? That’s really good news.
What are some of your tips to creating a successful class and being a rock-star yoga teacher? Comment below and let us know!
About the Author
Lauren Caselli is a newly certified yoga instructor. She is a believer in adventure over routine, experiences over stuff, and chocolate over almost anything else. Check her out at www.LivingLifeBarefoot.com where she blogs about long-term travel, health and wellness, dream-chasing, and living a simpler, yet more full, life. Oh, and dancing around in her underwear to Ke$ha. Obviously.