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To the Brand-New Yoga Teacher <3

Sep 4, 2019

One of my current coaching clients is a brand-new yoga teacher. During a coaching call with her this week, we talked about preparing to teach her first yoga class. She was wondering if I had any tips or advice for her.

Let me first say…that I am definitely in no way a guru or an expert! I have been teaching yoga for five years…but the more I know, the more I realize how little I know. I have some amazing teachers who have been teaching for much longer than me and could probably offer better advice.

But I told her I would try to think of some tips and resources and send them her way. And after our conversation, on my long, 14-hour flight back to Canada today….I spent time thinking about what it was like to be a brand-new yoga teacher. It was really intimidating and scary! Here is what I thought of and jotted down as the key things I would tell a brand-new yoga teacher.

1: Start now. Start offering free classes for your own teaching practice as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more daunting teaching will be.

When I first got certified as a yoga instructor, I pitched to the director of my childhood summer camp to let me run a yoga program there for the summer. I ended up teaching around 3 classes a day to teenagers and university-aged adults for 6 weeks. Most of the campers and staff at camp that summer had very little experience with yoga, so I wasn’t scared of them judging my teaching abilities. They were just grateful to have a yoga class offered to them!

Look around in your community and see if you can find a nonjudgmental group like this that would benefit from free classes. Even if it’s not exactly the demographic you’d like to teach later, try it out. This is for your benefit as much as theirs. You are learning how to teach by teaching them.

2: Attend group classes.

Attend group classes as often as you can, looking at them through the lens of a teacher (as opposed to a student). Even if you have a home practice yourself and that’s what you’d prefer to do. What I get from a group class is ideas. How do other teachers create and hold a sacred space? What yoga flows have they come up with that feel good? How do they adjust and assist their students? Group classes can be an inspiration for your own teaching. Don’t stop going just because you are now a teacher.

3: You might not develop your own teaching voice right away. That’s okay. Follow in the footsteps of the teachers that came before you.

For my first year of teaching, I sounded a lot like my favourite teacher Brendine when I taught. I didn’t even realize this, until another teacher came to my class and told me, “As soon as you open your mouth when you’re teaching…it’s as if Brendine is teaching the class. I could close my eyes and I’d think you were Brendine.”

I don’t know how Brendine felt about that…but I hope she took it as a compliment. She was my absolute favourite yoga teacher, and I was figuring out how to be my own yoga teacher by following in her footsteps.

After I’d been teaching for a while, my own voice naturally came out and now I’m pretty sure I don’t sound like Brendine anymore…I sound like me! But I think it’s totally okay to emulate your teachers, especially when getting started. It's a compliment. You're finding you're way by following in the footsteps of others. And if anyone understands how hard it is when you first start teaching yoga, it is another yoga teacher.

4: That being said….follow in your teacher’s footsteps, but always teach from your heart. There is no one right definition of yoga. Your job as a teacher is to create a definition of yoga that feels right to you. And teach that.

When I first moved to Abu Dhabi, I’d been teaching yoga for three years, and I started teaching at a new studio. I planned a vinyasa class that included Bird of Paradise as a peak pose, with build up poses towards it. I then attended the class of another teacher at the studio the day before my class…and Bird of Paradise was the first pose in his sequence. His class was full of clients, so I thought that his style of sequencing must have been better than mine. I felt like I wasn’t a good enough yoga teacher. I’m sure that my lack of confidence in my teaching style then showed when I went to teach my class the next day.

I’ve since realized that he wasn’t wrong, and I wasn’t wrong. We both just have a different definition of yoga in our heart. I sequence towards a peak yoga pose. He sequences in a different way. That didn’t make either class bad or wrong. They were just different from each other.

There is no right or wrong way to do yoga. There are many ways. So let your colleagues teach from their hearts, and you teach from yours. And the students who need what your colleagues offer will go to them. The students who need what you offer will come to you.

5: Last, and what I think is most important: you might feel like your first few classes totally flop. That’s normal. Believe in your potential. You were put on this path for a reason.

After my first real class in 2014 at a studio, a woman wrote a review on the MINDBODY page for Samatva something like “this class was terrible and the teacher was terrible.”

Seriously? It was my first class ever, cut me some slack!

This hurt me, but I didn’t let it stop me. I kept teaching. Six months later that same woman showed up in my yoga class again (by mistake…she was trying to attend my colleagues class and I just happened to be subbing it.) The woman specifically made a point of pulling me aside after the class to tell me how much I’d improved as a teacher. The point is…at the start, your teaching will not be perfect and it will never resonate with everyone. Believe in your potential. You will improve and get better with practice. If you get criticism, try to use it as feedback to grow.

It will not be perfect overnight…nor will any of us yoga teachers ever be perfect. Even now, having been teaching yoga for over five years, I still have plenty of things to work on. I mix up my rights and lefts. I have days where I’m totally off as a teacher. I still get complaints from time to time after class. In June, one woman told me she found my music “extremely disturbing.” Remember that we are all a work in progress. So don’t put pressure on yourself to be a perfect yoga teacher overnight.


YOGA TEACHER FRIENDS! I know I have a lot of you on Facebook and Instagram that I’ve met over the years in trainings, and in classes, and at studios, and online. What advice would you add to this list? Comment on this post, or on the post on my blog… and I will compile all of the tips to make a part two blog post next week!

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