I have never bungee-jumped and never plan on doing so. However, showing up for my first class as a paid yoga teacher took what felt like the courage to jump off a bridge with an elastic cord as my lifeline. I seriously contemplated calling the studio owner hours before and apologizing profusely for just not being able to do it. I didn’t make the call though. I taught that first class and I am still alive. The cord held.
Stepping into a yoga studio in the role of instructor requires the belief, despite the fact that you might feel that there is still so much to learn, that what you have to offer is enough. Enough to stand in front of those seeking guidance, enough to offer something of value, enough to begin. Sometimes this takes a bit of a leap of faith.
Once you’ve taken that leap and begun teaching – whether as a teacher of a regularly scheduled class, as a sub for other teachers or even as a volunteer at a local organization – finding some avenues for professional development can be a useful way to address the awareness that, as teachers of anything, our education is on-going and continuous. Over time, our understanding deepens, we assimilate new learning, our practice evolves again and again, and thus, so does our teaching.
Here are some tips to guide your development as a new instructor of yoga:
Continue your home practice
Developing a home practice can be one of the most valuable aspects of a teacher training program, one that will continue to serve you in significant ways throughout your yoga teaching career. In addition to the personal benefits, a consistent home practice will provide you with a continuous supply of insights and a deepening awareness as a yoga professional. Embodying the practice of yoga starts with the self; its outward expansion enables a teacher to guide students in doing the same.
Set teaching “routines”
A useful tool as a beginning teacher, especially if you start out as a sub, may be to set some routines for your instruction: start and end beginning/gentle classes in a certain way, include a set sequence in basic and level 1 classes, plan a progression towards an appropriate “peak pose” for intermediate and advanced classes. Learn simple ways to modify these beginning/ending meditations, sequences and progressions according to the level, energy and needs of the students attending on a given day.
Being kind to yourself, reflect on the strengths of your lessons and in what aspects you’d like to focus on growth as a teacher. Set short-term and long-term goals. A long-term goal may be to work on becoming more aware of your physical presence in the space and how it contributes to the students’ experience. Some short-term goals may be to work on left/right orientation one week, use of “landmarks” another, exploring the tool of “mirroring” the next. Take on one area of learning at a time and find humor in the learning process. Showing your humanity is an invaluable gift to offer students.
Connect with other teachers
Depending on where you teach, isolation may affect you to a greater or lesser degree as a new yoga instructor. Some teachers offer classes in the community – at schools, community centers, and local organizations – while others work for established fitness centers such as yoga studios, private and/or community gyms, and YMCAs. Connecting with other yoga teachers can be a wonderful source of support and on-going professional development. Continue to attend the classes of your favorite instructors, even if it is just a few times a month. Doing so will complement your home practice, reinforce your prior learning and augment your teaching toolbox. Peer observation is another way to continue to expand your teaching repertoire. Observe experienced teachers or find a colleague that would like to do a periodic observation “swap”, alternating teaching and feedback roles.