Let me begin by saying that “hate” is probably too strong a word. As teachers, most of us (if not all) are grateful to be teaching yoga and working with people to show them a way to greater health.
Having said that, there may be classes for which we feel a sense of resistance and frustration. This can lead to feelings of guilt: “Why do I feel frustration over teaching this class? I need this class. I need to be able to step outside this feeling to build connection.”
A variety of factors can contribute to these feelings. It could be the time of the class, the location, the physical space itself; it could be the energy you assume when you arrive, or the perceived energy you assume is in the room every time you teach. It could be related to your rate of pay, and the frustration you feel when you compare it with the energy you expend during teaching.
After struggling with this issue recently, I remembered a saying from A Course in Miracles: “Only what you are not giving can be lacking in any situation.” If the issue stems from us and not the students, what can we do to shift? Here are some tips:
1. Give yourself more time to arrive.
If you rush to get to class, you bring that energy into the room. When you're reluctant to teach a class, your attitude can be amplified if you’re always running late. Take the time to arrive at least 30 minutes before your class. As people arrive, greet them. You’ll feel more connected and less stressed before you even begin to teach.
2. Assist more.
A great way to build connection and diffuse resistance is to get more involved in what’s happening. Assisting will give you another way to teach, will help people feel acknowledged and will give them valuable additional information. Once you start assisting more, the class takes on a workshop feel, and I’ll bet people will give you thanks at the end.
3. Move around the room.
Along with assisting more, move around the room. In some of my classes, due to the size of the room and the acoustics, I stay front and center so I can see everyone and they can hear me. But I realized that even in those situations, I need to move throughout the room to see each person more clearly and build a connection just by passing closer to them.
4. Be available.
This starts from the minute you enter the studio to the minute you leave and extends to the street. When we feel resistance for a particular class, we might run in and out, head down, looking at our phones, hoping we won't have to make conversation. Once we drop that barrier and are available, we’ll naturally strike up conversation. This is a great resistance diffuser, as we learn more about our students.
5. Share more.
When we’re resisting, we’re not giving. For yoga teachers, that can show up as teaching in a safe way, without sharing anything from the heart. It can also show up in other ways like avoiding conversation. As you’re teaching, especially if you feel it’s risky, speak a few words from the heart. It will feel strange at first but then will get easier as you do it more.
6. Ask questions.
As people are coming and going, ask how they are and ask about their practice. Find out if they’re struggling with a particular issue on the mat. When you start showing interest, much of that resistance will diffuse.
7. Stop practicing with the class.
Regular practice on the mat while teaching can be a way to avoid connecting with the class. While it’s great to demonstrate, the less you teach means you can see the students better and connect with them.
8. Talk to the studio owner.
If you have particular issues with your pay, the physical condition of the studio, or logistical problems, don't let them fester. Take the initiative and talk to the studio owner. Be professional. Do it over the phone versus email so your tone isn’t misconstrued. Take the emotion out of it and stick to the facts. Keep an open mind and remember to listen as well.
9. Consult a mentor.
Talk to a mentor or another teacher you admire the frustration you’re feeling. You may gain a new perspective when you discuss the situation freely with someone who won’t judge you or try to correct your feelings.
One of the best ways to build connection and diffuse resistance is to smile. I recall times when I would be in practice with someone and they’d suggest we smile in the pose. It can shift your whole energy. The same can happen for you as a teacher. It brings lightness to your body and communicates lightness to your students.
Once you start looking for ways to build connection, you’ll be amazed at how the energy around the class shifts. You’ll be more relaxed, you’ll learn more about your students and you’ll be able to put into practice all you know as a teacher.