Teaching yoga, like any new undertaking, takes time to become second nature. Three years ago, I left my 200-hour teacher training overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching. I felt my journey of learning had just begun, and to this day I feel as though my students continue to influence my ever-evolving teaching style more than my teacher training ever could. This process, however, takes time.
Here are five tips for new teachers seeking some direction:
1. Start your talking points for each asana with the feet.
Working your way up the body will move students naturally into alignment in a consistent way that’s easy to follow. You'll be amazed how a phrase like “square hips toward the front of your mat” will bring the shoulders into alignment as well!
2. Keep your phrasing clear and concise.
Take some time to call to mind the 3-5 most helpful ways to verbally modify each posture. Think about the most helpful metaphors and anatomical wordings other teachers have used. Write these “talking points” down and overtime, they will become yours.
3. Keep your sequencing basic.
This can be extremely difficult. Most of us yoga teachers have come to teaching because we love to explore. We're seeking variety, and it can be very tempting to incorporate crazy transitions into our first few classes. Take the time to build your foundation. Get comfortable talking and teaching your way through a simple sequence, and as you build confidence, blend new postures into the mix.
4. Take a crash course on adjustments.
There's a marked difference between a good adjustment and a bad one. Adjustments take time to learn and can make or break a student’s experience in a yoga class. The first step to understanding adjustments is learning anatomy. Pick up a book on the basics and do your yoga homework. This will make the rationale behind proper adjustments clear. In a 200-hour teacher training, adjustments tend to be glossed over. Set aside a weekend for an adjustments intensive and sign up! These past three years, a fellow teacher and I had partner yoga/ adjustment workshops for an hour each week where we used each other to continually test and refine our hands-on skills.
5. Attend beginner level classes.
All levels and beginner level classes are among the most difficult to teach. It’s easy to call out asanas in a room full of seasoned yogis but the art of a great teacher comes when a room full of chaos and flailing limbs is transformed into harmony and brought to a place of understanding. Beginners’ classes require an added level of explanation that all levels of teaching can benefit from observing. Tuning in to the dialogue of a beginner level class will enhance your own clarity as a teacher.