The difference between being a good instructor and a great teacher is authenticity. Instructors pass on skill; teachers share and inspire knowledge. Now more than ever, as countless trainings pump out a steady stream of people wanting to teach, it is vital to address a growing problem that affects us all: The Yoga Voice.
Undoubtedly you've heard it — that slightly monotonous, throaty tone three degrees above a whisper. It can be soothing and effective at creating a gentle environment for yoga to bloom. Often, however, it makes the yoga teacher sound like a space cadet or a hippie and can be mildly irritating to everyone in the class.
Why does the Yoga Voice work for some and not for (most) others?
A few years ago, I took a class at an outdoor yoga festival co-taught by two women who were nearly indistinguishable from each other. They took turns teaching a yoga class with all of the trimmings: a quote from Rumi, an easily digestible mix of English and Sanskrit, lots of sun salutations, and a playlist prominently featuring DJ Drez, MC Yogi, and Jai Uttal. It was extremely hard to tell which one was speaking unless you saw their lips move.
Later that evening, we struck up a conversation over drinks. Both were still largely interchangeable, right down to the glass of white wine. Number 1 spoke in the exact way she did during class: clear and direct statements delivered with compassion. Number 2 recounted a boisterous tale, gesturing emphatically with one free hand while holding both glass of wine and dangling cigarette in the other.
This was vastly more engaging than the class. Not because it was a good story, mind you. It was authentic. Passion and personality shone through her every owned moment.
"Why don’t you teach like that?" I asked Number 2.
"Like how you just told that story.“
"Oh, god no!" she said. "It’s too rough and loud. People don’t want to hear that.”
Oh, but I wholeheartedly disagree!
1. Authenticity goes a long way.
There are three potential outcomes that result from trying to sound like everyone else.