When you start yoga teacher training, you assume that by the end you’ll be ready to teach like a rock star in front of sold-out conventions without so much as a drop of nervous sweat or a tremble in your knees. About halfway through, the realization begins to set in that you're soon going to have to be put to the test and teach a class, and it’s more like, "Me?! How am I qualified to lead people through a yoga practice?! I can barely talk people through a sun salutation!"
Before you know it, training is over, and in my case our training ended with each student teaching two donation-based classes at our studio. Some lucky few may not experience this, but I can tell you that I was in full-fledged panic mode the week before my first class, and I know a lot of other people who experienced similar feelings.
I diligently wrote out my class, ran through it with anyone who would spare an hour for me, and pretty much thought about it every waking moment. Driving up to the studio before my first class, my mantra was, “This is just yoga, you love yoga, breathe, breathe, breathe.” I was a little shaky on the inside when I started, but I got through class just fine, and it was one of the greatest senses of accomplishments I had felt to-date.
Here are a few things I wish someone had told me back then, and I think they'll be useful for anyone who's a new yoga teacher:
1. Your first 1, 5, 10, 20 classes are going to make you nervous.
It’s new. Don’t give up. Very few people stand in front of a crowded yoga studio for the first time and are completely at ease. Just know you're doing this because you love it and want to share the gift of yoga with the world.
2. You’ll make mistakes.
As a matter of fact, I’m over a year into my own teaching career and called my elbow my knee in class yesterday. It happens. Laugh it off and don’t take it too seriously. Don’t get stuck on those moments and just keep class moving. On the plus side, it makes you more relatable to your students.
3. Your students aren’t scrutinizing you as much as you think.
Everyone is focused on themselves and how they are breathing and getting into and out of your poses. If you think your voice is shaky, or you said an incorrect word, they probably didn’t notice.
4. Yoga teacher training is an incredible foundation, but experience comes through actual teaching.
It is like college — it’s a foundation, but there are simply things that cannot be taught in a classroom setting because they're real-life experiences. Know that every time you lead a class, you're continuing your education.
5. Be completely yourself.
Bring your personality into your class and let it shine through your teaching. We are all so unique and bring so many special qualities to a yoga class, it is a shame to try to stifle them. Play music you love, share relatable stories you feel are appropriate for the class, and connect with your students.
Finally, smile throughout your class. Smile because you're lucky enough to be doing what you love and bringing health, wellness, joy and peace to your local community. Smile because your students will see it and smile back. Enjoy every moment, it’s a wonderful journey with no end!