Lessons I learned After Teaching Yoga for 6 years
I started teaching yoga in 2015. Since my 200-hour teacher training, a myriad of wonderful moments have passed. Instances good, bad and ugly that have molded me into the teacher I am today. While I have a long way to go towards being an expert in my field, I have learned a thing or two of what it takes to be a yoga teacher, what it takes to manage your yogis, and lastly, what it takes to be a contributor in your community. This is what we’ll talk about today,
Being a good yoga teacher involves commitment–a commitment to your body, to maintain your reputation, and your convictions. You need to know where you stand in the yoga world even if you don’t label yourself in a yogi stereotype. In this article we will discuss some of the lessons I picked up in my years of imparting classes, coupled with the instances of how they came to pass. I hope that it may provide you with insight as well as entertainment for your own yogic journeys. With that in mind let’s get started.
You cannot teach everything
When I was starting out, I got so excited about my classes that when I planned them, I tried to squeeze in as many poses as I could. I was so excited to show the magic of a yoga practice in one class that I sometimes forgot to take into account the level, age, and ability of my yogis. Not everyone is going to have the same level of enthusiasm as you. So pace yourself and put a theme to your classes. Having a focal point into your class planning eases your yogis into the practice so that the class is safer for them, they can visualize how to progress and they acquire that time to get to know yoga and what it’s all about. Another aspect of this nugget of advice I have for you is that as teachers, we have to face the fact that we can’t offer everything to our yogis because yoga is just that vast. You can’t take all the courses in the world and expect that in 10 years you can teach everything. While this may sound negative, it is actually a good thing. Why? Because just as you focus on your class planning you can focus on your particular teaching style. After 6 years I realized that I love to practice and teach the link between a strong asana practice with centering your mind. I actually don’t have a strong spiritual practice–and that’s fine. Find the teacher you want to be and you will find the yogis for it. There will be more than you think.
The point is that we need to embrace change and take the necessary steps to make it work whether it is circumstantial, inevitable, or with a global impact.
You can plan out your career but life can change it in a second so leave room for sudden shifts
I thought that I’d open a studio for aerial yoga and floor yoga was the only dream to go for. Until I moved to a smaller town and saw that living here meant that your business needed to complement the others beside it. There were already other schools and studios that offered the same thing I wanted. So before I could launch my dreams, the studio owners and I had a meeting to see how we could all peacefully coexist. Being the new girl, I was the one who had to adjust my dreams. At first I was a bit devastated. I wanted to fight the system but I thought, what good would that do? It would incite gossip, “bad press”, not to mention that my story would stick with people for years. So I started reading about other possibilities. I realized that they were endless. I could travel and do retreats, I could open my business in a nearby town, or I could complement existing businesses in my area that niched my expertise and build my brand from there. I decided on the last choice with a few tricks up my sleeve. My dreams of having my own yoga business still happened but I made room for the changes life threw at me and made it my own.
Make connections with fellow teachers and/or studento owners. It is possible to peacefully coexist with your competition
My first 2 years of teaching were the toughest. I was unsure of my teaching style, I was new in the industry–in addition, my colleagues and other seasoned teachers saw that about me. They will ask for free classes so that you could get “exposure” for your brand or barter your services when the truth is that they will find ways to not pay for services rendered. Know your worth! The yoga world isn’t perfect. There are opportunists out there who will take advantage of your naiveté but those negative experiences shouldn't deter you in making connections with other yogis. Give yourself time to see what potential contacts can offer or find out what they are about before offering your contributions. Learn to negotiate your terms while you consider theirs. Find ways to come to a mutual agreement. When I had to adjust my business plan in that studio owner’s meeting, I agreed to withhold teaching more acrobatic sequences in my aerial yoga program and leave that aspect of the discipline to her school. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t teach other things like yoga trapeze or other forms of suspended yoga training. When the other party knew that I was a woman of my word, she didn’t mind the tweaks I had made. We also talked about possible collaboration projects in the future.
Adaptability is a key skill in this industry
These days there is an endless supply of business models to choose from in our industry. The pandemic proved that. As teachers we survive as well as thrive in this “new normal”. They take away our studios, we teach online. We can’t get close to yogis, we improve our verbal communication. I have seen that we can work around almost all the barriers they have thrown at us and we’re still here. Even during the days when we can’t work as a teacher we still practiced as a yogi and inspired others to do so. Not only have we opened another avenue to bring in more income, this new way is here to stay. The point is that we need to embrace change and take the necessary steps to make it work whether it is circumstantial, inevitable, or with a global impact. There will be those who will throw in the towel, those who might drag you into their despair. Walk away from that negativity because there is always a way to work with what you’ve been handed.
The best teacher is also a lifetime student
While this last tip seems contradictory to the first point we discussed, we are not saying that you should study everything there is to learn for the rest of your life. We are saying that once you have a clear picture on the space you want to hold in your practice and business ( but your practice comes first), it makes sense to keep studying on the subjects that interest you. For example, my background as a nurse signifies that I have a great interest in anatomy and physiology. So I pour over books on yoga and its effects on the body. I follow public figures such as Julian Lepretre (the site is in Spanish) who combines his knowledge in osteopathy with movement. I learn about the aerial arts by taking classes from one of the best teachers in Spain so that I know the roots of Aerial Yoga and fitness. I admit the fact that I won’t learn everything in my lifetime but I will try to absorb and impart as much as I can. My father used to say, “I may not have taught you everything you know but I have certainly taught you everything I know.” True enough, this has always been my approach as a teacher.
I don’t consider myself a seasoned teacher–far from it actually. My experience and studies haven’t brought me as far as I would like to be and that’s ok. Maybe in a few years I will write again about the next 5 years and tell you something new.