Real Life Lessons I Learned after 5 Years of Teaching Yoga
When I landed my first teaching job, I thought that my experience as a long-time practitioner would help the transition into this new career. It did not. Five years later and the lessons I learned in teaching is a whole other ball of wax. In this industry, the path you walk as a student, as a teacher, and as an entrepreneur is far from similar but you must go through them all at the same time.
Don’t get yourself down by thinking that you are not experienced enough, or not bendy enough, or not thin enough.
As a teacher you find a lesson in everything around you. I found them through a conglomeration of all the hours I put teaching my students, relating to my peers, growing my business, even conversing with people who didn’t know anything about yoga imparted something meaningful.
Today we are going to talk about the lessons I learned as a teacher so far and how they might help you to process the different events that happen as your career unfolds.
Your yoga journey is different from that of your students.
When I start with a new group of students, I always do orientation. I always ask for these 3 things: their experience, their health and /or health issues, and their expectations. Everything else follows after that. Why do I only ask these three things? So that I know where they are coming from when we start working together. What I try to avoid in my teaching practice is imposing my journey on my students. Just because I like handstands and inversions in my practice, doesn’t mean that it’s everyone’s cup of tea. We’re not gingerbread cookies that have a set recipe. We’re people with different systems that make us function, making us closer to planets than pastries. Knowing where my students are at in their life, their health history, and what they want from their yoga practice gives me a starting point so I can guide them in the best possible way on their journeys.
Check yourself as often as you can
Yoga teachers live on a balance beam between the business and the practice. While we strive for authenticity in our teaching methodology, we also want to sell our classes. So how do we maintain the heart in our businesses? I listened to a podcast a few months ago about leading an authentic life. Philip McKernan, the guest of the podcast said that authenticity ultimately lies in the intention. Are we imparting lessons to benefit our students or benefit the brand? Maybe both? When we launch a product, is it to generate x amount of sales or do you truly believe that you are solving an issue for a certain demographic? Checking yourself is like a body scan for your soul. By going back to your ‘Why’ in your creative process, you become conscious of the service you are offering your potential clients. These ‘checks’ work for every aspect of your life as a yoga teacher––When you are about to make a big decision for your teachers, an article you are writing 😉, or pricing your product. All you have to do is take pause and come back to yourself a bit and ask for honesty. Not only will you find clarity, you will also be living a more compassionate and yogic lifestyle.
My best moments as a teacher were being witness to my students’ milestones in their practice because in a way I raised them.
Yoga is to improve your life outside of practice, not your asanas.
It was my 3rd year teaching my seniors vinyasa class. I had taught these humans in their golden years from day 1. I saw them progress into their asanas, pranayama, and their meditation. Eventually, they started asking me for more difficult asanas. I loved their spirits for it. So we started with single-leg balances, working on their full Hanumanasanas, etc. While it was amazing to see their determination, I also noticed them becoming harder on themselves when they didn’t accomplish a pose. This observation simultaneously ricocheted back to me because I was doing the same thing with my inversion practice. I lost sight of why I chose to incorporate handstands in my training. It wasn’t because I wanted more followers on IG. I read that inversions raised serotonin levels that hand-balancing had the power to raise your spirits in 35 seconds. I wanted that. Why do we do yoga? It’s not to perfect our poses. It’s to get the benefits from it like body awareness, a calmer mind, and stronger bones. There’s nothing to be gained from rushing your progress on the mat. The improvement is evident when you are outside of it.
There will always be clients for your yoga
While our number is small, that doesn’t mean we aren’t growing. Our industry grows about .2% per year. That is fast. Thanks to teachers who think out-of-the-box. Sometimes we launch great ideas like rocket yoga, yoga therapy or yoga medicine. We’ve also been known to come up with wild classes like goat yoga or beer yoga. I especially enjoyed Harry Potter Yoga. We have also tried to bridge the gap between east and west by combining yogic asanas and HIIT. All of these projects, no matter the outcome or outcry––contributed to the growth of yoga. So never stop creating. Don’t get yourself down by thinking that you are not experienced enough, or not bendy enough, or not thin enough. You are what makes your yoga class unique. What you love is what makes your classes or workshops special. Kelly Mchugh, founder of Digital Yoga Academy, was absolutely right when she said that you should treat your business as a laboratory. Experiment. Who knows what you can find.
The more you give the more you get.. but it won’t always be money.
In your time as a yoga teacher, when did you last have that “I love my job” moment? Not chanting that you are enamored with your professions as you are about to do something you abhor but really claimed that you adore what you do with glee. Last week? 5 months ago? My best moments as a teacher were being witness to my students’ milestones in their practice because in a way I raised them. We get so caught up with the business side of our brand that we forget that we got into yoga to help people and share this wonderful practice. So cherish each moment of your working life. Because even if you don’t have the number of students you wanted or still have to keep a day job apart from teaching, or not as famous, you matter. You matter to the woman who’s posture has improved. You mean something to the man who’s anxiety abates with your words, you make a difference.
In a nutshell, Your yogic journey is different from your students. Don’t impose. Next, keep your intentions in check to strive for actual authenticity. Asanas are for the benefit of your life outside the mat. Support each other’s businesses because contrary to popular belief, we are few. Still, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t growing. Keep creation alive because there will always be students for your yoga. Lastly, No matter what our situation is in the industry––we play a significant role in our students’ life and that is something to be immensely grateful for.
I hope that this article has helped you go back to the roots of your practice. Maybe a retrospect of your life is the clarity you needed to carry on with everything.