New yoga instructors are often given a lot of advice when they are starting out, but few are ever asked about the sort of students that they would like to teach.
The fact is, there are as many different types of students as there are styles of yoga. If you asked me right after I completed yoga teacher training who I wanted to teach, my honest answer would have been “Anybody.” Over the past three years, I have taught everyone from kids, to weekend warriors, to retirees. I have enjoyed them all and while my classes are open to anyone who is interested, it seems I have found my niche: I enjoy teaching those who are new to yoga or returning after a long hiatus.
My typical student is a middle-aged woman who works full-time at a desk job and may have a hard time carving out time for herself. As an instructor, my goal is to have her leave feeling better than when she arrived.
The law of attraction is very real: if you put out a certain vibe, you will attract certain types of students. In order to find out who you may want to teach, keep the following in mind:
1. Take an honest assessment of yourself. Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert? What sort of yoga do you like to practice, and what do you like to take away from it?
For example, if you are an introverted person who feels the ultimate goal of a practice is to leave feeling more centered and calmer than when you arrived, then teaching at a trendy vinayasa studio that’s popular with the under 30 crowd and known for upbeat playlists is probably not going to be a good fit. Likewise, if you are an extrovert who loves following the latest trends and loves being pushed to their edge, then teaching at a health club where the average member is 50+ is probably not going to suit you.
The majority of brand new yoga instructors start out teaching at a studio or health club, so it is important to do your homework. The best way to get a feel for a place is to visit it. Observe the people who are attending the classes. Ask the owner or manager what sort of people are regulars. Most are happy to share. Also, ask the instructors who work there. Get an idea of what they are like as well, especially the ones that appear to be the most successful/have the most repeat students.
2. On a similar note, ask yourself what your students should expect from you.
Are you comfortable with the idea of socializing with students outside of class, or do you view your role as strictly that of a professional, and any and all relationships begin and end in the class? (I personally know a few instructors who will not even entertain the former idea.)
As an instructor, it’s important to set boundaries, and only you can determine what they are. Again, be honest with yourself and what you are comfortable doing. While most of us probably like to think of ourselves as warm, open and inviting instructors, some people really are uncomfortable when strangers or near strangers share personal information with them. Again, only you can determine what your boundaries should be. It’s far easier to know them before hand and set them than try to change them after you have been teaching for awhile.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
All of us are better at some things than others, and we may not be aware of it. Even star teachers aren’t good at teaching every single group of students out there.
Ask for feedback from your instructors from teacher training or ask your students for feedback both positive and negative. Believe it or not, most students will give it to you if you ask. While most of us don’t like to hear the negative, I have found it to be incredibly helpful.
4. Never forget that being an instructor is an ongoing process.
Your style will probably change, especially if you end up teaching for the long haul. You may start out thinking you may want to teach a certain group or groups of students and that may change. Or maybe you find you are really good at teaching a group you never considered teaching before.
Lastly, have fun. Students can tell if an instructor is truly happy to be there or going through the motions. Having an open mind and heart is far more important than having open hips.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel