July 28, 2012

Five Crutches That Hold Back Yoga Teachers. ~ Karen Conley

Jennifer Harte – Yoga Teacher (Vegan) at Cleveland Yoga

Crutch definition: anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; prop.

1. Practicing with the class

New teachers are sometimes fearful to step off of their own mats and interact fully with their class. By sticking on our mats in the front of room our role has been diminished to a demonstrator or a model.  As a teacher, we are obligated to see what we are teaching and how effective it is landing for the classroom.

When a teacher is practicing with the class, they cannot see what is happening with their students bodies.  They also lose their presence in the room and the ability to truly connect with the students in the class. It sets up a physical disconnect as the teacher is up there and the student is back there.

Commit to moving around the room fully, even if it feels uncomfortable and scary to step off of your own mat.  Let go of the crutch of having to do all the poses with the class in order to teach them. (The exception is if you are teaching brand new students and you need to demonstrate a handful of the poses.)

2. Being overly creative in your sequencing

When we teach with the hope of wowing the class with tricks, it takes away the practice of learning to teach a solid effective sequence. We know that the basic yoga poses work. We can do warrior 2 for decades and still feel the power and challenge. Practice teaching basic poses and adding different alignment cues to get students deeper into their bodies. It will give more depth to your teaching and the students will benefit as well.

3. Talking too much

When we talk too much, we take away space from the students to experience the practice fully. It becomes more about us and less about them. Often new teachers feel uneasy with not talking and nervous if they run out of something to say and instead compensate by filling the space with language that is filler. Stick to essential language and allow the practice to work its timeless wisdom. The yoga space is truly a sanctuary for connection and it is ok to have space to listen to the sound of our own breath and the sensations arising in our bodies.

4. Using Music

As new yoga teachers, the most important and challenging skill to be honed is speaking with an authentic and real voice.  Yoga teachers share how this practice has uniquely worked for them and communicate this throughout the practice as effectively as possible.

It is best to become a very effective communicator before bringing in music.

As with any art form or new skill, finding our voice takes practice and time.  If you are using music in your yoga classes you are either competing with the music to be heard or you are not speaking as much to allow the music to dictate the rhythm of the class.

When we play music, we can hide behind the music to generate the energy of the class instead of having to build it ourselves. Using music as a crutch before you are well skilled in teaching a basic sequence denies you the practice of working with your authentic and real voice. Students want to hear what you have to say and be engaged with you.

By not using music, you can practice building your skills in rhythm and pacing dictated by the students’ abilities in the room and not a pre-made playlist.

5. Making the class teacher focused instead of student focused.

To truly connect with our students a teacher must emphasize that this is a practice of sharing our passion and not a performance to be mastered.

Knowledge is less important than having a large understanding heart that is able to identify with the things going on inside another human being. When we switch the focus from trying to impress our students with our knowledge to honest and thoughtful sharing from the heart, we truly become powerful teachers who are vehicles for change and transformation.


Karen created Amazing Yoga to share the life changing powers of yoga that she has discovered. Karen and her husband, Sean are Co-Authors of the book “Amazing Yoga: A Practical Guide to Strength, Wellness and Spirit.”  Karen lives in Pittsburgh with Sean and her 4 kids and their extended family are their 3 vibrant yoga studios.  Karen leads teacher trainings around the world at beautiful destinations in Mexico and Costa Rica. For more information on Karen, please visit www.amazingyoga.net.



Editor: Hayley Samuelson.








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