January 25, 2013

How to Be More Than Just Another Yoga or Pilates Teacher: Transforming Doubt. ~ Chantill Lopez

Photo: lyn tally

Do you ever wonder how to set yourself apart?

Do you ever wonder what you possibly have to offer that all the other Pilates and yoga teachers out there haven’t already contributed?

Even if you don’t ask these questions often, we all ask them sometimes. We all wonder, at some point, how to assess our worth and what value we can add to the world by creating something new and beautiful. How do we become more than just another one of those people who teaches yoga or “Pie-lates”?

Anyone can do that, right?

Well, I’d like to say two things in answer to that.

One: It’s baloney! After more than 15 years of teaching movement, 18 years of practicing Pilates and yoga and, oh, 30 years of being an athlete, I know that teaching people how to connect with their bodies is one of the most valuable gifts I can offer.

Secondly: No matter what you teach, teaching is a craft. It is one that demands that we reconcile our inner selves with our outer worlds, one that demands that we integrate our personal growth and our course of study. Teaching is a craft that takes special courage, especially in a non-traditional classroom like the yoga, Pilates or dance studio where the intimacy of teaching goes one step further…into the body.

So, my question to you is: Are you on the teacher’s path? Can you take the craft of teaching and use it to see yourself as more than ordinary, more than just another yoga or Pilates teacher?

As with most endeavors, when we know the right questions, we find the right answers. Let’s start with a question we are all sure to be familiar with:

Why do I doubt myself?

There have been times when I’ve been ashamed to say I teach Pilates, dance or yoga.

The scenario: I am at a social gathering and shake hands with a well-dressed, clearly intelligent newcomer, readying myself for the “all-I-need-to-know-about-you” question: “So, what do you do?”

As she introduces herself by telling me what she does—“I’m a Google executive” or “I teach English as a second language in Asia and South America”—I shrink a little. I begin to think of what I do as small, simple and easy—a fallback career, or a not-quite-real job.

I know it’s foolish; in my heart I know it’s ridiculous. I am smart, and educated. I have worked hard, trained and practiced, studied and excelled and I know what I do creates happiness and impacts people every day. And yet, that little bit of doubt often sneaks in.

The question I have to ask myself is:

How deeply do I believe that what I do matters? How much do I truly value my own abilities, uniqueness and gifts? Am I fully committed to teaching and do I believe it makes a difference?

If there are doubts, tiny chinks in my conviction, then I know I have some work to do. I don’t want to show up at another party wishing I were wearing an “I’m really someone else” disguise.

How do I build confidence and stand apart?

What I would ask, even before this question, is: “Do I need to stand apart?”

My ego does, that’s for sure. My ego needs me to be better than other teachers, in the spotlight, a little smarter and harder working. My ego (I call her Spaz) needs me to stand apart to survive.

But is that what I really need? I am not my ego. Not completely. If I examine my need to stand apart, I realize that what lies beneath is my desire to be the absolute best I can be, to teach from an inspired place and be able to communicate that inspiration to my students.

That’s what I truly want. And you know what the crazy thing is? I know from my own experience that when I teach from this place, I end up standing apart. So, ask yourself:

What lies beneath my desire to stand apart?

On the recommendation of one of my mentors, the author, coach and teacher Jennifer Louden, I have been reading a book called How to Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

Ah…what a relief, right? The bottom line of Kleon’s book is that nothing is original; we all steal (borrow, are influenced by, mimic, recreate) things that others have already done.

We can think about teaching in the same way. We are nothing more than the accumulation of all of our influences. It’s our unique way—not trying to be unique, but simply being who we already are—that makes the hodgepodge original. With a little authenticity and self-reflection, we can take the stage and honor just who we are right now, let flow from us whatever bubbles up from the depths of all we’ve been taught, all that creates a spark in us, all that has meaning to us—and create a teaching presence that is only found in us.

It’s when we attempt to be someone or something else that we feel false, a fake, and our confidence ebbs.

It just never works to try to be someone else, to try to be something different from what we are. Be whoever you are—even if you are not sure who that is!

One of the chapters in Kleon’s book is titled “Don’t Wait until You Know Who You Are,” which I just love. And it’s some of the best advice you could get. Be who you are now.

I tell all of my teachers that we have to start from where we are to get where we want to go.

It’s just that simple.

[This is Part One of a two-part series. Read Part Two here.]


Chantill Lopez is a writer and master Pilates teacher. She currently spends her time working on what inspires her to be a better person, knowing that whether she stands apart or not, it feels good! Learn more about Chantill, her project Skillful Teaching and her new book Moving Beyond Technique: How To Nurture Your Passion, Master Your Craft, and Create a Thriving Pilates Business by following the links!



Assistant Ed.: Jayleigh Lewis

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