February 10, 2014

What Teaching Yoga has Taught Me—So Far. ~ William Hunnell


Almost immediately upon beginning my yoga practice I knew that teaching yoga was what I wanted to do.

Little did I know how soon that would come to fruition: the Universe works on its own schedule, don’t ya know!

As I laid in that hospital bed for five days in February, I pondered my options for the future. I developed a deep vein thrombosis in my left forearm that disintegrated and traveled into my lungs. This called for immediate hospitalization to prevent sudden and literal death. For this reason I was placed on anti-coagulants—indefinitely—and thus, cause for discharge from the military.

I knew my military career was coming to an abrupt end and my options were limited.  Funny, though, acknowledging that fact was easy—acceptance was much more difficult.

Soon after release from the hospital I was sent home to recover—for a grueling six weeks. During the first two-week period I pondered my future, ad nauseum. I practiced no yoga of any kind during that time and felt like crap.

When I realized what was missing, I rolled out my mat once again. This time my practice took on more meaning than previously.  I immediately snapped out of my funk and began appreciating my practice—and life—once again.

Though I had previously determined that I wanted to teach yoga, I didn’t do anything to make it reality.  After talking about it consistently for some time, I finally came to the point of acting on it.

My research turned up many opportunities to be trained to teach and that it would be a hefty expense.  Regardless, I went for it.

When I interviewed my teacher (yes, I interviewed my perspective teacher), I learned very quickly that she was not impressed with my desire to share my practice. Skeptical best described her attitude. It’s quite likely that she felt she had heard my story before but was willing to humor me. She questioned my reasoning for taking the training—my response was simply that I knew I had to have a certificate to be taken seriously as a teacher.

Months of three-day weekends later, I was officially pronounced a 200-hour-trained yoga teacher: I felt I had reached the summit—but, as most folks know, it was actually the opposite. It was the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Over these last few months of teaching, I’ve come to realize a few things about sharing yoga as a teacher.

1) A teacher’s job is to teach. 

If we’re not teaching someone somewhere, we’re not a teacher. In fact, most likely we are just guys or gals practicing yoga—there’s nothing wrong with that. But, starting out it’s not likely that the pay is much: so teach whenever, wherever to whomever.

2) A teacher’s job is to be a student.

Yep. If we are not regularly practicing on our own, all that we were taught during teacher training goes to waste. What happens when we have nothing left to impart to our students? Cue the crickets.

3) Enthusiasm is contagious; a lack of enthusiasm is deadly.

Share the excitement/love of yoga. If you don’t love teaching: don’t teach. Faking it only goes so far and soon enough, no one wants to learn from you.

4) Teaching yoga is a competitive business.

Yes, unfortunately it’s true—there are hundreds of new teachers entering the yoga marketplace on a weekly basis. Competition in yoga? You betcha.

5) A teacher’s job is to give them their money’s worth.

It goes without saying that people spend their hard-earned money in exchange for your services.  If you’re not educated, a student yourself, or enthusiastic you’re wasting their time.

6) Always ask for feedback.

Choose wisely the sources for feedback. Ask a fellow teacher to take a class you give if you want a pure and true assessment.

I fully understand that I may get grief for this but I believe it had to be said.

Feedback? Have anything to add to this list? Feel free to comment below—I’m a student at all times and look forward to a discussion.

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Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Flickr CC

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